The Strangest Show on Television

I suppose it isn't really, but it comes awfully close. Everytime I catch an episode of Smallville, I am surprised once again at how (unintentionally) schizophrenic it is. It could be kind of campy and deliberately self-mocking (a la Joss Whedon) but it never is. And the result is a very puzzling show.

Take Tom Welling, for instance. Now, the definitive Superman, to me, is Dean Cain. He may not be the greatest actor to ever hit planet Earth, but he looks and acts completely right. He is handsome in a Captain America kind of way. He is exceedingly fit but rather more Tobey Maguire than the Hulk. He is smart and kind and completely guileless. That is how Superman is supposed to be (while we're at it, I'll admit I tend to like my superheroes a tad more disturbed, a la Wolverine; still, Superman as Superman is very important--see The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller for a psychological contrast between Superman and Batman).

Here's the weird thing about Smallville--the writers create moments and dialog where Welling is referred to as if he were the Dean Cain prototype. Except that he isn't. In the beginning of the episode I saw Saturday night, Clark is on the football team. As he is running down the field, the episode's bad guy (a bookie), mutters, "Trip," and Clark trips but doesn't fall because he is Superman. He rams into another player but still manages to make the touchdown. Not a bad beginning to an episode.

Next scene, Clark is at the hospital and his assistant couch (the guy who is now on Supernatural) says, "The player [you hit] broke his collarbone in two places," and then goes on to tell Clark that people are getting suspicious, that he (Clark) shouldn't have been able to do that much damage to a guy "twice his weight."

Are they joking? There's no suspension of belief needed here, folks. This isn't Tobey Maguire running full-tilt into Arnold. This is Tom Welling running full-tilt into a high schooler. Of course he's going to break his collarbone, powers or no powers! (Fragile things collarbones.)

The other episode that I watched (I really, really want to like the show; I miss my occasional dose of Buffy/Angel; I need a superhero show to replace it--no, NOT Charmed, which, to give it kudos despite its soap opera nature, doesn't take itself seriously) was pretty much a Charmed take-off...by way of Buffy and Alias. I think I went into shock. It would have been funny if the writers had indicated that there were doing all this borrowing to be funny. But they weren't. Smallville is such a very earnest show, like Everwood--with Superman.

Actually, the kid who plays Lex seems to know that he is playing borderline over-the-top stuff (and does well opposite Marsters, who doesn't really have to try hard to be excellent on Smallville). And Lex is the best character on the show. But I don't really know if anyone else gets it. The show just pulses with teenage angst.

1 comment:

  1. I was a fan of smallville probably before I ever watched it. I love comics, and as a result i cheer whenever another property is used (although enough will soon be enough). I liked the show when i bought it, and I folled it best i could from episode to episode. i actually have a few seasons. The show could be great, but here's the problem- inconstitant writing. while they really capture the idea pretty often, every once in awhile the show will fall back into the same pattern of see monster, fight monster, defeat, now repeat. And whenever the show really begins to get interesting, the writers will chicken out and drop whole storylines, suck as Lex's secret floor of super villians, or Lex's blood disease (sensing a pattern?). I will give the show props, though, for really playing upon the sentimental feelings the images and icons from the movie inevitably inspire in the viewer. In the episode where Welling meets reeves I freaked, and when the fortress finnaly appeard I might have shed a tear. the lois refrences have also been cool. There was talk of an aquaman spin-off and a pilot, but the new CW refused to buy it. After seeing some previews I have to admitt that I'm dispointed, because it really looked like a worthy followup. oh well.

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