Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lois & Clark (Season 1)


Mild-mannered Clark Kent starts working for the Daily Planet, Metropolis's most respected newspaper, only to discover that a) Metropolis needs more than a crack reporter, it needs a superhero; and b) he has the hots for one Lois Lane, the Planet's arrogant star reporter. Fortunately for Clark, he just happens to be a superhero (or, you know, an alien with superpowers). Unfortunately for Clark, Lois is a heck of a lot more interested in this new 'Superman' guy than she is in the kind, reliable guy at the next desk.  Hijinks ensue.

This show is, at least in this season, rather underwhelming. And I say that as a longtime fan of sci-fi/fantasy TV cheese (see also, Buffy, Angel, Hercules, The Tick, Chuck, etc.). But Cain and Hatcher lack the chemistry needed to succeed as the lynchpin relationship of the series. Cain's Kent is nice but dull, and his Superman isn't much better. Which may not be entirely Cain's fault--Superman is, at heart, just a nice Kansas guy. He is, in essence, a boring guy who does cool things. (Lex Luthor always was more interesting than Superman.) Hatcher, in her turn, plays Lois as bossy, domineering, and occasionally insufferable--definitely not worth the hype Kent (and eventually Luther) think she merits.

Fortunately, what the stars lack in chemistry and likability, the supporting cast has in spades. John Shea is smarmily evil as the manipulative and powerful villain Lex Luthor (though sadly, his days as the 'big bad' are numbered--after the first season, his involvement is limited to a handful of guest appearances). His butler-cum-sidekick Nigel (Tony Jay) is everything an evil British henchman should be. Clark's parents are ably portrayed by K. Callan and Eddie Jones as down-to-earth farmers--kind and supportive, but not fools. Jimmy Olsen (played by Micheal Landes, but only for this season, on account of he looks too much like Dean Cain. Or something) is likable and has decent chemistry with the rest of the cast.

But the real star here, acting-wise, is Lane Smith as the firm-but-fair father figure/editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, Perry White. Whether he is sharing Elvis anecdotes, giving orders, or simply reacting to the other characters, Smith dominates the screen, deftly selling his comic moments while suggesting a force of personality fully equal to even Lex Luthor himself. He is, quite simply, a joy to watch.

The plotlines are largely rather lame, though there are occasional bright spots, usually connected to the appearance of more competent guest stars, such as Paul Gleeson ('The Ides of Metropolis'), Elliott Gould ('Witness'), Leslie Jordan ('I'm Looking Through You'), and Morgan Fairchild ('Pheromone, My Lovely').

Bottom line: It's a decent enough series, I guess, but, with the exception of Lane Smith, you're better off getting your cheesy superhero kicks elsewhere.

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