Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premieredin 1993, and was a hit. It won its time slot and crushed the competition onNBC. That was then. Today, it seems like this show has kind of faded fromcollective conscience. Everyone talks about how great the Superman movies andthe animated cartoons were, but no one seems to ever bring up this version.Smallville seems to get more love than this show did.

To me this show is the Star Trek-DS9 of the Superman franchise. It was good and popular when it was first on, but does not get therespect it deserves now that time has passed (Superman Returns would be theStar Trek Enterprise of the franchise). So today I wanted to discuss this showa little, and hopefully I will either rekindle some memories from someone whodid enjoy the show and still remembers it, or I maybe I can get those whomissed out a reason to hunt the episodes down on Netflix or in re-runs.

Before I tell you my favorite episodes, here is a littlebackstory. This show took the concept of Superman that John Byrne started, sowe got a slightly less powerful hero who was Clark Kent in real life anddressed up as Superman so he could save the day without losing his personallife. Ma & Pa Kent was alive, Lex Luthor was a rich billionaire, and LoisLane was a strong independent woman. The first episode even has Superman savinga crashing space plan, like the first issue of the Byrne relaunch. Dean Cainplayed a Superman cool and reserved, but if you did upset him he was not ahappy person! His Clark was more realistic, not the clumsy good thatChristopher Reeve portrayed. He was a normal guy, of course how Lois couldn’ttell he was Superman is an argument for another day.

Of course it was the Lois & Clark romance which drovethe show. Fortunately Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher had a very strong chemistry,and the episodes pretty much worked. Until they got married, which as usual withTV shows killed the show because the romantic tension was gone.

The one gripe with this show may be the villains, especiallyearly on. Since the focus was on Lois and Clark (and special effects were at apremium), the villains were more standard villains with no major gimmicks. Inother words, villains Superman could defeat without trying.  They did change that as time went on but thestories were centered on the characters and their lived more than the actionand adventure stuff. Also, John Shea played Lex Luthor and did a very good jobputting his own spin on the role. While Gene Hackman will always be thedefinitive version, he just made that role his own; John Shea did a great jobof giving us a new version rather than just doing a Hackman impression.

Here are my favorite episodes. This was real hard since Ilove so many episode, but I singled these five out for specific reasons which Iwill now explain.

#5. Twas the Night Before Mxymas

The truth is that the fourth season was not that great. Theytook all the fun out of the show when they rushed Lois and Clark’s relationshipand got them married. However, this is one strong episode from that season. Theplot has Mxyzptlk removing hope from the world by causing everyone toexperience the same day, Christmas Eve, over and over. Each time through theloop everyone loses a little more hope, until they nearly destroy themselves.This is the A story, but what makes me really like this is the B story.Superman learns an important lesson in this episode which I like. The firsttime he stops a bank robber; he simply catches him and turns him over to thepolice. However, as he repeats the events he realizes this bank robber wasn’tjust a bank robber. He was a down on his luck guy with a family, trying to givehis family a nice Christmas. Superman prevents the robbery and sets him up with a job and helps him out,learning not all criminals are the same (and yes AT4W fans, this is a lot like the lesson Batman learns in Batman: Noel but that came out years later).

#4.”Illiusions of Grandeur”
Everyone knows that Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite,but one of the more unexplored weaknesses is the fact that Superman is as susceptibleto magic as any other person. This is explored in this episode from the 1stseason. One of the great things about the series is that when a problem arises,Superman (or Clark) doesn’t just fold his arms and say “I am Superman, nothingcan defeat me!” After Superman is hypnotized we not only see Clark worry aboutwhat has happened, but see his struggled to beat the suggestion. It’s thanks tohis parents that he is able to do so, just before he unwittingly assists thevillain of the episode. This is a pretty good episode and has a bunch of familiar faces in the supporting cast. It’s also a decent mystery, with thereal culprit actually being a surprise at the end. The defeat is easy, but thereal struggle isn’t between Superman and the villain but Superman and thepowerful hypnotic suggestion he has to fight.

