Our Favorite TV Serials Based on Comics

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Supermanlois-and-clark
Staring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher

Oh, Dean Cain. Many a little girl (and their moms) were swooning over the 90’s version of the Man of Steel. What separated this series from the original Superman staring George Reeves, was the elimination of the hero’s corny dialog and the inclusion of a smart, independent partner who didn’t simply stand aside and let herself be rescued.

Developed for Television by Deborah Joy LeVine (based upon characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster),the series loosely follows the comic philosophy of writer John Byrne, with Clark Kent as the true personality, and Superman as a secondary disguise. As the show’s title suggests, it focuses as much on the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane as on the adventures of Clark’s alter-ego.

On May 17, 1966, Jonathan and Martha Kent witness the crash-landing of a small spaceship in Shuster’s Field outside of Smallville, Kansas. When they investigate the craft, they discover the baby Kal-El. The Kents decide to raise him as their own, naming him “Clark Jerome Kent”. Unlike the Silver Age continuity in the comics, Jonathan and Martha (portrayed by Eddie Jones and K Callan) are alive in the TV show, and they frequently visit Metropolis. Clark, throughout the series, proudly states that his mother (Martha, although to maintain his secret identity, he does not identify her specifically) made his Superman costume for him. Clark often consults Jonathan and Martha, either by telephone or in person after impromptu Superman flights to Smallville, about personal and moral concerns and dilemmas.

Twenty-seven years later, Clark moves to Metropolis and gets a job at the Daily Planet under the gruff editor Perry White (Lane Smith). Clark also becomes acquainted with co-workers Jimmy Olsen (Michael Landes in Season 1, Justin Whalin thereafter), who is a photographer, and gossip columnist Cat Grant (Tracy Scoggins). Soon after being hired, Clark is partnered with star reporter Lois Lane.

Although Clark falls for Lois at first sight, she considers him little more than a pest. When Superman saves her however, Lois instantly becomes infatuated with Clark’s alter-ego.

Lois & Clark was the second medium (after the much ignored 1988 Superman animated series produced by Ruby-Spears for CBS) outside of comics to break tradition and mirror John Byrne‘s retcon of Superman, which included making Clark Kent more assertive and less of a clumsy oaf. (George Reeves used to play Clark as competent and strong-willed, but officially he was still described as “mild-mannered”. This is actually used to describe Clark Kent in “Lois and Clark” as well.) Dean Cain’s Clark gradually becomes a well-regarded and highly competent reporter, even beating out Lois for a Kerth award (much to her consternation). A few episodes directly emphasized that Clark was the unequivocal “dominant” personality, not Superman.

Earlier in the fourth season, ABC had announced and promised an additional fifth year of the show, so the show’s producers and writers were caught unprepared when ABC later changed its mind and decided that no new episodes would be produced. The series had weakened in its Sunday 8:00 timeslot and had been shifted to 7:00 in January, and finally a last-ditch move to Saturdays in the spring.The ratings dropped even further, and the show finished its last season at 104th place. ABC made up for its commitment with Warner Bros. by ordering thirteen episodes of a Debra Messing drama called Prey.