Monday, August 23, 2010

'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman' Season Three (1995)

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

I suppose the fun had to end sometime, right?  Season Two ended with a shocker: Clark Kent, down on one knee, asking Lois Lane to marry him.  The cliffhanger was in the air for months until Season Three premiered, and Lois answers Clark with a question of her own: "Who's asking?  Clark Kent... or Superman?" and she pulls off his glasses. Dun-dun-dunnnn.

The first half of season three follows as the two characters deal with the fallout of this revelation as it threatens to tear their relationship apart.  Lois resents Clark for lying to her for the past two years and Clark is worried that having a relationship with Lois will put her in unnecessary danger.  Ultimately, they both get over these feelings and begin preparations for their wedding.

Here's where I bring in a bit of behind the scenes trivia: The producers of the show had entered into an agreement with the bigwigs at DC Comics to have the wedding of Lois and Clark on TV coincide with the wedding of Lois and Clark in the Superman line of comic books (after a seven-decade courtship!).  Unfortunately, making these two things happen at the same time proved nearly impossible, and the comic book was put off for almost a year thanks in part to the hugely popular "Death of Superman" storyline.

So what did this mean for "Lois and Clark" Season Three?  Time to stall!  The second half of the season is dominated by a storyline wherein Lois and Clark get married... only for Clark to find out that "Lois" is in fact a clone!  It takes several episodes for him to find the real Lois, who has been kidnapped by Lex Luthor (John Shea) ....and is suffering from amnesia!  That's right, Lois Lane forgets who she is for two whole episodes, and believes that she's a woman named Wanda Detroit, a character from Lois' forgotten romance novel.  After she remembers that she's not Wanda Detroit, but is, in fact, Lois Lane, she spends another episode or two not remembering who Clark is, or their relationship.  Her doctor, meanwhile, decides to manipulate her into loving him instead.  That goes on for a few more episodes, frustratingly, until the final couple of episodes which introduces a previously unheard of colony of Kryptonians, of which Clark is apparently supposed to be ruler.

While the first half of the season is almost as light and fun as Season Two, the second half is just full of dragging episodes that seem to jump the shark every five minutes.  The problem with the first half is that after Lois gets over how angry she is with Clark, what used to be fun, flirty interactions between the characters is replaced by scenes of Lois and Clark professing their deep, undying love for each other... over... and over... and over... and over again.  At first it's cute and it works, but as the episodes drag on, and these conversations are repeated (sometimes multiple times in each episode) it becomes grating.  I was hoping that the wedding would alleviate this problem, but instead it just brings about its own set of problems once things go off the rails.

Now, this is not to say that there's no fun to be had in this season, but it's certainly a bit harder to come by.  When the show doesn't focus on manufacturing troubles for Lois and Clark, and just lets them be themselves and go about what they do best (flirting and being excellent reporters) it's still just as fun and zippy as ever.  Even the changing dynamic between Clark, Lois and Superman starts to be kind of fun.  Before, whenever he had to zip off to save lives, Clark would struggle to make some kind of lame excuse to Lois.  Now, Lois attempts to cover for Clark but ends up struggling and throwing out excuses just as lame as anything Clark would ever give, which reveals a pretty interesting dimension to their relationship.

Ultimately, though, this third season struggles a lot.  The writers were thrown a curve ball with their wedding plans, so I can't fault them for that, but they weren't quite able to overcome it.  The second half of the season stumbles, but then, where exactly were they supposed to go?  There's a certain camp value in the ridiculous clone/amnesia storyline, but I almost think it's preferable to manufacturing some more mundane reason for Lois and Clark's marriage to either by annulled or not happen at all.

I do have to rant about something for a moment, though, unrelated to the whole marriage storyline.  Now, this is something about the Superman mythos that has driven me absolutely bonkers every time it's come up.  I'm talking about the transference of Superman's powers into someone else.  Forgive me for being ultra-nerdy right now, but Superman's powers come from the fact that he's a Kryptonian living under Earth's yellow sun.  On Krypton, he would be a normal Joe like you or I, but his physiology reacts differently to the yellow sun than it does to Krypton's red sun.

I cannot endorse any storyline where Superman's powers are somehow transferred into a human being.  And this happens twice in this third season of "Lois and Clark."  This is completely and utterly stupid, since they're not even consistent about the method by which Superman's powers can be given to another person.  In one episode it's through electrical current, which is dumb.  If I'm holding hands with a blonde person and we both get struck by lightning, we're not going to switch hair colors.  Hair color is determined by genetics, just as Superman's powers are.  The second method, by shooting a laser through red kryptonite, is even more idiotic since red kryptonite's effects on Superman's physiology have nothing to do with his powers - only his emotional state.  These episodes drive me off the wall, and it's not an isolated incident to this show, either.  "Smallville" has done it on at least two occasions (including one incredibly idiotic episode wherein Jonathan Kent is granted superpowers in order to battle Clark!)

But I have to stop here.  Seriously.

"Lois and Clark" Season Three has some pretty solid ups, but some incredibly low lows.  I still enjoyed a good deal of it, but be forewarned... there are a lot of pretty bad shenanigans going on here.