In many ways, I came late to the “Smallville” party, which is part of why I was asked to write this article. The other part of “why” is because I once roomed in college with Republibot 2.0. Who am I, you ask?
Hello, I’m Sam White. You may remember me from such fantasy novels as “First Time: the Legend of Garison Fitch” or the comic strip “Tuttle’s” or the on-line comic book, “Burt & the I.L.S.” Of course you do.
Anyway, I actually watched the pilot of “Smallville” on the night it premiered. It was on the now-defunct WB network, which—at least where I was—didn’t come in very clearly, so I think I missed a lot. What I saw I kind of enjoyed, but when I tried to watch the next week’s episode, the broadcast signal was even worse. This was probably not the fault of the network. I was living out in the sticks back then (10 blocks from Mile High Stadium in Denver) and all TV reception was “iffy”—in the sense of “we got all the other stations just fine”. I moved from Denver to a town that didn’t get the WB at all, so I forgot “Smallville” was even on.
And then, in 2007, I moved to the booming metropolis (get it? This is a review of a [spoiler alert] Superman show and I … oh, never mind) of Dumas, TX, and found that I got the CW channel (which used to show country music but now is trying it’s best to be Fox 1990) in perfect clarity, so I started watching “Smallville”. It didn’t go well at first because the first two times I watched it they showed the same episode. But I had it on while drawing my comic strip so what I missed the first time I caught the second time (and vice-versa). By the end of that season (“7”), I was watching pretty much every week.
I rarely had any idea what was going on. See, I knew who Superman was. And I knew that [spoiler alert] Clark Kent was Superman’s stage name. I also knew names like Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen and Stride Gum. What I didn’t know—and couldn’t figure out—was how all those names fit in with this new show. But it was fun and it was on Thursday nights, which meant that I got to watch it alone because my family was watching “Survivor”. With my wife in the other room, I could crush on Chloe all I wanted, even though I REALLY couldn’t figure out what she was doing in the story.
Eventually—sometime halfway through season “8”—I began to get a “feel” for what was going “on” and was watching regularly. And then, while in Houston for a funeral, I wanted some time to unwind so I turned on “Smallville” in the hotel room and my family—with nothing else to do because the show had been moved to Friday—watched with me. Between commercials, I answered their questions (“Who knows?” and “Shh! It’s back!”) and, by the end of the episode, they were hooked. We’ve watched it together ever since.
What really got us going, though, was when I found season 1 for $15 at a Wal-Mart. We were able to go all the way back to the beginning (with a quality picture and aurally pleasing sound) and not only did the show make much more sense, we weren’t plagued by having to wait a week to see the next episode. Over the next fourteen months, we would purchase and watch the first nine seasons, watching Clark go from an awkward teenager to, apparently, his early forties (or so).
I can’t really compare the Clark Kent/Superman character to his comic book persona as I think, in my entire life, I have read a grand total of twelve Superman comic books (which were practically forced on me by the above-mentioned roommate). I was familiar with the character thanks to the previous TV and movie incarnations. So I can only compare “Smallville” to them.
If I must do so (and that’s what these web sites are about, right? Throwing down unwanted and unwarranted opinions in the hopes someone will get mad enough they’ll come back and read more), I’ll go out on a limb and say—of the five or six Superman incarnations I can think of—this comes in a solid second. [Keeping in mind, I hope, that I truly enjoy “Smallville” and have invested many hours in watching it and many more dollars in purchasing it.]
Now, both of you who are still reading are probably wondering how I would rank the previous incarnations of Superman. At the bottom, I have to put the old George Reeves series from the fifties. I watched it as a kid and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was a product of it’s time as far as “special” effects and Superman was kind of a really strong Dick Tracy who could fly.
Next up is the Bandon Routh/Christopher Reeve Superman. This is why I said “five or six” earlier, because are these two separate franchises or one, or one-point-seven or what? “Superman I” was pretty good, “II” was really good, “III” and “IV” were laughably bad (or even George Reeverly bad, except that I think I liked the old show better). And then back came “Superman Returns” which was a really good movie (except for the casting of a junior high girl in the role of Lois Lane), causing this entire series of movies to be spread across my list like the remains of a human cannonball who missed the net.
And then there was “Superboy”, a quirky little half-hour show about Clark as a college student in (I think) Florida. It’s memory is marred by the fact that they had two different people play Clark, but that same memory is saved for most males in the audience because of the woman they had playing Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk), who we all had a crush on (and was also the only reason we watched “SeaQuest, DSV, DMV, DdM”). I enjoyed this show, but it was one of those syndicated shows that you never knew when it would be on.
Now comes “Smallville”. It’s not like the other shows because Clark Kent doesn’t dress or act like Superman. But it’s been loads of fun seeing him discover what being Superman will be like. We’ve also gotten to know Lois Lane, another Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, Green Arrow and several other famous characters during their formative years. One of the knocks against the show has always been that it’s never explored the back-story of the most famous character in the parent company’s pantheon. You know who I’m talking about: that rakish, debonair, millionaire bachelor with the amazing gadgets who is able to defeat any foe with merely his mind as his only super-power. But then, I guess they figured they had already done enough shows about Bugs Bunny.
This leaves, as my pick for favorite Superman show, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” starring Teri Hatcher (as one of them) and Dean Cain (as the other). This show is, and always will be for me, THE show about Superman. Part of it, I admit, is that I love the colors. It just had a cheerful palette. It also had more of a sense of humor than the others, which I know is a strike against for some die-hard fans. Clark comes across to me as more human than any of the other Clarks, yet—as Superman—he seems more sure of himself than any other Superman. And I loved the line from the teaser poster, “The first love triangle with only two people.”
Now, if I were to stack “Lois & Clark” vs. “Smallville” into some sort of head to head competition with the actors, as much as I like Tom Welling’s Clark and Erica Durance’s Lois, I still prefer Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. I like their self-assuredness and just the way they played their parts.
Of the major characters who appeared in both shows, the only advantage I would score for “Smallville” is Lex Luthor. Normally, an action show needs a great villain and Michael Rosenbaum has been that in spades. John Shea (on “L&C”) was good, but not as deep or fun as Rosenbaum. Gene Hackman was his usual stellar self in the Reeve movies and Kevin Spacey was the best part of “Returns”, but it has been fun to see Lex become Lex on “Smallville”. And one kudo I toss toward “Smallville” is bringing up the question of whether Lex would have been so bad if Clark hadn’t spent seven seasons lying to him. For those people who have complained about “Smallville” season “8”, I think the main problem with it was that Michael was gone and the producers had a hard time creating a villain to match his charisma.
And now “Smallville” is wrapped up. I’ve enjoyed the run and I hope they do some movies—a la “Stargate: Ark of Truth”—but, even if they don’t, I’ve always got 60 DVDs I can go back through any time.