Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#631. Seven good memories from Lois & Clark after everyone stopped watching

I loved Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, unabashedly.  The 1993-1997 romantic drama featured a more human take on the Man of Steel, and was for a time one of the hottest shows on television.  Then of course the show runners faked the wedding near the middle of the third season, and fans were not happy.  A little more than a season later, the series was an afterthought and then quickly cancelled.  I might argue that its cultural effect lasted a little longer.  Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films, for instance, put a huge emphasis on Peter Parker's love life, something the comics only sporadically attempt (the last time this was at all relevant was when he controversially ended his marriage to MJ...but fans actually did get over it).  It might be said that like Lois & Clark they were more about a dude who sometimes swings around NYC in a funny costume and otherwise spends all his time obsessing over a girl...just like Clark Kent before him.  (When your crushes are portrayed by Kirsten Dunst and Teri Hatcher, you are okay to obsess.)

How to redeem the series more directly?  Well, for starters, by pointing out that the series did not actually suck after that botched wedding.  And that maybe even that post-wedding arc was ahead of its time.  Here's the list:


  1. Tempus/H.G. Wells episodes.  These started in the second season, with this this classic scene  from "Tempus Fugitive" (that my family endlessly quotes), but more followed, and it would be a shame if this part of the series were to be forgotten.  Tempus (brilliantly portrayed by Lane Davies) came from the future, while H.G. Wells ("Herb" to Tempus) was H.G. Wells (in two incarnations).  The first time they appear it totally makes sense, and then it makes even more sense to keep bringing them back because they're instant icons for the show, a part of the Superman that remains entirely its own.  The second Tempus/Wells episode immediately precedes the "wedding," and it's called "Tempus, Anyone?" but the fourth season entries are better, including "Soul Mates" (which follows the real wedding) and "Meet John Doe"/"Lois and Clarks," a two-part follow-up to "Tempus, Anyone?" about an alternate timeline where Clark never became Superman.  Maybe you have to be a fan of the series already to love these so much, but then they may also be the best selling point to get you back into it.
  2. The post-"wedding" arc.  This was circa 1996.  Outside of a few exceptions that didn't reach near as wide an audience as Lois & Clark in its prime, serialized storytelling was just not something that happened on TV, but here it is.  After their wedding is crashed, Lois and Clark undergo the worst test of their relationship ever (worse than Dan Scardino!), including an amnesia period that saw Lois become a sensational cabaret singer (totally worth it), and an appearance by comics regular Bibbo, a character who had his high point after Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday, an arc that was created, by the way, to delay the comics wedding so it could coincide with Lois & Clark's.  No, not the frog wedding.  Having an arc that had something to say other than "will they or won't they" helped open the door to shows like Lost a decade later.  Thank you frog wedding.
  3. The last appearances of Lex Luthor.  John Shea's Lex was a major part of the show's first season.  His loss was a major blow to the series, the only stumble it never truly recovered from, although of course it enabled Lois to finally take Clark seriously.  So it only figures that his final appearances followed the frog wedding, because who else would stand to benefit from such a farce?  And isn't it at least worth celebrating one last return engagement from another of the show's icons?
  4. Lord Nor.  Lois & Clark didn't have the iconic General Zod.  Instead it had Nor, portrayed by the brilliant Simon Templeman (and before you argue that I've just described both Davies and Templeman the same way, quite unoriginally, they both earn it).  Templeman can now be found in Neighbors, which is equally brilliant.  Nor's appearances were part of Clark's temporary departure to live with some newly discovered fellow Kryptonian survivors.  To get out of it, he had to go the full American, er, Kryptonian Gladiator on Nor.  But Nor had better hair.  And henchmen.  The one thing Superman always needed was henchmen.  Although that would probably alter his image a little...
  5. Justin Whalin & Lane Smith.  Whalin was the second Jimmy Olsen, after someone finally figured out that the original actor looked a little too much like Dean Cain.  He slipped into the role perfectly, with an infectious enthusiasm that brought a whole new energy to the series.  Lane Smith, meanwhile, was the reason this version of Perry White was obsessed with (Great Shades of) Elvis (as opposed to the more traditional expression of "Great Caesar's ghost").  As the series progressed, they got to have a great deal of fun playing off of each other, to the point where it was almost like watching two different series, one called Lois & Clark and the other Jimmy & Perry.  And that would not have been a bad thing at all.  These guys deserved a spin-off.
  6. "Bob and Carol and Lois and Clark."  The myth of any series that relies heavily on romantic tension is that when the actual romance happens, all the goodness is lost, and you no longer need to care about it.  I don't know about other famous examples (such as Moonlighting), but that just wasn't the case with Lois & Clark, and this fourth season episode is a prime example, and a pretty clever one at that.  Bob and Carol are a rival couple sharing the same secret, only Bob is a supervillain instead of superhero.  And the story pretty much writes itself.  Not so bad, is it?
  7. "Twas the Night Before Mxymas."  Another gem from the fourth season features the famous fifth dimensional imp Mxyzptlk as portrayed by Howie Mandell.  But more importantly, it's one of those time loop stories where the day keeps repeating itself, only in this one things keep getting more grim, which becomes hugely entertaining after a while, until the imp is inevitably defeated.  Maybe not completely relevant if you're a Mxyzptlk completist, but an episode that proves the series was still fully capable of firing on all cylinders in its final season.
And one last note worth keeping in mind, what became the series finale introduced what would have been even more revolutionary in Superman lore than the wedding of Lois and Clark, and that was the idea of a baby in the Kent family.  It would have been extremely interesting to see how that might have developed.  Just saying.

11 comments:

Pat Dilloway said...

I never started watching in the first place. If it had been on the WB/CW like "Smallville" it probably would have lasted longer than on ABC.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I was always disappointed the show didn't have more supervillains. Then they brought them in and I was sorry they did, although Simon Templeman did a great job. Thanks for reminding me he was on the show Tony! And thanks for catching the typo. ;)

DAVID WALSTON said...

I can say I've watched maybe one or two episodes.
I think they are showing them again on the HUB.

Tony Laplume said...

Any show can last for a long time now, because ratings standards have dropped dramatically now that people are watching cable in droves and even making in some cases far better ratings than on the networks. Of course, this happened to start around the time UPN/WB/CW came about...

The Armchair Squid said...

...another show I haven't watched...

I've got quite a list piling up at this point!

Tony Laplume said...

Don't worry, I shouldn't be talking about non-Star Trek TV shows for a while...

The Armchair Squid said...

I was always curious about this particular show, though. Generally speaking, Superman is not my favorite but this particular concept was intriguing.

Tony Laplume said...

It's certainly a show that's ideal for people who don't necessarily dig Superman.

Spacerguy said...

Let the games begin. I liked when Lex Luthor blatantly defied Superman because he really gave the show a dynamic catch me if can spirit.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I admit it's not a show I ever got into either.

Tony Laplume said...

Spacerguy, Lex was arguably the best thing about the series. But it managed to survive him just fine.

Alex, you can't catch 'em all!

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