The early 90s attempted to reignite the love for genre TV. Two shows were already presented in this column- SeaQuest DSV & The Flash– but the primary networks had several other shows on air that they used to try to bring in the genre crowd. NBC ran a pair of dramas on Saturday night- The Pretender and Profiler– that they used to dominate the thrill/suspense group. CBS was king of the mysteries. And ABC had a tight grip on the “family” audience with their Friday night line-up of sitcoms. So they tried their darnedest to transfer that audience to a genre with the family friendly Superman series, Lois & Clark.
And it sort of worked.
For 4 seasons the story of Clark Kent as he becomes comfortable as Superman, becomes a reporter with The Daily Planet, and falls in love with Lois Lane was told every Sunday night. A fun piece was that certain events that occurred were times to coincide with a similar event in the comic books that were being released at the time.
As with the 90s version of The Flash, this series was bright and colorful- and not just in sets and costumes, but also in illumination. The scenes were brightly lit, even when scary and dramatic, allowing the audience to see everything that happened. Today’s shows don’t hold to that idea.
The main villain of the series was Lex Luthor, played by John Shea. Every time the audience believes he’s gone and no longer a threat, he pops up with some new plan to thwart our heroes happiness. Oh, did I forget to mention he’s in love with Lois, too? Puts the kibosh on Clark’s crush on her for a bit. But don’t worry, unlike the “new 52”, the producers of Lois & Clark believed in the true romance of the characters.
The series benefit and was hurt from the introduction and frequent reappearance of H.G. Wells. Yes, that H.G. Wells. And his time machine. Going back in time to save baby Clark? Good thing. Soul Jumping into Robin Hood & Maid Marian to prove everlasting love and break a a curse? Well, that’s just sillypants. But then again, this series did have clones that ate frogs running around.
Some of the highlights included the cast. Newcomer- at the time- Dean Cain brought an innocence and naivety to the overgrown boyscout. Lois Lane, portrayed by Teri Hatcher, was full of spunk and gumption that combined with a headstrong determination demonstrated a no nonsense woman who damn well didn’t need to be rescued, thank you very much. Lane Smith brought a southern charm to Perry White. Jimmy Olsen was initially played by Michael Landes, in season 1, however he went through a metamorphosis in season 2 to become Justin Whalin. Another loss after season 1 was Tracy Scoggins as Cat Grant. The main cast was rounded out with K. Callen and Eddie Jones as Martha and Jonathan Kent. Though in the comics, Pa Kent’s passing is a major development point in Sup’s life, having both characters around provided the sounding board Clark needs to push himself to be the Superman he needs to be.
And he did have to learn… Clark goes through periods where he stresses about not being able to save everyone. Without revealing that he is Superman, he is unable to rescue someone! He has to make a choice repeatedly throughout the series to keep his secret (and by doing so, protect those that he loves) or risk everything to save the day. Thankfully, as he does have his parents (and eventually, Lois) he has people around him to kick sense into him and find another way. Go team!
Coming from the 90s also means that this show used more practical effects than CGI. Star Cain spent many an hour strung up in a harness rigging filming scenes. He reportedly had a fear of heights. Practical effects however had their limitations- an explosion could only be so big before it was dangerous, for example- and that was a hindrance when it came to stunts and other visuals. But… that makes an audience appreciate what we have today, I think.
This show was not perfect. It often bordered on the ridiculous. But it was fun. It was a bit of silly to end the weekend and get ready to head back to work/school. It was most definitely blown out of the water by Smallville, less than a decade later (which, by the way, the series stars- Cain & Hatcher- both appeared as guests on). Today is be remembered as a bit of fluff. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth taking a gander… 100% recommend this series to anyone who enjoys Superman.
Still not convinced? Maybe this montage from the pilot will help…