Thursday, August 12, 2010

'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman' Season One (1993)

Starring Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher and Lane Smith
Executive Producer Deborah Joy LeVine

Ah, Superman.  In 1993, the Man of Steel returned to television in this series starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.  As a kid, I was excited when the series premiered, but that excitement soon fell off after the pilot.  As the title implies, the focus here is heavily on Lois Lane and Clark Kent, rather than on the superheroic feats of Superman.  As a 12-year-old boy, the last thing I was interested in from a Superman series was hour after hour of Lois and Clark flirting with each other.

Needless to say, I quickly lost interest in favor of rewatching the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve version (and, really, let's face it - that's the best one).

Still, all these years later, I can finally see the appeal of "Lois and Clark."  The show doesn't take itself terribly seriously, and provides a sense of fun that's undeniably charming.  It mostly follows the John Byrne update of the characters, presenting Clark Kent less as a bumbling buffoon and more as a confident man, and competent reporter.  Lex Luthor isn't a crazed mad scientist, but a wealthy businessman consumed with lust for power.  These ideas seem old hat by now, since those have been the status quo for decades, but at the time, they were still fairly new.

The series begins with Clark attempting to get a job at the Daily Planet, but editor Perry White (Lane Smith) tells him that while his work is good, he needs to prove that he can report for a major metropolitan newspaper.  After he writes a story on an old theatre being demolished, White gives him the job, partnering him with sassy investigative reporter Lois Lane, who is investigating sabotage in the space program.  Together, they discover that someone is planning on ruining plans for an international space station.  Meanwhile, Clark has stumbled onto the idea that in order to use his amazing powers to help people, he can create a new identity, Superman.  With the help of his parents John and Martha Kent (Eddie Jones and K. Callan), he creates a suit to wear so that he can use his powers in public.  Eventually, Superman makes his public debut by rescuing a shuttle load of space-bound colonists (including Lois) from a bomb.  He traces the bomb back to Lex Luthor (John Shea).

Over the course of the season, Lex Luthor's plans to destroy Superman and woo Lois will become the center of a number of episodes.  But the main thrust of the series is Lois and Clark, and their relationship.  The professional rivalry that eventually turns into a deep respect and friendship is fun to watch, with Cain and Hatcher quite ably bouncing off of each other with spark and wit.  In fact, the interactions between Lois and Clark are without a doubt the best part of the season as a whole.  The show's relatively small budget means that even for 1993, the action sequences and effects weren't going to be anything to write home about.  The adventures of Superman looked more believable over a decade earlier on the big screen.  And the plotting, well, it's not really much to write home about.

This is a case where the characters make the entire show.  Dean Cain is a fine Clark Kent, though he often seems uncomfortable as Superman.  Since he spends the majority of his screen time as Clark, this isn't too much of a problem, but it can drag things down.  Teri Hatcher is also good as Lois Lane, she definitely gets Lois' energy and drive down pat, though she can occasionally be a little immature.  The show's biggest surprise is probably Lane Smith as Perry White, who is recast as a southern newsman who has an obsession with Elvis Presley.  Smith is clearly having a ton of fun in the role, and nearly every single scene of his is a downright riot.  John Shea is great as Lex Luthor, really imbuing the character with a sense of evil glee.

The best episodes are the ones that show Clark and Lois doing their thing as investigative reporters, looking into cases of government corruption or organized crime.  Unfortunately, there are a number of episodes that involve all kinds of silliness like super-intelligent orphans taking over the city.  These episodes are just too cheesy, with only the charm and fun of the main characters to save it.  Still, there are enough better episodes out there to make the season overall pretty enjoyable.

I came across a problem with several episodes while watching the show online via Netflix.  Parts of certain episodes are missing, which is jarring and strange.  The worst offense is a full six minutes of the climax of the season finale outright gone.  There's nothing worse than suddenly skipping until after major revelations have been made, the villain revealed and Superman is on the scene.  It's a good thing that the "previously on..." bumper at the beginning of the season two premiere shows most of what I missed.