BY BOB MARSHALL
I can’t remember the exact date let alone the year that I first watched Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. But I clearly remember watching it and where I was: at home, on a Saturday evening, eagerly waiting for the new Superman show to start on BBC 1. It was the pilot episode and I sat there in awe, I remember afterwards getting a big safety pin and wrapping a towel round my neck pinning it together to make a cape (which funnily enough was pink!). As the years went by I continued to watch the show, though I didn’t watch every episode. Its weird to think I realized it wasn’t your typical Superman show, and that it was more of a romantic comedy, but I loved it anyway for a little bit.
Years later I decided I didn’t like this silly show anymore but I clearly remembered really liking the pilot. I sought out the pilot episode on VHS and was quite excited at the prospect of re watching it since my memories were of really enjoying it. Perhaps the pilot was a great start and after that it all went downhill? I re watched the pilot for the first time in years and I was bored to death. I must admit, I was 18 at the time and I probably didn’t have the patience, or the understanding I have of the show now.
About six or seven years ago I discovered there’d been a Superboy show back in the late 80′s/early 90s – I couldnt believe I’d never seen or heard of it! So I went online to find out what I could and came across a really good website on Geocities(!) back in the day that had a ton of information on the show. I found the entire series on eBay and bought it without a second thought. But as I sat there watching season one I was dumbfounded – this show was horrible, worse than Lois & Clark. John Haymes Newton was as wooden as a plank of wood, Scott Wells was THE worst Lex Luthor I’ve ever seen, it was just bad upon bad. But for some reason I kept watching it… eventually I started Season two and my opinion changed. The second season was a reboot; a completely different looking show altogether. It looked better all around – Stacey Haiduk, as Lana Lang was better, Sherman Howard was a brilliant Lex Luthor (in fact my favourite live action version along with Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum) but most of all Gerard Christopher was outstanding, dare I even say as good as Christopher Reeve! This was the show I always wanted Superman to be – it had actual comic supervillains including Mettallo (I’m aware he later appeared in Lois & Clark), Bizarro and as the season progressed it got better and better. When I discovered Superboy was cancelled due to rights issues with WB’s wanting to create their own Superman show I was livid. And cancelled for what? Lois & Clark? Well if I hated that show before, now I really hated it.
After getting over my bitterness about two years ago I decided to give Lois & Clark another shot (I often go back to things I dislike frequently, guess I never learn) and I found each series for 1p each on Amazon (plus a few £’s delivery). Still, it was a bargain even if I didn’t like it – you can’t go wrong at that price. I bought it and it took me a little while but I eventually started with season one, and of course the pilot. Watching the pilot again I actually enjoyed it – turns out it was very well done.
As I watched season one more and more I noticed how inspired it was by the John Byrne series which is probably my favourite version of the Superman character in comics. Of course as with any show, the episodes are always up and down but I really enjoyed the good episodes a lot, and now being somewhat wiser I can appreciate the romantic comedy side of it. One thing that was a big plus for this show, was the interaction between Lois & Clark – it may be the best I’ve seen in a Superman live action performance ever. I also liked the reporter side of things, something the movies have really missed.
As for season one I loved the final two episodes with the downfall of Lex Luthor (even though topping himself off was a bad choice in my opinion, but I think it that had something to do more with John Shea not wanting to return – but don’t quote me on that). Speaking of Lex, John Shea played the role superbly (even the fact that he had hair didn’t bother me). I was never a fan of Dean Cain as Superman but he played Clark Kent incredibly well, perhaps one of the best portrayals of the character yet. Lane Smith was also a great Perry White (although my favourite is still Jackie Cooper from Superman). I can’t say I cared for either actor who played Jimmy in any of the seasons, both Michael Landes and Justin Whalin. The best thing about this show was Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane, she set the standard for this role in live action. It’s clear that Erica Durance took inspiration from her for her version of Lois on Smallville.
On a negative note the show was pretty small scale and effects wise, unlike Superboy which despite its budget had some decent action set pieces and superb flying sequences. Lois & Clark did anything they could to cut the budget; focus less on Superman, and cut back the action which I guess was the point of the show.
As I’ve made my peace with the show I still don’t understand why WB’s didn’t make a deal to keep Superboy going and take the next step in Gerard Christopher becoming Superman with his character moving to Metropolis. Funnily enough this almost happened with Christopher auditioning for and actually winning the role of Superman in Lois & Clark. When the studio realized he’d already played the role in Superboy the part eventually went to Dean Cain.
As a Superman show its not very good. But as a show about Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, his work as a reporter and his relationship with Lois Lane and the other Daily Planet staff, it works better than ever before in live action. While Lois & Clark isn’t on the same level as Superboy or Smallville, its a unique version of the characters mythos that we’ll probably never see again. I now look back on the show fondly for what it was and not what it could have been. One thing is for sure: it certainly deserves its place in Superman’s history