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Posts Tagged ‘Smallville’

Weekend Update

May 15th, 2011 No comments

I’ve got a big week coming up. Tonight I’m doing the on-stage introduction for The Red Green Wit & Wisdom Tour, actor Steve Smith’s live stage show. It’s no big deal–just a few words and a couple of jokes–but it’s my first time before an audience in quite a while.

Tomorrow I’m off to Orlando for the PBS Annual Meeting, which means three days of meetings and networking. It also means I’ll be taking a few extra days to hit the parks. This’ll be my first time at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And the new Star Wars ride opens at Disney Hollywood this Friday! I was at Disneyland in Anaheim for the opening weekend of the original Star Tours back in ’87, so it’ll be great to maintain the tradition!

But first a little sci-fi TV wrap-up. Last week the broadcast networks announced their series pickups for the fall, and V unsurprisingly received the axe. It’s hard to feel very badly about that; it was a show that squandered every opportunity to become compelling TV. They brought back Jane Badler as lizard baddy Diana but kept her in a cell for nine episodes and killed her minutes after her escape. The final installment reintroduced original series star Mark Singer as the leader of a human military alliance, but it was too little and far too late. (Note to TV producers: maybe you don’t want to wait two entire seasons to add some combat action to your alien invasion series.)

Smallville concluded Friday, and it was every bit as frustrating at the end as it had been these past ten years. The evil god Darkseid brought his warworld Apokolips on a collision course with the Earth, and if you think that sounds like an opportunity for some exciting Super-action, well then you haven’t been producing Smallville. Look, I know that the series was more soap than superhero, but really, when there’s a giant flaming planet looming in the sky, it might be time to stop yapping about your personal issues and put on the Superman suit. I swear that about every ten minutes I shouted at the TV, “Put on the fucking suit!” And would it have killed the showrunners to give us one decent shot of Tom Welling wearing the costume? Ten years, folks. Ten years.

Last night’s Doctor Who was a big step up from the previous week’s lightweight pirate episode, “The Curse of the Black Spot.” The latter seemed content to repeat the basic premise of Steven Moffat’s first script for modern Who, “The Empty Child.” An automated alien medical device that tries to repair humans but doesn’t have the instruction manual? Been there, inhaled the nanoprobes.

The new installment, “The Doctor’s Wife,” was written by famous fantasist Neil Gaiman. I’d been both anticipating and dreading this one. I’ve generally enjoyed what I’ve read of Gaiman’s novels, but the setting–a living junkyard planet named House inhabited by people named Auntie and Uncle–sounded rather twee. However, I think it all turned out rather well. It was a bit fan-fictiony, what with the Doctor meeting a human incarnation of his beloved TARDIS, but at least it was good fan-fiction.

That’s all for now. Gotta put on my Possum Lodge costume and get ready for the show. Don’t know how much time I’ll have for blogging this next week, and it’s hard to do on the iPad in any case. Back next week!

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Somebody Saaaaaaaaaave Me!

May 12th, 2011 No comments

Back when Smallville premiered on the WB network in October 2001, if you would’ve told me that it would still be on the air ten full seasons later, I would have chortled. Guffawed, even. The notion that a TV series that transplanted the Silver Age adventures of Superboy into a blatant photocopy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Sunnydale would one day become the longest-running science-fiction/fantasy series in U.S. television history was ridiculous.

And I don’t think anyone would’ve been more surprised by its longevity than Smallville‘s creators, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. They certainly didn’t appear to have planned for that contingency, adopting a strict “no flights, no tights” rule that kept Clark Kent literally grounded, pointedly not becoming Superman even as the actor who portrayed him, Tom Welling, aged into his thirties. Welling, now 34, is nearly ten years older than was Christopher Reeve when he first played Superman for the feature films.

Yet, with only one episode left–the series finale airs tomorrow–Clark has never flown* and the familiar Superman costume is still in Kryptonian mothballs. The unintended effect has been to show the Man of Steel as a weak and indecisive super-waffle.

Smallville has rarely been good, but it almost always has been watchable. In the early years, that was due mostly to actor Michael Rosenbaum as perennial foe Lex Luthor, here a tragic anti-hero pushed slowly into evil by his manipulative father and the lies told by his best friend Clark as the latter attempted to protect the secret of his powers. In an early episode, Lex told Clark, “Our friendship is going to be the stuff of legends.” It was a heartbreaking moment.

Also holding my interest was Allison Mack as intrepid school newspaper reporter and loyal friend Chloe Sullivan. The show clearly wanted me to be into Kristin Kreuk as Clark’s longtime crush Lana Lang, but–true to my preference for Mary Ann over Ginger–it was Mack for whom I carried the torch.

