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#251680 - 03/31/16 07:43 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
ireactions Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 03/31/16
Posts: 29
For the SLIDERS REWATCH podcast, I did mini-essays to follow each podcast. Eventually, I gave the mini-essays to Tom and Cory before the podcasts and they incorporated them into their discussions because of all the behind the scenes info. I have far, far, far less inside information on LOIS & CLARK, but as a fan, I intend to keep doing the mini-essays (and also supply them with deleted scenes from scripts).

So, I hope it's okay if I post 'em here as well as Sliders.tv. I watched episodes of L&C now and then as a kid when it first aired, but I constantly missed episodes, lost track of the show, and memory got foggy. I saw and loathed a few Season 4 episodes and then mistakenly believed it had always been like that until re-reading the Season 1 scripts years later and realizing L&C had started out pretty well.

So, on the Pilot:

The Pilot is, like all pilots, a rough draft for the series to come. In this case, it's a rough draft for Season 1 of the series. As 90s TV goes, it's subject to all the flaws, but it also captures the best assets of the era. Lois and Clark are spectacular TV characters and a joy to welcome into the home on a weekly basis.

Format: Tom and Cory noted that the Pilot wasn't a huge critical success. One of my maxims is to review the story the creator set out to tell, not the one you would like them to tell. L&C was not meant to be a modern day myth of gods and monsters; it wasn't an American version of the Christ saviour. This wasn't SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE -- it was MOONLIGHTING and REMINGTON STEELE mixed with HIS GIRL FRIDAY and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. It was an attempt to distill the SUPERMAN concept into the romcom and sitcom formats. Try to enjoy LOIS & CLARK as a superhero action series and you'll hate it. See it as the workplace dramedy it was meant to be and you'll at least see it on its own terms.

Lois Lane: With characters, we start with Lois, whom showrunner Deborah Joy Levine fearlessly makes unlikable on numerous counts. She's rude to Clark, dismissive of Perry, selfishly determined to work only with those she doesn't have to credit for her success (Jimmy), prepared to use sexual allure to get an interview with Lex Luthor -- but she's also brave, clever and capable.

She breaks into a space program twice, identifies the motive for the sabotage, listens to a disgraced scientist and pursues the truth. Her lack of respect for her colleagues is balanced by her compassion for the weak and vulnerable, specifically Dr. Platt's wife and the colonists who may be in danger. Teri Hatcher has to be both goofily overemotional and hard-edged without being hateful and she does both well.

Clark Kent: Then we have Clark. Dean Cain is a fantastic Clark. The character is scripted as a straight arrow with an impeccable sense of morality and care for others, but both the script and Cain give Clark little quirks and moments to show he's an eccentric, offbeat, peculiar fellow whose superpowers have given him a truly bizarre perspective on life and humanity.

There's little touches like Clark's super-senses giving him constant awareness of the world around him from runaway buses to homeless people in alleys. There's his fondness for junk food. Cain and Levine truly sell that Clark is such a decent, perfect figure by emphasizing his earnest, intellectual side matched with a benign sense of mischief.

Visual Quality: The Pilot, despite being as bound to soundstages as a Season 5 episode of SLIDERS, is very nicely filmed. There's a terrific sense of physical interplay between all the actors, especially Lois and Clark. Perry White's silly yet commanding presence works well. Michael Landes as Jimmy is a nice foil for Lois. The Daily Planet bullpen is warm and inviting and full of time. The emphasis is really on people and their interactions.

Strong Screenwriting: The true strength of Deborah Joy Levine's scripts is in all the careful character moments: Perry using Jimmy to repair his golf cart, Jimmy grousing about having to write obituaries, Lois admitting to having no personal life, Clark understanding Dr. Platt's technobabble while Lois does not, Lex Luthor's sex life, etc.. Every single character has something in addition to their plot function. A quirk. An obsession. A longing. A failing. A strength. Lex Luthor is evil, but his planning and graciousness in defeat are to be admired, especially in the scene where he congratulates Superman on having kicked Lex's ass out of the space race.

