BOX: “Superman & Lois” airs Tuesdays at 8pm on KWBQ-19.
The CW’s packed lineup of DC superheroes (“Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Black Lightning,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman”) finally gets around to recruiting some A-list talent with the new series “Superman and Lois.”
Producer-creator Greg Berlanti is the man responsible for bringing DC’s heaviest hitter back to TV. Which is no big surprise, since he’s the man behind virtually all of CW’s “Arrowverse” shows—as well as “Titans,” “Doom Patrol” and “Stargirl” over on what used to be the DC Universe streaming service. While DC’s feature film outings at Warner Bros. continue to flip-flop between good, bad and mediocre (with a heavier emphasis the latter two, really), the future of comic book superheroes on TV, at least, remains in solid hands.
From the title alone, “Superman & Lois” recalls the heyday of ABC’s ’93 to ’97 hit “Lois and Clark.” Starring Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain, that fondly remembered four-season series happily trafficked in drama, romance and the occasional superhero action. “Superman & Lois” follows the same basic formula, but encases it in a slightly different setting, folding in more than a bit of The WB/UPN’s 2001 to 2011 series “Smallville” along the way.
As things get started in this iteration, poor Clark Kent (the civilian alias of Superman, of course) gets canned from his reporting job at the increasingly irrelevant Daily Planet. (Stupid internet.) On top of that, his adoptive mother, Martha Kent, passes away. (Pa Kent having died when he was a young teen.) Clark heads back to his rural Kansas hometown of Smallville to take care of his parents’ estate. He brings along Lois Lane, who happens to be his wife now—along with their two teenage sons, Jonathan and Jordan. Yup, this Superman’s a married, middle-aged father.
While reacquainting himself with his humble roots, digging his super toes into the good old Kansas soil, our Kryptonian immigrant makes a decision. His job back in Metropolis has fallen apart. His work saving the planet as Superman has taken him away from his family. And there’s a distinct possibility that the onset of puberty will unleash superpowers in one or both of his unsuspecting offspring. So he decides to chuck it all and go full-on “Green Acres,” selling off his apartment in Metropolis and taking over the lease on his parent’s bankrupt farm. Amazingly, Lois goes along with the plan. And the boys, busy fighting over the teenage daughter of their dad’s boyhood crush Lana Lang, come along for the ride.
Though the premise of a married Superman retiring to become a small-town farmer sounds like an awfully dull take on the comic book character, “Superman & Lois” actually finds a good balance between its fantastical action and its domestic drama. Tyler Hoechlin (“7th Heaven,” “Teen Wolf”) is credible as a slightly more world-weary Superman. Thankfully, however, the show doesn’t force him into the uncomfortably dour character Supes was saddled with in Zach Snyder’s 2013 misfire Man of Steel. (For starters, Pa Kent doesn’t die in a tornado angrily refusing his son’s super help.) Between planning his mother’s funeral and racing off to prevent a disaster at a nuclear power plant, this Superman clearly bears the weight of two worlds on his shoulders. This is generally the sort of problem set heaped on the likes of Spider-Man/Peter Parker. But “Superman & Lois” actually makes a decent case for giving DC’s invulnerable Man of Steel feet of clay.
For the most part, “Superman & Lois” nicely captures the gee-whiz wonder of Richard Donner’s popular 1978 feature film, adding just enough real-world emotion and non-cosmic conflict to keep it feeling modern and grounded.
Elizabeth Tulloch (“Grimm”) makes a decent match for our overworked hero as a strong, independent Lois Lane, juggling mother, wife and award-winning journalist with ease. How well she adapts to “country wife” remains to be seen. (Here’s hoping her much-vaunted investigative skills give her a bit more to do in future episodes.)
Superman’s sullen teenage kids are an odd addition, but the show infuses them with just enough personality to make it work in a “teen drama on The CW” way. Jordan (Alex Garfin) is the bookish one with social anxiety disorder, Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) is the superstar high school football player. One of them is like nerdy Clark Kent, and one of them is like heroic Superman—get it? Anyway, the show seems determined to construct a narrative around their possible super powers and what that would mean for their parents and the world at large.
“Superman and Lois” doesn’t shut out the comic book action entirely. The pilot sets up a mysterious villain who’s stalking Superman, laying devious traps for him to fall into. Unfortunately, although most elements of “Superman and Lois” feel fresh and even a bit risky, this mysterious villain is explained away in the most conventional terms possible by the end of the first episode. It’s a shame that a show so willing to break convention in so many ways felt the need to hold on to the same old archenemy trope.
Freely mixing a handful of genre-busting ideas, a healthy dose of teen melodrama and some traditional Arrowverse-style action, “Superman & Lois” picks some of the most popular elements of previous televised efforts and dumps them into a slightly unexpected setting. It’s not exactly the groundbreaking experiment that Disney+’s “WandaVision” is—but it’s a welcome-enough twist for longtime Superman fans and new converts alike.