#3.”All Shook Up”
This is the one episode re-written from a classic “Adventuresof Superman” episode called “Panic in the Sky”.  An asteroid is discovered the size of a citycoming toward Metropolis, and Superman is called in to stop it. Unfortunately,a collision with the rock sends him flying back to Earth. When he wakes he has no memory, and the rock is still on its way to the planet just reduced in sizea bit. Yeah, amnesia stories are a cliché; in fact there would be two more inthis series before the end. But this is one is done well, as we see Clarkstruggle with his identity. The best part of the show however may be thesupporting cast. Cat Grant gets a rare tender moment when she reveals howlonely her life is while  Perry and Jimmy get something decent to do when they discover Superman made it back but is missing. It seems very often all they do isstand around and wonder what Lois and Clark are up to, but here they actuallyget in on the action (by the way, this is actually referenced in one episode when Jimmysuggests they get their own lives rather than standing around watching Lois andClark all day). Normally I prefer the episodes where Superman makes more than a cameo (and that happened a few times) but here it works because we care aboutthe characters and what they are going through.

#2.”That Old Gang of Mine”
This episode starts as a regular run of the mill episode. Wediscover that scientist has been cloning classic villains in an experiment to try to find a way to reverse whatever it is that makes people evil. He cloned classic gangsters like Bonnie & Clyde and Al Capone. So what elevates thisto one of my favorite episodes? It’s what happens at the end of act 2. We seeClark and Lois confronting Capone’s gang, and when one makes a pass at Lois,Clark moves to defend her. In response the goon fires his gun, and Clark has nochoice to pretend he had been killed. This works for two reasons. The first, we see Clark anguish because now the life he wanted has ended. He can’t relate to hisfriends as Superman the same way he does as Clark. The other reason is Lois, who is devastated by Clark’s death. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Teri Hatcher can be a fine actress, and here she does a great job. She is grief stricken, butnot enough to follow a lead and track Capone down. Then when Clark returnsalive, you totally but that moment and it’s one my favorites of the entireseries. How does Clark come back from the dead? Sorry, not going to spoil it here.

#1. Tempus Fugitive
A time travel episode, do I have to go on? Actually the timetravel isn’t the main reason I like this episode. But I am getting ahead of myself. The plot has H.G.Wells seeking Superman’s help because a man from thefuture is free in the present. The future the man, Tempest, comes from is a utopian world created by Superman and Lois Lane. In an attempt to change that,Tempest steal Wells time machine and uses it to go back and kill Superman as ababy. There is a detour to the old west, which is pretty cool, where the funpart of the episode happens. Tempest realizes that he has come to a point before Lois found out Clark’s identity, and proceeds to point out how stupid she was. That Clark is actually Superman. What follows is a great scene whereLois is understandably hurt, and Clark tries to explain why he deceived her.And that he is the real person, Superman just a disguise. They chase Tempest toSmallville on the same day the rocket carrying the infant Clark landed, and it’sa race to save the baby before Tempest can kill him while also having to dealwith Clark fading away from the time line. It’s just a good episode. Of course there is a re-set button in the end, Lois doesn’t really learn Clark’ssecret until the end of the season, but since they didn’t do that very often we can forgive this one time  The other reason that this show is so good is the villain, Tempest, is played by thegreat Lane Davies who has a ton of fun with the role, bringing a sort of sophisticationto it and the jokes and menace from the character made him the best villain on the show, well, except for Luthor anyway. They brought Tempest back a few moretimes as a result, and it was always a pleasure much like the way Q came backto Star Trek-TNG.

So many episodes I could have mentioned. Maybe I should have made this a top 10? The one where Luthor comes back from the dead, There was an episode where Luthor cloned Superman, one where Superman is blinded by Dr.Light, and one where Superman is accused of causing a city wide heat wave are all great entries. The first season is truly worth a watch. Go no further than the pilot, which is a pretty decent origin story of how Clark got his identity and his first public appearance.

Well, there you have it. One of my favorite shows which has not survived the passage of time very well. I would say check it out,especially if you’re a Superman fan, and maybe you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Is it the strongest interpretation of Superman ever? No, but as anenjoyable hour of television starring my favorite character, it’s isn’t bad atall.

By richb

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