Errors: The script suffers in some areas of implausibility. As Tom and Cory observe, Lois sneaking aboard the spacecraft is ridiculous. Dr. Baines putting Lois, Clark and Jimmy in a convoluted and unsupervised deathtrap is dumb. Clark figures out that Luthor is sabotaging the space program from a few throwaway lines of dialogue that Lois inexplicably misses. Superman effectively divulges his identity to Lex Luthor by revealing he was present for a private conversation between Lex, Clark and Lois, yet Luthor doesn't catch this and won't. These are all silly flaws in most superhero fiction.

Superman: The main problem, although oddly not a dealbreaker, is Superman. Dean Cain's Superman is very poor, but it's one for which Cain cannot be held wholly responsible. Cain's Superman is awkward in every aspect: awkwardly characterized, lit, filmed, directed and the effects are not on his side.

Superman is filmed in medium shots, never emphasizing his build or putting him at the center of a larger scene; the character doesn't dominate the screen. The costume looks okay in the Pilot, but it looks shockingly poor in subsequent episodes (we'll get there).

In contrast to Clark Kent, Superman's dialogue in the script is generic: formal, stilted, detached -- in an effort to differentiate the easygoing, casual Clark, Superman is stiff and rigid on paper. Dean Cain's performance reflects all the weaknesses of the material, reflecting a terrible indecisiveness in his work, especially his overstrained, "All you need to do is LOOK UP." Levine is awesome beyond awesome when crafting banter and characterization, but writing superhero speeches doesn't seem to be in her arsenal.

When Cain is in Clark Kent's clothes, the performance and special effects are perfectly suited; a genial, friendly, welcoming demeanor with a few subtle touches to remind you that this is a superhuman being passing for normal.

When Cain is in Superman's costume, he removes the Clark-isms but doesn't replace them with anything. Cain's Superman is a generic do-gooder falling into all the traps the Clark character so deftly avoids.

The Costume: In addition, the costume doesn't suit Cain. The dark colour and fit of the tights actually conceal his toned, muscled physique; Superman's body is a vaguely defined navy blue that doesn't make Cain stand out. The hairstyle -- basically Clark's but combed back a bit -- is not suited to Cain's features. Longer hair frames his face and softens his look; pushing it back makes his head look oversized to his body.

The Performance: Cain's Superman comes off as Dean Cain in a mismatched costume delivering dialogue he can't get to work. John Shea's easy confidence reduces Cain's Superman to seeming petulant and irritable. Looking at other actors: Christopher Reeve gave his Superman an affable confidence that made him seem trustworthy and he glowed with charisma. Gerard Christopher's Superboy was a commanding god with a sense of humour. Tom Welling's Clark in Superman mode was urgent yet gentle. Brandon Routh's Superman was thoughtful and earnest. All of them contrasted their Superman with an ineffectual, awkward Clark.

Cain doesn't get to do that, so his challenge is tougher than any other actor to take on the role. Cain is playing Clark as competent, charming, capable -- which creates a problem where Clark has Superman's personality and Superman has no personality at all. One solution would be to have Cain play his Superman with all the Clarkisms -- but emphasize the special effects more so that the superhuman Superman would never be compared to the grounded Clark in-universe. That's not an option for a TV budget.

The other solution would be for Dean Cain to drastically alter his performance: play Clark as-is, but give Superman a deeper voice and completely different body language, perhaps that of swaggering boxer, something that comes out of him when he wears the costume. Superman's scene with Lois would have Superman exhibiting concern without romance; his scene with Lex would be Superman delivering accusations with outrage and threat. Or maybe Cain's Superman could be more aloof and unknowable like Routh or Henry Cavill.

Dean Cain: From an acting standpoint, the problem with L&C's Clark/Superman divide is that Dean Cain wasn't there yet as an actor. Christopher Reeve had been acting for 17 years and since he was 9-years-old when he was cast to play Superman. He was a Juilliard-trained actor who saw acting as a calculated, precise art form where unrehearsed naturalism was an illusion to be created.

In contrast, Dean Cain was a former football player turned screenwriter turned actor. Acting was not his lifelong passion, but rather a job he turned to after a knee injury ended his sports career and he was getting more offers to be in commercials than to write screenplays. Cain was certainly a capable actor -- he could memorize dialogue, present his characters' emotions, win the audience's enmity or fondness, perform physical action -- but he was not a skilled, trained, refined master thespian at that point in his life.

