WAF Reviews

"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman" (1993-1997) – WAF Reviews

For this review, I invite you to come with me on a journey back to the early-‘90s, 1993 to be precise. A time when Stephen Spielberg astonished moviegoers with the very first “Jurassic Park”, as well as other movies that dominated the silver screen, like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “The Fugitive”, “Sleepless In Seattle”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Hocus Pocus”, “Tombstone”, “Dazed and Confused”, and “Philadelphia”, just to name a few. The world of television was filled with programs that would go on to become legends in the TV industry, like “Seinfeld”, “Frasier”, “NYPD Blue”, “The X Files”, “Boy Meets World”, “Walker, Texas Ranger”, “Wings”,  “Roseanne”, and “Home Improvement”.
DC Comics had already experienced success on television with their super-powered orphan from Krypton, Superman! Everyone remembers the classic George Reeves-driven “The Adventures Of Superman” from the 1950s. Toss in there the Hannah Barbara cartoon “Superfriends”, which ran on ABC Saturday mornings from 1973-1985, or the 1988 “Superman” cartoon series that ran on CBS Saturday mornings. There was even “Superboy” (later renamed “The Adventures Of Superboy”), produced by the same people who brought us the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films, that ran for 4 seasons in syndication from 1988-1992.

In 1993, producer Deborah Joy LeVine came up with a new concept for a Superman TV show, one that would focus more on the romantic side of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, that would take the duality of Clark Kent, flip it on its head, and make viewers believe that in this world, Clark Kent was the real man, and Superman was the disguise. The ABC network loved the idea, and on September 12, 1993, worldwide television audiences were introduced to “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”!

Exploring the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent wasn’t exactly something new. The two characters have basically been an item ever since their initial creations. Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder presented that relationship fantastically in the first two Superman films, and the characters have been around for so long that it has become a certified conclusion that Lois Lane will always choose Clark Kent and visa versa. Even when the current comics try to mess with that formula, and make Superman an item with Wonder Woman (see: New 52), it always found its way back to Lois and Clark.

Casting can make or break a show. You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don’t have the right people with the ability to pull it off, you take a chance of no one even caring. Luckily, LeVine found a great pair of actors to take on the roles of Lois Lane and Clark Kentt/Superman: Teri Hatcher & Dean Cain! Let’s start off with the casting of Lois. Teri Hatcher does a fantastic job of adding an updated (for the time) take on the character of Lois, showcasing her as the quintessential “Woman of the ‘90s”. As the series progressed, watching Hatcher take the character from a narcissistic reporter with a penchant for getting herself into trouble, all in the name of whatever story, to a caring individual who finally began seeing the people in her life as more than just another route to a story was fantastic. I especially enjoyed when Lois first meets Superman, so she starts taking even more unnecessary risks because she knows the Man Of Steel will always show up to save her, yet her world is totally rocked once she experiences a situation where he doesn’t show up, for one reason or another.

Dean Cain’s acting career was basically work in commercials and small guest spots on popular sitcoms of the time when he first got the Superman gig. I thoroughly enjoyed his take on the Big Blue Boyscout, as his Clark Kent looked to showcase a more assertive character, making him less clumsy than the Christopher Reeve version. I love how, in the first episode, they showcase Superman shaving his beard by bouncing his heat vision off a mirror and back onto his face. Classic.  I also enjoyed how they switched up Superman’s hair style, since he had always been associated with the classic curl on his forehead, while Kent was well coiffed. Flip it around, and now Superman was the one with his hair straight back, and Kent went more blowdryer.

