Man of Steel vs The New Adventures of Superman

Sam Gillson
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This week has seen the release of Man of Steel, the latest attempt to update the Superman mythology for a modern audience. The film is produced by the driving force behind The Dark Knight series, the successful Batman reboot, and sees a grittier take on the most famous superhero of all time. The film is breaking records worldwide and looks set to ensure that both Man of Steel 2 and the oft-rumoured Justice League film will see the light of day sooner rather than later. For a whole generation of TV viewers however, Henry “drop-your-boxers-gorgeous” Cavill is not Superman. No, much like Bond, every generation has their own Superman. Whether it be George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Tom Welling or, bless him for trying, Brandon Routh; everyone has one individual that represents their childhood. Mine, and certainly a lot of others’, is Dean Cain. You can keep your Man of Steel. I’ll stick with Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Yes, it was camp. Yes, it was ridiculous. And yes, the special effects were abysmal, but it also had one of the catchiest TV theme tunes of all time. I would always be there: Saturday mornings, just before Live & Kicking. Now, with the advent of DVD, I can luckily watch them anytime. You’d think I’d be ashamed, but I’m not.

The main focus of L&C, as explored in the Christopher Reeve films, was the ‘will they, won’t they’ relationship of the two central characters. And also whether or not Lois is actually blind (can she not see past the quiff and glasses and realise his true identity?). Without giving too much away, Man of Steel is largely devoid of these story elements and isn’t that what makes Superman great? L&C was often riotously funny and, again, is something else desperately missing from recent Superman incarnations. Prior to Man of Steel, the last time I had such a humourless time in the cinema was when I dropped my popcorn in the first five minutes of The Return of The King. And I hadn’t had dinner either. One of L&C’s other strong points was the charismatic Lex Luthor who, yes, would concoct dastardly schemes, but was also a love rival for Superman. A threat certainly not posed in the films.

As noted by the show’s original creator, Deborah Joy Levine, the aim was to make a character-centric romantic comedy (much unlike the sometimes epic Smallville) and this wouldn’t have worked if the two leads didn’t have on-screen chemistry. This is certainly something that is missing from Superman’s latest few outings. L&C launched the “career” of Dean Cain and it certainly put, a then healthy weight, Teri Hatcher on the map. Since the show’s end though, the former has not done much at all, and after finishing another show Teri is now desperate for work once again.

To the genuine comic book fans, the show was often sacrilege. HG Wells appearing as a time traveller? Lois getting super powers and becoming Ultrawoman? There was a lot to disagree with. Luckily, I’m no fan of the comics so this didn’t bother me in the slightest, but I can understand the hatred. However, the show’s impact cannot be denied and it in fact influenced the comics in some respects. After three seasons and enough sexual tension to fill a Krypton-shaped void in the universe, Lois and Clark finally tie the knot, an event mirrored soon after in the comics. Sadly, as is the way, the show suffered dwindling ratings and was cancelled at the end of its fourth season. Not before ending on a cliffhanger though, that still has not been resolved to this day. Lois and Clark get a baby left on the door step?! What? Even Smallville got a better send off than that. Heck, even Lost.

Unfortunately, the show has not aged well and has been condemned to The Phantom Zone that is nostalgic TV. Kids watching it now would be bored out of their minds and confused as to why Lois always uses a pay-phone. But you know what? You can judge it all you want. Someday, when Superman is next rebooted, the likes of Smallville and Man of Steel will be equally as disapproved of. Henry Cavill can stay though.

About Sam Gillson

Hydrogeologist by day, my work funds my addiction to films, food and holidays. In my free time I also read and think about joining a gym. Whilst not in the least bit creative myself, I narcissistically feel in a position to brutally judge the work of others, with cliché dreams of reviewing for a living.