Lois & Clark: The (Old) New Adventures of Superman

Lois and Clark (800px)

Smack Classix Week: Superman - Crisis of Conscience?
www.moviesmackdown.comI have so many great memories about the Man-of-Steel, it’s hard to know where to start. Like…  being a six year old buying a Superman comic from a magazine rack in a drug store… Running home to watch George Reeves in a syndicated re-run of the first TV series… Standing in line for hours to watch Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve.

Lois and Clark 2Nothing compares, though, with working on that first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. It ranks as one of the greatest creative satisfactions I’ve had in the series TV business.

I had first worked with Deborah Joy LeVine (she received the WGA “Developed By” credit) on an ABC law series called Equal Justice. A gifted writer, she had written an exceptional pilot that ABC had picked up and, at the same time, ordered a half-dozen back-up scripts. So before film was even being shot, Deborah Joy, her brother Dan and I were throwing “super” ideas around every day in a little trailer on the Warner Brothers lot.

Getting in early allowed me the rare opportunity to put some of my own spin into the always-changing Superman mythos.  During that first season, here are my favorite contributions to the now over 70 year mythology:

  • Clark Kent and Lois Lane became partners. Originally, in both the comics and the series, they were conceived as competitors. It felt to me, however, that if they were going to each chase the same story every episode, we would have to work too hard to get them on screen together. Solution: Perry White makes them a team. Worked like a charm.
  • In that first episode, “Strange Visitor (From Another Planet),” Clark discovers for the first time he is an alien from the planet Krypton instead of some kind of failed Russian experiment as his parents had assumed. It was during the space race in our timeline when he crashed so what would you expect the Kents to think: here’s a human baby in a rocketship that wasn’t one of ours.
  • Our Clark Kent was put on record as having crashed to Earth on May 17th (my birthday), and the event was tied in with UFO mythology dating back to Roswell. I wrote Men-in-Black into that episode before the MIB movie ever wrote Fade In…
  • In a later episode, “The Green, Green Glow of Home,” Clark returns to Smallville with Lois Lane, allowing us to see the town through her eyes. In this same episode, Clark got a past that included a high school girlfriend besides Lana Lang.
  • Kryptonite’s rules were also changed so that it erased his powers, temporarily, allowing him to experience the world as a “normal” person. (This change was undone in subsequent seasons.) Clark was exposed to the dreaded Kryptonite by the person who loved him most — his father — rather than some arch-villain.
  • In my third episode, “All Shook Up,” Lex Luthor declares his love for Lois Lane and becomes almost likeable for a moment. This episode was also a re-imagining of a classic original TV series episode, “Panic in the Sky.”

Lois and Clark - Season 1And, since people ask all the time, Dean Cain was and is one of the nicest actors I’ve worked with. He’s extremely hard-working and has a core character that is so likeable that it was a pleasure writing for him.

And Teri Hatcher, well, in my opinion, she was magic on screen from Day One. I remember watching her do that first scene with Superman and thinking that we had a real shot at making it as a big network series.

A good friend of mine during those days was actor Lane Smith who played Perry White. We’d met seven years earlier, on my first series Kay O’Brien for CBS, when I cast him as one of the lead surgeons. He made Deborah Joy’s catch-phrase come alive: “Great Shades of Elvis!” Sadly, Lane passed away a few years ago, but he was definitely a complete original.

Now, of course, Lois & Clark isn’t even the newest Superman on TV what with the excellent CW series Smallville (which is finishing a triumphant ten year run right now). And even that show isn’t the newest Superman out there what with the 2006 reboot Superman Returns. And even that reboot isn’t the hot one, what with the long shadow of the Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan/David S. Goyer re-re-boot looming in the future as Man of Steel.

But at the end of the day, I’ll never forget Lois & Clark, and you gotta let me get away with saying this once — it was a super experience!


About Bryce Zabel

Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, writer/producer and fast-food cook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of Movie Smackdown. While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. He's also a member of the Directors Guild, creator of five primetime network TV series, and author of a new non-fiction book about UFOs.
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3 Responses to Lois & Clark: The (Old) New Adventures of Superman

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  3. Bryce Zabel says:

    Jackie and I will be conducting a workshop at UCSB’s “Word Farm 2012” this week, and we’re using this Superman experience as a springboard to a larger discussion of screenwriting.

    We’ll be showing related clips of “Panic in the Sky” and the LOIS AND CLARK re-imagining, “All Shook Up.”

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