And while we’re on the subject of Dean Cain, I don’t think I can put this guy over enough. Most actors, once they become really popular for playing a particular character, they always seem to wanna shy away from ever doing something like that again. The excuse they always use is “typecasting”, and can sometimes become quite irritated when they are associated with that character in public. Not Cain. He has always relished in being a part of the Superman mythos, always attending fan conventions, including the official Superman Celebration held every year in Metropolis, Il. He’s even returned to that world as an actor, in one way or another. In another classic Superman TV series, “Smallville”, Cain guest-starred as a character named “Curtis Knox,” who was basically Vandal Savage without using the Vandal Savage name. And in the current CW series “Supergirl”, Cain plays “Jeremiah Danvers”, the adopted father of “Kara Zor-El” who worked for the D.E.O., Department of Extra-Normal Operations, before being kidnapped by “Cadmus”. I also suggest checking out the web series “The Daly Show”, and the episode “The Daly Supermen”, where Cain joins other Superman actors Tim Daly and Brandon Routh in welcoming Tim’s son, Sam Daly, into the club—Sam voiced the character in the animated film “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox”.

But a hero needs a good villain to battle against. The producers chose to go a different route with their “villains of the week”, utilizing original characters mixed in with actual comic book villains. I absolutely loved the way they used “Intergang” in various episodes, not to mention the casting decisions of Bronson Pinchot as “the Prankster” and Howie Mandel as the fifth dimensional “Mister Mxyztplk”. But if we wanna talk about the greatest villain this show ever offered, then there’s only one man we can look at: John Shea as “Lex Luthor”! People always wanna say that Michael Rosenbaum portrays the best version of the character in “Smallville”, yet I beg to differ. John Shea could be absolutely beastly as Lex, a fact proven when in one of the first episodes, Lex is just casually lying in front of the fireplace in his mansion when he suddenly finds himself face to face with a venomous cobra. And what happens? The cobra is the one who backs off! Shea was really one of the first actors to bring the evil business mogul side of Luthor to the screen. Gene Hackman was awesome, but his version was vastly different than what Shea gave us. It’s just a sad fact that, although he made sporadic appearances in future seasons, we only really got to spend any real time with him in the first season.

Of course, with everything good, there is always some form of controversy that rears its head. The character of “Cat Grant”, played in the show by Tracy Scoggins, was completely written out for the rest of the series after the first season. And they made a casting change to the “Jimmy Olson” character, played by Michael Landes in season 1, and by Justin Whalin for the rest of the series. It’s said that Landes was replaced because producers thought he and Dean Cain “looked too much alike”. But the biggest controversy probably came when Warner Bros. found out that DC comics was planning a storyline where Clark and Lois would finally get married. Warner Bros. wanted DC to hold off on the wedding until they got to that point on the TV show, so they reached a deal. Well, that essentially ticked off the comic book writers and artists that had been building up the story that would lead to the eventual marriage, and the idea came into their head that they should just kill Superman. Thus, “The Death of Superman” was released instead, and we all know how that turned out!

The series only lasted 4 seasons, ending in 1997 on a cliffhanger of Lois & Clark finding a baby on their doorstep. We were sadly never given any resolution to this new storyline, which, according to executive producer Brad Buckner, would have revealed the baby to be of Kryptonian Royalty, hidden with the pair so they could protect him from assassins.  I kinda look at it as them attempting to do what “Supergirl” is today with the character of “Mon-El”. It would have been really interesting to see where they would have gone with it. Actually, before all of this, a fifth season had been announced. It was ABC that decided to pull it, citing dropping ratings, and even a time change from its original Sunday 8:00 p.m. timeslot to a Saturday 7:00 pm spot. The show finished its final season in 104th place.

I own the entire series on DVD. “Lois & Clark” always holds a special place with me, as I remember sitting down on Sunday nights waiting for the next episode. I was always interested in the Man Of Steel, and that is something that continues to this day. He’s one of my favorite characters. Sure, there were times during the series where I almost lost it over the way they were using some characters, but isn’t that how things always go when someone loves a TV show? If you’ve never witnessed an episode, I thoroughly suggest you treat yourself, and witness a tale of Superman told in a new way. Once you do, let me know what you think. Until next time…

WAF Reviews

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