Lois and Clark: a silly, joyful, and fun TV show?
We have seen many versions of Superman on the big screen since 1978. The character has been played many times on the small screen too, but one of the best that deserves some recognition for newer generations is that of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
A show that brought a new version of Superman for a new generation of fans (Generation X) at that time. And what is still considered by many a truly great comic book version of Clark Kent/Superman on the small screen?
About the show
In the early 90s, Warner Bros decided to build a romantic comedy around the superman comics in hopes of attracting women who traditionally avoid comic book shows. Deborah Joy LeVine was leading the project (2). The American Broadcasting Company bought the pilot and committed to a full (22 episodes) season for the series.
Lois & Clark aired in 1993 on ABC was a fresh new look at Superman, focusing on the relationship between Lois and Clark while letting Superman handle the villains.
When it landed on Sunday nights in the early evening, the heart of family viewing time, a formula for creating a series that would attract adults, yet not be inappropriate for children, had to be established (2).
The show was a mix of mystery, banter, and lightheartedness that made many viewers enjoy the show. Each episode focused on solving a different crime/mystery. The stories were not complicated, you knew the crime/mystery would get neatly solved by the end but they were just so much fun you didn’t care (1).
Jonathan and Martha Kent saw a small spaceship crash in Shuster’s Field outside of Smallville (Kansas) on May 17, 1966. When they went to investigate, they find a baby (Kal-El) and decide to keep him and raise him as their own, naming him “Clark Jerome Kent” (3).
The show starts 27 years later, on the day Clark moves to Metropolis and has a job interview at the Daily Planet with editor-in-chief Perry White. Unfortunately, Clark did not get the job right away but did not give up, was proactive, and got to show his work to Mr. White. Perry impressed by Kent gave him an opportunity to work at the Daily Planet.
Clark is partnered with star reporter Lois Lane. Clark falls in love with Lois at first sight, but she considers him a rookie and doesn’t want to waste time with him. When Superman saves her for the first time, Lois instantly becomes infatuated with him (3).
Throughout the series, Clark proudly states his mother made his Superman costume for him. He often consults with Jonathan and Martha, either by telephone or in-person, about personal and moral concerns and dilemmas which shows the strong family bond he grew up with (3).
Lois (Teri Hatcher) was the ambitious, smart, kind, brave leading lady. Sure, there were times she needed to be rescued, but she was never just a damsel in distress and did her own fair share of saving Clark/Superman in return.
She led rather than followed, holding her own alongside Clark/Superman, something that could have been extremely difficult given the overarching distraction of the man in the cape. That’s what made the show so wonderful, instead of focusing on the superhero, it’s Clark Kent we get to really know (1).
Clark (Dean Cain) is confident and isn’t afraid to speak his mind or be the dominant character. The show shows his alter ego but that isn’t who he is, it’s what he does (1).
Clark got the space to be his own man, a well-rounded, interesting character in his own right, and not be totally overshadowed by the character of Superman (1). If that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, the supporting cast was the backbone of the series (1).
From Lane Smith’s Elvis loving Perry White to naive Jimmy Olson (Michael Landes in Season One, Justin Whalin thereafter) and the all-time supportive parents (K. Callan and Eddie Jones), who although interesting in their own right, serve to make Clark even more human and keep this iconic character grounded (1).
Superman does what Superman does, he saves Metropolis and defeats the villains but the show was so much more than that, it was a love letter to the comic book characters created (1).
Teri Hatcher had already many years of acting experience when she was asked to read for the part of Lois Lane. Though others were considered for the role, Teri’s ability to do drama and comedy equally, her sex appeal, and an underlying vulnerability, made her the easy stand-out in the crowd. The casting of Superman, however, would be a closer call (4).
Kevin Sorbo, 34 years old, blue eyes and 6 feet 3, seemed ideal for what the production company wanted.
Dean Cain, on the other hand, just reaching at 6 feet tall, brown eyes, one-quarter Japanese and not quite yet 26 years old, seemed destined for the rejection list. However, there was something about Dean the producers liked. He was called back to read four times (4).
Onscreen chemistry can be so strong that the casting of an ideal type can be overridden in favor of something less than the ideal if the chemistry is formidable enough. This was the case when casting Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher (4). After they did a reading together, they showed they got it.
Kevin Sorbo would go on to play Hercules and Dean Cain would be Clark Kent and Superman. Even though Dean was thought to be the wrong type to play the part, and so young that some felt he looked more like Superboy, he would eventually prove his critics wrong (4).
Lois & Clark: Their relationship
Clark Kent had been around the world, met many people, and saw many things but he still was inexperienced in many areas. Mostly because he kept himself guarded and couldn’t trust anyone on a deeper level. He was a good person and there was nothing jaded about him. He maintained a charming naive optimism(5).
However, his optimism could not compensate for a restless longing he felt, a strong desire to fit in. He believed the city of Metropolis was calling him, but perhaps it was something (or someone) in the city (5).
Lois Lane seemed the complete opposite of Clark Kent. Cynical, pessimistic, and emotionally detached. Shortly, however, Lois would be faced with the one thing a cynic has no defense against real magic. The magician wouldn’t have the traditional top hat, but he would have a cape (5).
Unlike other shows that often tend towards a confrontational, humorous intro of the leads to set a tone, Lois and Clark’s first meeting was quite subdued by comparison. Lois scarcely noticed Clark’s presence, and Clark was busy being turned down for a job (5).