To say that characterization was inconsistent on Smallville was a mockery of  the concept of  inconsistency. The computerized ghost of Clark’s Kryptonian father Jor-El (voiced by Terence Stamp, who was the venomous General Zod in Superman II) bounced between being a strict dad shaping his son’s heroic destiny to a sinister presence intent on turning him into a God among men. (Though he was always a dick.)

Similarly, Lex’s dad Lionel Luthor started out as a thoroughly corrupting influence who became Clark’s good-hearted mentor even though he was still a murderer but then he was protecting Clark’s secrets from Lex and romancing Mrs. Kent even while he was revealed to be at the heart of a decades-old conspiracy that prophesied the arrival of a superbeing. My head is spinning even typing that last sentence.

I nearly gave up on Smallville during its fourth season, around the time of a protracted storyline that saw Lana possessed by the spirit of a kung-fu witch. (A kung. Fu. Witch.) But then a couple of things happened.

One was the arrival of the delectable Erica Durance as Lois Lane. Durance was eye candy to be sure, but she also played an appropriately gutsy, feisty character true to the legacy of the Loises that preceded her.

The other was that Smallville began to embrace the larger DC Comics mythology. Other superheroes began to crop up, and while the “no tights” rule largely kept them in hoodies, it was still fun to see Smallville-ized versions of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.

Season six saw the introduction of Justin Hartley as Green Arrow. The hero proved so popular that he became a series regular through the end of the show’s run, despite the relative insignificance of Green Arrow in Superman’s comic-book backstory.

Watching Smallville has been like looking at Superman through a fun-house mirror. This is a show that brought us longtime supporting character Jimmy Olsen, married him to Chloe Sullivan, killed him off, then revealed that he was never the “real” Jimmy to begin with. It had evil Kryptonian supercomputer Brainiac pretend to be Clark’s college professor, and murderous monster Doomsday moonlight as a paramedic.

In its final years, the show has become a live-action DC Universe, with superheroes such as Zatanna, Stargirl, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle appearing in more-or-less accurate versions of their comic-book outfits. (Though, for some reason, Green Arrow still has that damned hoodie.)

Tomorrow night will see the end of a long, strange road. There are many burning questions to be answered. Will Lex Luthor return?** Will he still remember that Clark has superpowers? Will Clark remember that he has superpowers? And will he ever put on that fucking cape?

Keep watching. You will believe that a man can walk.

*Except when he’s turned evil. Evil Clark always flies.

**Spoiler: yes.

Why, Hello There!

March 23rd, 2009 No comments

I don’t usually have much cause to write about Smallville. While I’ve followed this Superman-in-training series for the past eight (eight?!) seasons, it’s more of a guilty pleasure than something I actually love. And to be honest, I mostly watch it for Allison Mack as Clark Kent’s girl-next-door Chloe, and Erica Durance as a smokin’ hot Lois Lane.

Smallville has been frustrating at times. While it’s clear that the producers love Superman–and the Christopher Reeve films in particular–they play extremely loose with the character’s mythology, adding Indian caves, ancient prophecies and all manner of hoodoo to the familiar backstory of a boy from another planet. And, thanks to the series’ dogged persistence and the need to avoid stepping on any future feature films, Clark has remained in a perpetual holiding pattern in terms of embracing his future costumed identity. Eight years, and the dude still doesn’t fly.* 

While “young” Clark Kent (for cryin’ out loud, actor Tom Welling will be 32 next month) is still wearing his training cape, the show has at least embraced the wider world of DC Comics with both hands. Over the past few years, they’ve introduced Smallville versions of Green Arrow, the Flash, Aquaman, Black Canary, Cyborg, the Martian Manhunter, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Even then, they’ve typically made a lot of conceptual and cosmetic changes to the characters.

And THEN THEY DID THIS:

Woo hoo! Hubba hubba!

Thank you, producers of Smallville. Thank you, the CW. Thank you very much.

Zatanna makes her first live-action appearance–fishnets, top hat and all–this Thursday at 7:00 pm.

*Oh, Clark can fly, but only when he’s evil, possessed or duplicated.

Next On The CW…Snapper Carr: The Early Years

October 1st, 2008 No comments

Smallville is a show that I’ve watched more or less religiously for the past seven years, even though I know it’s only so-so at best. While Emo Clark Kent (“Waaah, I have the powers of a god! I’m so sad!”) and the bottomless well of self-involvement that was Lana Lang have gotten on my nerves, the many nods to Superman and DC Comics lore have been enough to keep me around. (The actresses who play Chloe Sullivan and Lois Lane are also an inducement, I’ll admit.)

The producers of Smallville have attempted a couple of other superhero-inspired shows. One was an “Aquaman” pilot that failed, even though it was alleged to be pretty good. The other was Birds of Prey, a deservedly short-lived series which somehow managed to squander the concept of three sexy female superheroes fighting crime in Gotham City.

Today, it was announced that they’ve got a new idea in the hopper: The Graysons, a show which would, no joke, chronicle the life of Dick Grayson before he became Batman’s partner Robin.