Cain could play a great Clark Kent. He could play a great Superman. But to play Clark Kent and Superman as two distinct personas who go unrecognized as the same person despite both identities while interacting with the same four people -- that was just beyond Cain at this point, especially with the script failing to provide the duality.

Giving Cain this impossible job -- a Clark Kent/Superman dual identity with no real differences between the two -- was like having a sewing champion perform brain surgery. To pull this off, Cain needed more help than he was given -- perhaps a mime artist to create two different sets of body language, maybe a voice coach like John Rhys-Davies.

But L&C just suck him in the costume and sent him on camera. And it's a shame, because Cain's Clark is so terrific that all the raw material to be an equally terrific Superman is there, just not mined due to Cain's inexperience and the production's limits. When Superman appears, he's awkward -- I desperately want him offscreen as quickly as possible so we can get back to Clark.

Saving Grace: Oddly, this doesn't destroy LOIS & CLARK -- because ultimately, Superman is at best a cameo role in terms of screentime. The majority of Cain's screentime is as Clark Kent, which means the majority of his performance doesn't suffer. Cain truly was Superman for the 1990s -- he was Clark and he was superb. His chemistry with Teri Hatcher is dynamite -- they are so much fun to see onscreen together, working on stories, conducting interviews, contrasting Clark's idealism and Lois' cynicism.

LOIS & CLARK, to this date, is the most relatable, humanized version of Superman -- and Deborah Joy Levine brilliantly transformed the fantasy-action of SUPERMAN into a workplace dramedy. She is a truly capable screenwriter and a credit to her profession. Naturally, she was fired after the first season.

Cory and Tom talk about how they look forward to reviewing a show with a consistent creative vision and a strong sense of continuity and it's at this point I had to pull the car over to the side of the road and laugh uncontrollably for ten minutes.

But we don't have to worry about any of that for now! Onto Episodes 2 - 3 / 3 - 5 / can someone sort out the numbering here?

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#251685 - 04/01/16 10:07 AM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
Jake Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 03/04/15
Posts: 152
You're playing with fire here. Dissing the show on a message board that has been in constant use for around fifteen years to discuss a twenty year old show that FOLCs love is like stepping into the line of fire. People have taken exception to any comments pro or con anout Teri Hatcher's haircut - to the point ot taking it personally - to taking down pictures and websites because they were insulted in some way by other fans.
You'd think after twenty years that peole would be more forgiving since tbis show has never been a fanboy favorite in all that time.
Still, I agree with some of what you wrote, but I like the show. It works for me. The fantasy is there so production values and lack of a tinv experience is secondary to being able to enter the world and live it tbrough the characters. The same with the pre 52 comics. The Superman universe being plausible to me is all that matters.

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#251686 - 04/01/16 10:40 AM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
AnnieL Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 02/05/16
Posts: 39
I don't see criticism as a bad thing-the show has its issues, but I agree that the things that didn't work as well didn't kill it because they weren't the focus.
I agree with what you said about Dean Cain as Superman-that maybe it wasn't the most natural thing in the world. But I think it's also important to remember that Clark is getting used to being Superman, too. He wouldn't have been completely natural because he was mild-mannered and slightly timid as opposed to Superman's unapologetic boldness. He wouldn't have been used to the attention that Superman gets or the way he was going to act as Superman in order to perfect his persona. That's something that is specifically written into the script, to an extent, and that grew over time. As Clark grew into the role of Superman, so did Dean.


Edited by AnnieL (04/01/16 12:30 PM)

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#251687 - 04/01/16 11:40 AM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: Jake]
ireactions Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 03/31/16
Posts: 29
Originally Posted By: Jake
You're playing with fire here. Dissing the show on a message board that has been in constant use for around fifteen years to discuss a twenty year old show that FOLCs love is like stepping into the line of fire. People have taken exception to any comments pro or con anout Teri Hatcher's haircut - to the point ot taking it personally - to taking down pictures and websites because they were insulted in some way by other fans.


Perhaps I'm mis-reading you, but I found this a strangely threatening remark.

I wrote glowingly of Teri Hatcher's performance, Dean Cain's Clark Kent, Deborah Joy Levine's screenwriting and John Shea's performance -- I called Levine's reconception of SUPERMAN as a romantic comedy in a workplace setting "brilliant" -- but that's a problem because I don't think she writes superheroes as well as she writes workplace dramedy? And I should therefore be afraid?

