Saturday, July 27, 2013

Series Rewatch: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman S1E1 "Pilot"

It's been years since I watched this. I was a little leery. I remember mostly that it was over the top and cartoonish and I wasn't sure how it would hold up two decades down the line. And actually it was better than I expected. It was definitely still over the top and cartoonish, but I think that may actually have been WHY it still works. I've noticed that when you watch a show that's this old that one of the things that makes it seem dated is that the clothes are weird and the cars are weird and the technology is dated.

But here's the thing...a lot of what was going on here was so very stylized--Lois's clothes are very much evocative of the 40s and tend to be very fitted (I know that the hallmark of horrible early 90s fashion is that everyone wore everything approximately 9 sizes too large)--so you're less likely to be distracted. But at the time I was SO distracted. Distracted by how adorable I thought Dean Cain was and how I planned to marry him. Distracted by the perfection of Lois's ultra-shiny dark brown bob. Distracted by the (what I found to be at the time) witty dialogue.

As far as a pilot episode, it hit most of the marks. It set a tone for the series as a whole which they pretty much stuck to for the run. It's feature length so there's a lot of time to get a lot of information in there. But in actuality, there's not a lot to put out there. It's entertaining and fun, but the plot, as tended to be true of the show as a whole, was slightly silly. There are two things happening. The first is the human story. Specifically, Clark Kent arriving in Metropolis and trying to get a job at The Daily Planet while trying to decide what he's going to do about his powers. And here's the reason watching it FEELS silly: As much as Perry White hems and haws and turns Clark down at the initial interview, we, as a society,are so aware of the Superman mythos, that it's impossible for us to TRULY suspend our disbelief to the point that we actually have any kind of question about whether or not Clark will eventually work as a reporter at The Daily Planet. Just like he can dither about whether he's going to use his powers to help people and how he can make that a reality, but we are being completely disingenuous if we act like we don't know that before the end of the episode he's going to put on that red and blue suit and get down to the business of superheroing. Likewise, the whole action hero plot involves the crack investigative team of Lane and Kent trying to figure out who's sabotaging The Space Program's Space Research Station so they can replace the Program's station with their own for profit. Which...I guess could be suspenseful. If they hadn't mentioned Lex Luthor approximately ten thousand times in the course of the episode. (And then meeting him face to face for the first time at a party during a thunderstorm where there are huge crashes of thunder at opportune and suspenseful moments.) It's Superman, for Pete's sake. If there's bad-guying to be done, then Luthor is your man.

But this sounds like all complaints and really, I found it to be enjoyable. It moved. There was no lolly-gagging through useless scenes and it did seem at least somewhat in on the joke of revealing to us a bunch of stuff we obviously already know. The people in it are very, very pretty and not half-bad actors. It was clever enough (although not as clever as it would be later). K Callan and Eddie Jones as Martha and Jonathan Kent and Lane Smith as Perry White pretty much own ever scene they're in, outshining the younger crowd (although that may have to do with the fact that the nature of those characters gives them much better raw material with which to work.)

Good: The pretty. The willingness to commit to the ridiculous. It's very shiny to look at. The entire scene where Martha designs and makes the Superman costume (it's a montage set to "Holding Out for a Hero"). The tongue in cheek references to whether or not people are going to be fooled by the glasses. Gratuitous shirtless Dean Cain scene. Teri Hatcher's bob.

Bad: Some truly poor acting from the bit part crowd. The plot is evocative of the series...the more pedestrian episodes of the series, that is. It's not dreadful, but it's not a great moment in television. The jaw-droppingly 1993 nature of the special effects.

Ugly: Dean Cain's proto mullet when he's Clark.

OMGWTFBBQ Guest Star: This episode is filled with actors in guest spots who are the kind of actors you recognize as familiar but don't quite know why. Television Without Pity always called them, "Hey! It's that guy!" The one who was truly recognizable to me was Persis Khambatta who was Lieutenant Ilia (hot, bald alien chick) in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Overall Grade: I want to give it an A for effort, but really I hand it a solid B. Good enough that it could compel one to watch more episodes. Not in the Pilot Hall of Fame.

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