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Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Season 1 DVD Review

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Season 1

November 7, 2005

Director: Robert Butler, Randall Zisk, Gene Reynolds, James A. Contner, Michael Watkins, ,
Starring: Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, Lane Smith, Michael Landes, Tracy Scoggins, K Callan, Eddie Jones, John Shea, ,

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DVD Review

Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman came along at a time when Superman’s popularity was at a low. It had been ages since a movie had come out (the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987). At the time, Time Warner had absorbed DC Comics and decided to resurrect the superhero but on TV instead of on the big screen. The network brought in Deborah Joy LeVine (who had very little TV experience at the time) to create and write the show’s feature-length pilot episode. She hadn’t even read a Superman comic before and envisioned a Moonlighting-style romantic comedy.

The show featured two new, fresh-faced talents, Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher and managed to maintain the homogenous utopia of the Christopher Reeves’ movies. Everyone looks good, nobody seems to have any real problems (like paying rent or finding a job) and good and evil are easily identifiable. But that is kind of the point, right down to the city streets that are always clean and uncluttered—obviously shot on a soundstage. This is purely escapist fare for one to lose themselves in. Lois and Clark presents an idealized world as opposed to a realistic one.

Clark Kent (Cain) arrives from Smallville to make it as a big city reporter at Metropolis’ most prestigious newspaper, The Daily Planet. He ends up impressing the gruff, editor-in-chief, Perry White (Smith) but meets his match with the Planet’s ace reporter, Lois Lane (Hatcher). They start off with a decidedly antagonistic relationship but over the course of the season a love triangle, of sorts, form between Clark, Lois and the show’s re-occurring baddie, millionaire Lex Luthor (the slick, suave Shea). Clark wants to tell Lois how he feels about her and not blow his cover as Superman. Instead, he watches helplessly as she is romanced by Luthor, his nemesis.

The first episode takes its time to establish the world and the characters that inhabit it. Superman’s powers are gradually introduced (for example, he stops a runaway bus but the only evidence we see is a handprint indented on the vehicle) and we don’t even see him in the famous outfit until over an hour into the 90 minute episode.

Cain and Hatcher make for a wholesome, if somewhat bland (at times) duo, but over the course of the season a sexual tension between the two is gradually established. Think of a safer version of Moonlighting that would appeal to Middle America. This was due in large part to the network sticking it in an early evening time slot—smack dab in the middle of family viewing time—and so the show was stuck in an odd position of trying to attract adults but not show anything that would be inappropriate for kids.

Lois may be a tough-as-nails reporter but deep down she’s a hopeless romantic at heart. Hatcher brings a sexy, girl-next-door vibe coupled with good comic timing (that she showcases to an even greater degree on Desperate Housewives) that catapulted her to fame when the show originally aired. She’s gorgeous but also conveys a vulnerability that makes her endearing. Like WKRP in Cincinnati, Lois and Clark plays up the overt sexuality of “Cat” Grant (Scoggins) as the show’s promiscuous bombshell when it is painfully obvious that it is Lois who is the real knockout (and has integrity as well).

Cain wisely doesn’t try to copy Reeves’ iconic performance from the movies but portrays Clark as a smart and idealistic guy who is the perfect foil for Hatcher’s headstrong Lois. He has an engaging smile and all-American good looks that makes him ideal for the role. Cain doesn’t have too much range but the role, as written, doesn’t require much of him. The chemistry between him and Hatcher feels genuine and is definitely the appeal of the show. The give-and-take between them is cute and there is obviously some heat, some sexual tension brewing under the surface.

When it debuted on Sunday nights at 8, Lois and Clark had strong competition. It was up against the Murder She Wrote and Steven Spielberg’s science fiction submarine show, seaQuest DSV. The ratings weren’t too good for Lois and Clark by the end of the first season some major changes in front of and behind the camera occurred. Deborah Joy LeVine and cast members Tracy Scoggins and Michael Landes were replaced—much to the chagrin of the fans. However, the show rebounded from this upheaval and go on for three more seasons before finally being abandoned by an uncaring network in 1997.

Ultimately, Lois and Clark is all about upholding strong, moral values and decency. This is represented most obviously with Clark’s, straight-from-America’s-heartland parents juxtaposed with the cynical, big city as represented by Lois and Perry White. The show attempts to demonstrate that some kind of harmony can exist between these two worldviews but when push comes to shove, it sides with the folksy, sage advice of the folks from Smallville.

Special Features:

Considering the resentment that LeVine must’ve had against the studio for being dismissed so early on it is something of a surprise that she would participate in this DVD set but I guess time heals all wounds. Either that or most of the executives responsible for her dismissal are now gone.

The first DVD features an audio commentary on the “Pilot” episode by Dean Cain, executive producer LeVine and director Robert Butler. LeVine dominates the track as she talks about how the episode was supposed to establish Lois and Clark’s personalities and their relationship (i.e. sexual tension). She wanted to create a more sophisticated Superman who had seen the world before landing in Metropolis. Cain is modest and talks about his experiences during the casting process and shooting this episode.

LeVine didn’t want to alienate Superman fans but also wanted to do something different with the character. To test the waters so to speak, she cut a 20-minute reel from the pilot episode and showed it to fans at that year’s San Diego Comic Con. This is footage is included on the DVD.

On the sixth DVD is a fine retrospective featurette entitled, “From Rivals to Romance: the making of ‘Lois and Clark.’” LeVine had never read a Superman comic before doing the show but agreed to take it on if she could make a romantic comedy. Cain and Hatcher appear in brand new interviews along with most of the other main cast members. Cain almost didn’t get the role because the powers that be thought he was too young. LeVine wanted Lois to be a modern woman with a lousy social life and Hatcher liked her character’s duality: tough exterior with a needy, romantic interior.

Finally, there is “Taking Flight: the Visual Effects of ‘Lois and Clark’” that takes a look at how the show’s special effects were created. We see footage of Cain on wires in front of green screens or on location. Not surprisingly, both Cain and Hatcher found the wire harness to be a painful experience.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 79%

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