I've never considered putting pixels on a screen to be "playing with fire." I'm a student of the superhero genre and I'm a fan of Tom and Cory's podcasts and joined the board to support them and share my enjoyment of LOIS & CLARK, but I don't ignore the show's weaknesses anymore than its strengths.

Originally Posted By: AnnieL
I don't see criticism as a bad thing-the show has its issues, but I agree that the things that didn't work as well didn't kill it because they weren't the focus. I agree with what you said about Dean Caine as Superman-that maybe it wasn't the most natural thing in the worldBut I think it's also important to remember that Clark is getting used to being Superman, too. He wouldn't have been completely natural because he was mild-mannered and slightly timid as opposed to Superman's unapologetic boldness. He wouldn't have been used to the attention that Superman gets or the way he was going to act as Superman in order to perfect his persona. That's something that is specifically written into the script, to an extent, and that grew over time. As Clark grew into the role of Superman, so did Dean.


I never came to enjoy Cain's Superman -- although I love his Clark.

As a point of comparison, the ANIMATED SERIES premiere also has a Superman/Luthor scene near the end. In this scene, Luthor finds Superman hovering outside his window. Luthor rants at Superman: Luthor doesn't know what Superman's overheard, but he knows what Superman can prove -- nothing. Metropolis belongs to Luthor; the people work for him whether they know it or not and he rules every facet of their lives. Superman can either join Luthor's flock or be destroyed. Superman stares silently at Luthor, floating outside. Luthor, enraged by Superman's lack of response, hurls a model robot at Superman -- who catches it and crushes it to dust. "I'll be watching you, Luthor," Superman says and flies away. Superman's quiet, undemonstrative demeanor exudes power, confidence and morality.

Maybe the solution to Dean Cain's Superman would have been that less is more. I dunno. His Clark starts out superb and by the end of the show, Cain embodies Clark Kent more than any actor before or after him. Tom Welling played a character named Clark, but he was really playing Superman.

I will say that Deborah Joy Levine includes a *really* nice line in the Pilot confrontation -- she has Superman say, "Like any other citizen of the planet, I must obey the law. I am not ABOVE it." Levine's sudden aversion to contractions aside, that's a pretty great line and it shows what Dean Cain's Superman is all about.

Dean Cain played an iconic Clark Kent despite not being a clumsy klutz; he played an honourable, kind, compassionate superhuman who lives among ordinary people. Cain, in the costume, never convinces me that he is Superman whereas Routh and Reeve convinced me easily.

But Cain convinces me that Clark is a god who enjoys living as a normal guy, something neither Routh nor Reeve could ever sell. In contrast, Cain shows that Clark experiences joy, love, humour, delight and happiness in chasing down newspaper stories, fencing with Lois, playing poker with Perry, and doing all the stuff Superman can't do.

As I said, LOIS & CLARK has many strengths -- but I don't think admiring what the show achieved means ignoring its faults.

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#251688 - 04/01/16 12:42 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
AnnieL Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 02/05/16
Posts: 39
I completely get where you're coming from, and although it doesn't really bother me, I mostly agree. I just thought I'd point out that IMO, it's not always as bad as it is in the Pilot because of that growth. I'll speak up if I have a different opinion on something, but again, I think it's perfectly fine to criticize.

I liked your essay, and I encourage you to keep it up.


Edited by AnnieL (04/01/16 12:55 PM)

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#251689 - 04/01/16 12:48 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
Jake Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 03/04/15
Posts: 152
I apologize. That was not the intent.
It wasn't a threat. I just wanted to point out that feelings can be hurt by the simplest comment or observation. I know. I criticized some fan fic, which wasn't welcome.

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#251690 - 04/01/16 05:29 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
ireactions Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 03/31/16
Posts: 29
Well, I'm not going to worry about feelings because I have no intention of critiquing people -- just the TV show.

I think the most fascinating thing about L&C's first season, which I'm eager to get into with my essays for the next four episodes/two podcasts -- the writers are clearly engaged with the problem of how to challenge an invulnerable character. The image of bullets bouncing off Superman's chest is too engrained in American consciousness to discard, but it results in a functionally invincible lead.

As a result, "The Neverending Battle," "Strange Visitor," "I'm Looking Through You" and "Requiem for a Superhero" all feature four different approaches to antagonizing Superman.

