Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Modern Classic: Smallville (2001)

If you gathered together all of DC Comics' live-action television adaptations, you would find that the top three series in terms of longevity all feature Superman.

At the top of the list is Smallville, which in the course of its 10 seasons (2001-11) chronicled the development of Clark Kent (Tom Welling) into the Man of Steel. Producers Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Mike Tollin, & Brian Robbins opted against putting Welling into the iconic red & blue suit, though there supposedly is a revision to the series finale.

For the most part, the producers opted to cast relative unknowns in key roles, with the only names being John Schneider (ex-Dukes of Hazzard) as Jonathan Kent, Annette O'Toole, who'd appeared as Lana Lang in "Superman III" nearly 20 years earlier, as Martha Kent, and John Glover, who'd voiced the Riddler on Batman: The Animated Series, as Lionel Luthor, Lex's father. As for Lex (Michael Rosenbaum, Justice League), his descent into villainy was gradual by design, as the story was just as much about him as it was about Clark. Moving outside the box, the producers came up with the novel idea of marrying Lex off to Lana (Kristen Kreuk) for a time. In the books during this period, Lana was actually married to another childhood friend, Pete Ross. In a casting quirk that has become commonplace since, the producers opted to turn Pete into an African American (Sam Jones). Don't ask, because I have really no clue, other than the cultural diversity defense.

During the second half of the series' run, the producers began developing their vision of the Justice League, which included founding members Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, as well as Green Arrow (Justin Hartley). As noted in a previous post, when Arrow launched a year after Smallville ended, a different set of producers opted to utilize their own vision of the Emerald Archer, and now Arrow has been renewed for its 5th season, surpassing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as the 3rd longest DC adaptation in television history.

There were also ties to the WWE, thanks to Smackdown airing on CW from 2006-10. Smallville marked one of the first acting roles of Dave Bautista ("Spectre") in season 9, but a couple of years earlier, Kane (Glenn Jacobs) guest starred in the season 6 episode, "Combat", an excerpt of which follows:

As you can see, Clark isn't 100% invulnerable, a condition that mirrors the comics as of the late 80's. If he was, would he have been bleeding in the course of this battle? Doubtful, and that's the beauty of it all.

DC kept Smallville going with a series of comics after the TV show ended for a couple of years. If you're lucky, you can probably cop a trade paperback or three even today.

I've been more of a Batman guy than a Superman guy, so I wasn't really that interested, but I did see some episodes late in the run. Just not enough for a fair rating.

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