However, their first meeting did seem to stay on Clark’s mind, especially Lois declining to do a story with him. Clark did the story himself, and Perry White, admiring Clark’s initiative, hired him and partnered him with Lois Lane.
Of course, Lois didn’t like it, but this showed a departure from the comics the series was based on. In the comics, Clark got the job at the Daily Planet by scooping Lois with the very first Superman exclusive. That created a bitter rivalry, not to mention it made Clark seem somewhat opportunistic rather than clever. By avoiding this, Lois and Clark were set to begin an ever-evolving romantic relationship(5).
History of the show
The first season (1993-1994) was a moderate success. The cast (especially Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain) received critical praise for their performances. Lane Smith was a huge success, breathing life and humor into the Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White (3).
John Shea also received positive reviews for his portrayal of Lex Luthor (3).
Michael Landes’ modern-day portrayal of Jimmy Olsen gained a cult following, as did Tracy Scoggins’ comedic portrayal of Cat Grant, at the time a recent addition to the Superman mythos (3).
In Season Two (1994-1995), the character of Michael Landes was replaced with Justin Whalin as Jimmy Olsen. The role of Jimmy Olsen was recast because Michael Landes was deemed too old and too similar in appearance to Dean Cain by ABC and the producers (3).
The characters of Cat Grant (Tracy Scoggins) and Lex Luthor (John Shea) were dropped as series regulars for varying reasons, however, Lex continued to reappear in occasional individual episodes throughout the series. Cat Grant, on the other hand, was never seen or heard of again in any of the others seasons (3).
Coinciding with this change, episode plots gradually shifted from those in which Lois, Clark, and Superman often only became involved with criminal elements or dangerous situations through their own initiative to more fantastic plots often centered on comic style villains who specifically targeted Lois, Superman, or Clark from the beginning, rather than endangering the protagonists as a reactionary measure when they became threats to other criminal plans (3).
Many of the stories of season one involved normal human criminals using advanced and powerful technology and/or involved in large and dangerous conspiracies. Later on in season two, the plots would much more frequently be revolved around “proper” villains with special superhuman powers and abilities (3).
Lex Luthor returned in one episode and other villains from the comics, such as The Prankster, Metallo, the Toyman, and the criminal group known as Intergang, began to appear (3).
The show featured new love interests for team Lane & Kent. This season also featured the debut of villain Tempus (Lane Davies) and H. G. Wells appeared as a time traveler. Wells’ younger self was played by Terry Kiser, and the older Wells was played by Hamilton Camp. Season Two started out uncertainly but became a success and garnered higher ratings in its initial airings (3).
The fourth and final season (1996-1997) had several two-part episodes. It began with the resolution of a cliffhanger involving a previously unknown colony of Kryptonians.
Lois & Clark was unexpectedly canceled after four seasons, despite the studio having promised at least five, due to declining viewing figures. The final season ended on a forever unresolved cliffhanger (3).
Another subplot that was never truly resolved before the series ended dealt with the shadowy government agency Bureau 39. This agency has spacecraft which brought Superman to Earth as an infant and may have had connections with Intergang.
In an effort to break the tradition of Superman (Byrne comics) the show had some changes, which included making Clark Kent more assertive and less clumsy.
Clark eventually becomes a well-established and highly competent reporter. He even gets nominated for the Kerth Awards instead of Lois and wins it.
Following this theme, an innovation unique to the series was the switch of Clark Kent and Superman’s traditional hairstyles.
Another change that reflected the post Byrne comics era was the portrayal of Lex Luthor (at least initially) as a corrupt corporate tycoon, rather than the more traditional mad scientist (3).
The book was published in 1996 with a Science Fiction Book Club hardcover edition and a paperback edition by Prima Publishing (3). Other novels based on the series include:
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Heat Wave
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Exile
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Deadly Games
DC Comics published a trade paperback comic book collection titled Lois & Clark, The New Adventures of Superman in 1994, which featured a selection of Superman’s modern era stories by writer John Byrne and other writers and artists (3).
The comic collection includes an introduction written by John Byrne, with the show’s star Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher as Lois and Clark on the cover (3).
Lois & Clark, The New Adventures of Superman collects The Man of Steel #2, Superman Annual vol. 2 #1, Superman vol. 2 #9 and 11, Action Comics #600 and 655, Adventures of Superman #445, 462, and 466.
Dean Cain is playing the adoptive father of Kara Zor-El (“Clark’s cousin”) in the show. Teri Hatcher recently joined to play a villain in the series. How surprising that Kevin Sorbo is also acting alongside Teri in the series, 14 years later he still was able to get a Superman-related project. How cool is that?
This superhero show was more about Clark and Lois’s relationship and in the end, it was Clark and not Superman that Lois finally fell for. Lois and Clark had an honest-to-goodness relationship that was a joy to watch. Teri Hatcher as Lois and Dean Cain as Clark portrayed these beautifully written characters perfectly.
If you watch the show today it is really outdated in fashion and technology but the characters still shine. Afterward, we have seen a young Clark Kent on the small screen in the TV series Smallville but it can’t’ compare to this version. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is a silly, joyful, and fun TV show to watch. It just makes you smile.
Have you seen this show? What did you think of this version of Clark Kent/Superman? Would you consider watching it (again)? Feel free to leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – Complete Series DVD Collection Review