Oooookay.

Smallville exhibits some dramatic deficiencies, yet it largely works because Superman has such a rich mythology. While the story of “Superman when he was a boy” was officially expunged from DC Comics back in the ’80s as part of the infamous Crisis on Infinite Earths, bits of it are still floating around in the public’s pop culture consciousness.

But there is no “Robin when he was a boy” story. Or rather, the story of Robin as a boy is the story of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Before Batman, Dick Grayson wasn’t a superhero in training. He wasn’t coming to grips with his powers, because he doesn’t have any. He was a happy circus acrobat whose circus acrobat parents just happened to get on the bad side of some gangsters. His tale doesn’t begin until Batman enters the frame.

Sure, I realize that the creators of The Graysons will take a lot of liberties with the character, just as they have with Superman. My contention is that there’s very little on which to build. I suspect that what they really wanted to do was “The Young Bruce Wayne Adventures,” but the success of the Batman films scotched that idea. They see Robin, the boy Boy Wonder as the next best thing. Me, I’d rather see their take on Batgirl. Better yet, how about Ace the Bat-Hound?

This Post Brought To You By Mennen Speed Stick

November 4th, 2004 No comments

Last night, I was watching Smallville, a WB TV show about the adventures of Superman when he was a whiner. Among the commercials was one for a new Old Spice deodorant named “Red Zone.” I presume that it’s intended to be extreme deodorant, perhaps one to be used when the terrorist threat level is raised to “puree.”

I wouldn’t have paid much attention to it, if it wasn’t for a scene in which young Clark Kent goes to his high school’s locker room. See, in the current season of Smallville, Clark is the star quarterback on the football team. This is despite protests by Pa Kent, who felt that Clark would use his superpowers to unfair advantage. However, Clark convinced him (whined enough) and now Pa cheers from the sidelines, even though it’s absolutely clear that his boy is using his superpowers to unfair advantage.

Anyhow, back to the locker room. Clark retrieves his clothes, but what’s that in Superboy’s locker? Why, it’s Old Spice Red Zone! Right there in front of the camera! The Teen of Steel uses Old Spice! Wow!

It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when product logos weren’t plastered all over TV shows and movies. And honestly, it used to bug me when characters would drink a generic “Beer” or wash with “Soap.” It took me out of the drama for a moment, because we all know that real life comes with a thick overlay of corporate identification. People drink Coca-Cola, not “Soda Pop.”

That changed as “product placement” was discovered by movie studios and TV producers who realized that companies would pay big money to have Billy Crystal wipe his ass with Charmin on screen. And again, a limited amount of this didn’t bother me, because it added to the realism of the setting. Of course James Bond would drive a BMW!

But there have been outrageously obvious examples that I’ve found even more distracting than old-fashioned “Beer.” For me, the poster child of inappropriate product placement was in Superman III (hmmm, Superman again?), a 1983 movie in which the Man of Tomorrow battled Richard Pryor.

Midway through the film, computer genius Pryor was pretending to be a janitor for reasons which currently escape me. The janitor’s closet door swung wide open, and…a large Kentucky Fried Chicken* bag came into view. Hanging on the back of the door. Right in the dead center of the screen. At that moment, I could no longer care about Richard Pryor’s hijinks or whether Superman could possibly defeat such a fiendishly clever hacker. All I could think was, “What the hell is that bag doing there?”

This sort of thing has become more prevalent on television in recent years as station breaks become ever more cluttered, and viewers use a wide array of devices to avoid watching the commercials which are the primary reason for the existence of their favorite shows. Advertising agencies want their messages to be unavoidable, and even better, associated with characters that people love. A 30 second spot about a douche is one thing, but if that selfsame douche appears in Lorelai Gilmore’s medicine cabinet…

So, we return to Smallville, and an exceedingly lame episode in which the Kryptonian Kid is pitted against a villain named for one of the comic book Superman’s arch-nemeses, the all-powerful, 5th-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk. Except that here, “Mikhail” Mxyzptlk is a quasi-European with a bad accent who uses his limited mind-control abilities to bet on high school football games. Wha?

As Clark heads off to play the big game, we can hear the field announcer over the loudspeakers: “Today’s game is brought to you by Luthorcorp, S.T.A.R. Labs, Boy Scout Troop 762, and…”

“Don’t say it,” I thought. “Please don’t say it.”

“…Old Spice Red Zone!

Aaaagh. Okay, we fucking get it. The citizens of Smallville use Red Zone to ward off the body odors caused by extensive exposure to Kryptonite. For the love of all that’s holy, why not just name the show The Old Spice Adventures of Superboy and be done with it?!?

Next week on Smallville, Lois Lane returns…with a mysterious candy bar! Wednesday at 8:00 pm on the WB!

*There was a time when KFC advertised that it fried its food.