While the results may not all be winners, the methods are cleverly considered and extremely well-conceived. Writers Deborah Joy Levine, Daniel Levine, Bryce Zabel and Robert Killbrew show a very respectful interest in finding ways to make Superman work on a TV scale and demonstrate tremendous thought and imagination.

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#251691 - 04/01/16 07:53 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
tom2point0 Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 02/26/16
Posts: 77
Glad you're all enjoying the podcast and our format! Cory and I were on the same page when we started doing the Rewatch Podcast. The sectional, organized segments were deliberate right from the start so we are pleased that so many appreciate it!

We will get some feedback from here in the next NEXT episode. We already recorded our podcast covering L&C episodes two and three. We are always about a week ahead of things. So thanks again for your comments! We're loving it!

Oh and welcome to iReactions making it over here!

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#251692 - 04/01/16 07:56 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: BevK]
tom2point0 Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 02/26/16
Posts: 77
Originally Posted By: BevK

I always saw it as Clark just watching out for his co-worker whom he likes very much
I guess I just refuse to see Clark as a stalker, if I'm completely honest with myself.har
Anyway, I like your format, as I said before, and will listen again.


Awesome! Glad to have you aboard! And of course I agree, Clark is not a stalker. That's just my sense of humor! wink

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#251693 - 04/01/16 08:35 PM Re: The Rewatch Podcast L&C: Metropolis Bound! [Re: tom2point0]
ireactions Offline
Lane and Kent

Registered: 03/31/16
Posts: 29
I totally think Clark is a stalker. What he does in the pilot is unacceptable for anyone, man or Superman. We should never intrude on people's privacy and eavesdrop on their personal lives. At this point, Clark doesn't know Luthor's evil. He's got no business listening in. And yet, it's a neat note for the character -- Clark lives as a normal guy and loves being an ordinary person, but in the Pilot, "Strange Visitor" and "I'm Looking Right Through You," he's occasionally using his powers in ways that infringe upon the rights of others. With "Requiem for a Superhero," however, there's a very early scene where Clark obliquely confronts this use of his powers and resolves to stop doing it -- although he has slip-ups throughout the series. It's not something I admire about the character, but it humanizes him significantly.

Interestingly, SUPERMAN RETURNS was also heavily criticized for the 'Stalkerman' scenes where Superman eavesdrops on Lois' personal life with her son and fiance.

I have another thought on the LOIS & CLARK pilot. I said that Dean Cain is a great Clark Kent but a poor Superman and I stand by that -- but LOIS & CLARK does something impressive: it convinces me that Dean Cain is completely unrecognizable as Clark Kent when he takes off his glasses and wears the Superman costume even when, visually and objectively, this is clearly not the case.

It has nothing to do with Cain's performance -- it's instead thanks to pilot director Robert Butler and actress Teri Hatcher. I can't say Butler's direction when filming Superman is the best, but he and the sound designers and music artists make a strong choice: they have the characters in the background fall into hushed silences and adjust the music accordingly.

The aural landscape around Dean Cain's Clark is bustling with noise and activity; when it's a Superman scene, everything goes still. People talk over and around Clark Kent; for Superman, they stop everything and look on in amazement. Butler uses this effect when Superman addresses the colonists and flies Lois into the Daily Planet and it creates a sense of magical wonder.

Then there's Teri Hatcher. When talking to Clark, she's sharp, snappy, curt, dismissive, hostile, irritable, overwrought, angry, upset, and she develops some truly frenetic body language when trying to get Clark out of her way or into his place. When faced with Superman, she becomes still with awe and amazement and she plays Lois with a dreamily besotted enchantment.

So -- the effect is that while I do not believe that Dean Cain's Clark and Superman look different, I believe that Teri Hatcher's Lois believes it, and if Lois believes it, then I can accept that the rest of LOIS & CLARK's cast believes it as well. Teri Hatcher sells this element of suspended disbelief and her performance is so endearing, engaging and amusing that I'm prepared to swallow this ridiculous contrivance in order to enjoy her screen presence.

And this is another aspect of LOIS & CLARK that is truly unique -- no other SUPERMAN production has ever left it to the actress playing Lois to convince the audience that Clark Kent and Superman look unrecognizably different.

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