Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - Season One (1993) Film Review
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - Season One
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
Musing on the difficulty of bringing the Man of Steel to television in the documentary Look, Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story Of Superman, fanboy and Superman Returns director Brian Singer explained that the best way was simple – make it more domestic, make it charming. Of course, it was producer Deborah Joy LeVine who pioneered this approach back in '93, deciding that the unique love triangle (Clark likes Lois, Lois likes Supes, Supes secretly is Clark...) should take precedence over the tights and flights.
Despite having incredible powers, twenty-something Clark Kent (Dean Cain) has always struggled to find his place in the world. Leaving his native Smallville to get a job in Metropolis at the world-renowned Daily Planet newspaper, Clark decides to use his abilities to help people under the secret guise of costumed hero Superman. It is here that his life becomes complicated when he falls for headstrong reporter Lois (Teri Hatcher) who only has eyes for his alter-ego, while finding a dangerous nemesis in wealthy philanthropist/criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (John Shea).
There are teething problems on show (the costume alone is seen in various states of design), but the first series remains the best of the 90s take on the Superman story. While this is largely because it takes itself more seriously than the sitcom-ish later years, it's also due to the perfectly-balanced will-they-won't-they romance. Played with outstanding chemistry, Cain and Hatcher’s dynamic is the heart of the show and offers plenty of plinky-plonk score-assisted poignancy ("Clark...there's no such thing as an invisible man". “Yes there is Lois. Yes there is”).
Crucially, the key difference to the usual super-lore is that LeVine adopts the same philosophy as John Byrne's redefining '86 Man Of Steel comic - Clark Kent being the kiss-curled real person and Superman as the slick-haired disguise. Unlike the Reeve movies and existing definition, where Kent's whole persona is a disguise (clumsy, stooping, stuttering etc), here he's cool, fanciable and highly-regarded. It does mean that the 'disguise' laughably comes down to just his glasses, but you couldn't have Clark walking into doors for 21 episodes.
Happily, this works in Cain's favour as he's infinitely more at home playing the mild-mannered reporter. However, though never entirely comfortable as Big Blue with arms perennially folded, the former jock essays a very likable CK and utterly convinces as a genuinely nice guy. Best of all though are his scenes opposite Hatcher, who made the role her own with spunky flair and that bobbed cut.
As a side effect, the show is least effective when our costumed hero is on screen. Still, aside from a few dodgy plots, there's many great episodes (Luthor testing Superman, a first encounter with Kryptonite, the dark two-part finale) and plenty of nice comic touches (“I’m not much for flying. You?”). Aside from Superman lifting Lois in through the Daily Planet window, the best effects are frequently the small ones where Clark tries to use his powers unnoticed.
The support is great too - Eddie Jones and K Callan as the supportive Kents, Tracy Scoggins as the saucy gossip columnist Cat Grant, Michael Landes as the endearing Jimmy Olsen (allegedly replaced in series two because he looked too much like Cain... huh?). However, while Lane Smith's Perry White is consistent scene-stealer, the real highlight is John Shea's Lex Luthor.
Admirably playing things totally straight, his Luthor is exactly as he should be - scheming, unimaginably rich, jet-setting and behind the scenes in Metropolis' tallest building pulling all the strings. Okay, so he's not bald (as Shea points out, Luthor would find a way round this), but it's still the best screen realisation of the character to this day (sorry, Kev).
Before it descended into a campy and lightweight, Batman TV show-type, Lois And Clark was a charming delight. Though it'll always be 'the television Superman', the first (and best) series is frequently super.Reviewed on: 11 Jan 2010
If you like this, try:Superman: The Movie