Rewatching "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman"

Ok, so I broke my own rule once again. This week's blog was supposed to be about more TV inspirations, but I had a much better Idea for a topic. I owned three out of four seasons of the 1990s live-action series "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," and last night I felt like popping in the first season. Having watched this show during its original run, I fell in love with it all over again. Just going into the first two episodes shows you how special this series was. Unfortunately, this TV version of the Superman story tends to get either forgotten by casual viewers, and bashed by comic fans, which I always found unfair. This show put a unique spin on The Man of Steel, and in doing so, was able to focus more on characters and settings you don't get to see much of in previous media versions.

First and foremost: The unique spin on reversing the Clark Kent/Superman roles was genius. Having Clark be the real person and Superman the disguise fit perfectly with the show's more grounded approach, since the focus was on the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent (hence the show's title),  Superman was a much smaller part of the show----which was a good thing, because as much as I liked Dean Cain as Clark, he was a pretty mediocre Superman. The constant changing of the costume didn't help either (the cape and "S" shield especially). However, since he was only Superman for brief periods throughout the show, it was not a very big issue for me. What I also liked was the focus on The Daily Planet, which was only touched upon in certain scenes from the Richard Donner films. I really enjoyed the "office family" dynamic between Lois, Clark, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White, with Perry as a father figure to both Jimmy and Lois especially, and sometimes Clark. The late Lane Smith, who played the editor in chief, really made this character his own and made quite the definitive live action version of him. The tweak of White being an Elvis fan and saying "great shades of elvis" instead of "great caesar's ghost" as in the original comic and 1950s TV series with George Reeves (which this show reminds me of a bit now that I think about it), was very entertaining and spawned alot of great comedy scenes in the office. The Kents were adorable, having them visit Clark alot from Smallville with his parents getting to know Lois and Perry at the Planet.

Now, here's where the most underrated performer and character rears his head: Actor John Shea's version of Lex Luthor. In most lists of TV and movie versions of the character (with Michael Rosenbaum's performance of the character in "Smallville" rightfully topping those lists), Shea's performance tends to get unfairly overlooked. Alot of what was done with his Lex was revolutionary from a comic and non-comic fan standpoint. This was the first live-action Lex that was portrayed as a corrupt billionaire, echoing his comic counterpart from the John Byrne "Man of Steel" reboot comic from 1986. No longer a mad scientist or a con-man obsessed with real estate, Shea's Luthor was a wealthy businessman who employed more than half of Metropolis, and is beloved by citizens, who don't know anything about his secret criminal activities. He's also suave and good-looking, in order to woo Lois away from Clark/Superman. Shea's performance, like Lane Smith's is absolutely spot-on as a self-centered tycoon with an almost regal style to his evil doings. As an added note, pairing him with the late Tony Jay as his assistant Nigel (which could be looked at as a precursor to Mercy Graves in the Bruce Timm cartoons) was pure magic. They worked so well together that you almost enjoyed watching them, no matter what dastardly deeds they were performing.

So, those are just some of my thoughts on a series that should get more due that it does in the ranks of live action Superman shows. While the effects are dated, the styles of the characters are fairly timeless, the characters themselves are still likeable as a "work family," and the show as a whole is bursting with so much heart. To anyone that has never seen or heard of this show, I will recommend the first two seasons, as they are all around excellent. The third season starts off strong, but loses direction by the end, and the fourth and final season got so bad I barely watched it. But hey, I'm trying to convince you to watch this great series, so just forget about the last thing I said. What am I going to talk about next week? I don't know yet, but rest assured, it will be interesting.