Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman' Season Two (1994)

Starring Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher and Lane Smith
Developed by Deborah Joy LeVine

Season Two of "Lois and Clark" picks up shortly after Season One; Lex Luthor (John Shea) is dead, Lois and Clark (Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain) have gone back to working together at the Daily Planet, having repaired their relationship following the revelations of Lex's true character.  However, things are not all rosy: It seems there is a growing backlash against Superman in Metropolis.  A chunk of the population blames him for the death of Lex Luthor, who was seen by many as a benevolent philanthropist.

Of course, it turns out that though Lex Luthor may be dead, but he is not gone.  His legacy and criminal network are hard at work trying to get revenge not only on Superman, but on Lois for betraying Lex.  Luthor will cast a shadow over much of Season Two, though he will be mostly replaced by the end by Intergang.

Apparently after the first season of the show, the entire writing staff was sacked and replaced.  As a result, the second season is more in the vein of the comic, absurd episodes of Season One, with a larger emphasis placed on action.  Now, at first I thought I would find this disappointing, but since the show ends up being far more consistent, it also ends up being a bit more enjoyable.  It doesn't waffle back and forth between being serious and being cartoonish in terms of its plotting.  It goes for broke entirely, throwing out all kinds of wacky scenarios like a time traveling HG Wells, red kryptonite, clones of Al Capone and John Dillinger, and Metallo.  Where it does take things seriously is in further developing the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent.

The show, in this sense, takes huge leaps forward, accomplishing in less than one season what the comic books didn't do for something like six decades.  In the second half of the season, the writers smartly decide to move beyond the playful flirtations and crushes of the first season and have the two characters begin to develop a deep love for each other.  One of the best moves this show makes comes when Lois finally begins to realize that while she might be infatuated Superman, it's Clark that she knows and cares for deeply.

While the season may through a variety of obstacles in the way of the two of them finally and truly getting together, it still feels like a great deal of progress has been made by the time the season finale rolls around.  Even an episode where the truth of Clark's dual identity to Lois via a time traveler from the future (which conveniently is written with a conceit to allow her to forget) doesn't feel like time wasted. 

I am a little surprised to say that despite the more cartoony plots, I enjoyed this second season more than the first.  With a more consistent tone, the show seems more sure of itself.  Though at times, the interactions between Lois and Clark might seem a bit less sharp than previously, for the most part it makes up for it in other places by making the drama for these characters effective.  The show explores why the relationship between Lois and Clark is so deep and iconic, and why it has enthralled audiences for decades.

Other changes in the show have occurred as well.  Justin Whalin replaces Michael Landes as Jimmy Olsen.  The producers apparently thought Landes looked too much like Dean Cain.  As a result, characterization for Jimmy, who was very modern and more adult in Season One is a bit more of a kid now.  This works, however, because while Season One Jimmy was an interesting re-interpretation of the character, Season Two Jimmy gets to be part of a very fun surrogate father-son relationship with Perry White (Lane Smith).  Tracy Scoggins as Cat Grant has been dumped entirely, as has John Shea's Lex Luthor.

In Luthor's place, stunt casting is the name of the game.  Every episode seems to feature some kind of B-list celebrity or has-been, including Bronson Pinchot, Ben Stein, Peter Boyle, Bruce Campbell, Denise Crosby and Raquel Welch.  Sometimes this can be utterly distracting.  Peter Boyle plays Church, the head of Intergang, but seems entirely uncomfortable in the role.  Bruce Campbell as Church's son is also a bit of a failure.  While I love Campbell's absurd delivery style when he's playing the plucky hero, it's not quite as effective when he's attempting to be a villain. 

In the end, though, "Lois and Clark" remains a fun, entertaining superhero romance.  It's a very different interpretation of the characters than has been seen on television or in film before, light-hearted and quick on its feet, and yet entirely respectful of the history of the franchise.