Adventures of Superman (TV Series 1952–1958) Poster

(1952–1958)

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8/10
A good "spirit" behind the whole thing
Bruce Corneil4 May 2003
The general consensus seems to be that the first season of this all time classic TV show was the best and I would probably agree with that. Although, I'm a dedicated fan of the entire series.The injection of color into the closing stages of the production run gave those final episodes a special quality of their own.

George Reeves was positively born to play the title role. The previously inconsequential journeyman actor brought the character to life with great conviction, charm and a wonderful enthusiasm which never faltered. Of course, he had some fine support with John Hamilton as Perry White, Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson.

As for the portrayal of Lois Lane, it really depends on which approach you preferred. Phyllis Coates created a prickly, no-nonsense big city reporter who wouldn't hesitate to smack 'ya across the face with a wet mackerel if you tried to get fresh with her. Noel Neil was more of your good natured girl next door who was always ready with a cheery word and a polite laugh whenever Clarke Kent or Jimmy made a clumsy attempt at humor (which usually backfired).

So it's all a bit corny when you look back now from our jaded perspective of life in the present day. But, who cares? It's still good, clean fun which is more than you can say for most of the vile, mind numbing garbage that spews forth out of the television these days. And there was a good spirit behind the whole thing ...obey the law, salute the flag, say "please" and "thank you", be kind to your fellow human beings, take in stray cats, brush your teeth (and the cat's teeth) twice a day.

It was a different era and a better world in some ways.
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The REAL Superman
zdforme17 October 2005
George Reeves in my heart will always be the First and True SUPERMAN and I am so happy they are FINALLY putting this Great series on DVD! I Only hope they do It Justice ( The American way) and do not cut corners and let us finally see this series UN CUT so those who grew up watching and loving every episode will again be able to relive their childhood in all its splendor! George Reeves as Superman portrayed it not campy as Batman would later emerge doing, but with a message and values that were good and moral and he made you believe there WAS a Superman! When I was about 5 years old, I was hit by a car and bedridden for several months, my mom would tell me everyday sitting on my bed what happened on Superman and at that age gave me the strength to get better and stronger sooner so I could watch the show myself. I will always treasure these episodes though in its later years got to be a bit corny they still me me feel so good inside and now that I am in my fifty's, I can enjoy this series even better on a BIGGER TV and better sound system! Pure Heaven.

Long Live the Adventures of Superman and may all 104 episodes be released soon! ZDFORME
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10/10
great show from start to finish
flix_fan8 February 2005
I love all 104 episodes of the Adventures of Superman. This show kept my interest with it's mix of adventure, sci fi, crime, warmth, and comedy. Only one style would have bored me, but Superman had it all and continues to entertain me. The characters were wonderful. It's still a delight to spend time with Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Inspector Henderson. I also love both Lois Lanes. The first Lois is all business and the second Lois melts my heart with that smile of hers! George Reeves is fantastic in each and every episode. The Adventures of Superman is still a joy for me to behold in 2005. I can always count on any one of the 104 episodes to make me smile. All of them bring joy to my heart and there are very few shows that can entertain me for 104 episodes.
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Groundbreaking Series a TV Classic...
Ben Burgraff (cariart)16 January 2004
"The Adventures of Superman" was, in the 1950s, the ultimate adventure show for kids, a series that transcended low budgets, often laughably bad scripts, and a torturous shooting schedule each season to become a genuine 'TV Classic'. Next to "I Love Lucy", the series is, perhaps, the most frequently rerun of any show of that decade; in shooting several seasons in color, it was a major trend setter (particularly as there were VERY few color televisions at the time); as a show that was syndicated, and not owned by a network (Kellogg's Cereal sponsored and financed the program) it paved the way for all the syndicated programs that followed. It's place in television history cannot be denied, and it's story is complete with drama, success, and tragedy, and a hero whose life and strange death still fuels controversy, to this day.

Superman, DC Comics' high-flying hero, had already achieved success on radio, in animated short films, and in two movie serials, when a low-budget feature film, SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN, paved the way for the television series. The film replaced serial star Kirk Alyn with brawnier, square-jawed George Reeves, a youthful 37-year old whose promising film career had been derailed by WWII. He was joined by Phyllis Coates, replacing the serials' Noel Neill as ace reporter Lois Lane, and the pair made the transition to television, joined by 19-year old Jack Larson, as photographer/cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, and veteran character actor John Hamilton as editor Perry White. Helmed initially by veteran producer Robert Maxwell, the series utilized the same 'assembly line' formula of the movie serials, shooting multiple episodes at one time (which was why the cast always wore the same outfits), relying on action-heavy scripts heavy with Gothic atmosphere, and creating 'master' FX shots that were reused constantly, keeping the budget within acceptable limits. (While the 'flying' shots have been the object of humor over the years, the use of wires and a 'flying pan' in front of a rear projection provided the most realistic 'look' yet achieved, and the technique would still be in practice when SUPERMAN RETURNS was filmed, 55 years later.) Reeves' 'Man of Steel' was a street brawler, unafraid to duke it out with villains, and his 'Clark Kent' was every bit as no-nonsense as his 'Superman'. The program was actually quite adult, for a comic book adaptation, and the first season episodes are considered the best of the series.

When Phyllis Coates left the show, in 1953 (believing it would not be renewed, she signed for other film work), Noel Neill returned, softening the character of Lois Lane, but participating in some of the series' greatest episodes, including the most popular episode ever filmed, "Panic in the Sky", where Superman attacks an asteroid 'head-on', resulting in amnesia and near doom for Earth. By now, the 'wired' take-offs of Superman were replaced by vaulting off a springboard (after Reeves had barely escaped serious injury after dropping over ten feet when the 'liftoff' wires broke).

When Whitney Ellsworth took over production duties for the series, pressure from Kellogg's (due to the show's tremendous popularity, and investigations into the detrimental effect of violence on children) to tone down the mayhem resulted in episodes becoming increasingly silly and far-fetched. As this coincided with the series' move to color, the marked difference is clearly evident. The color episodes (particularly in the last two seasons) are, by-in-large, held in far less regard than the black and white ones.

By the series' final season, George Reeves would look chubby, and far older than his 43 years, Noel Neill would sport flaming red hair, and the episodes, shot on a very tight budget, were nearly unwatchable (other than the series' finale, "The Trials of Superman", directed by Reeves, where the cast are all placed in "Perils of Pauline"-style catastrophes).

While Larson and Neill would move on to other projects, and John Hamilton soon passed away, George Reeves found himself type-cast as Superman, with his career considered to be at a standstill. The assumption that depression resulted in his committing suicide in 1959, at 45, has, however, been the subject of debate for over 40 years. It turns out that Kellogg's was prepared to finance a new season of "Superman", that Reeves had several upcoming directing opportunities, he was about to be married, and that on the night of his death, he was in excellent spirits. There is a growing belief that his 'suicide' was actually murder, by a 'hit man' hired by either by his ex-girlfriend, or her jealous husband. While the truth may never be known, the news of his death devastated a generation of children, who truly believed he WAS Superman.

While Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh may be the definitive "Men of Steel" for their generations, and Dean Cain and Tom Welling have their fans, George Reeves, and "The Adventures of Superman", carry on a legacy that will never fade away. Each year introduces new fans to the series, and reminds us baby boomers of how fortunate we were to be there, at the beginning.
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TV ICON!
yenlo10 February 2000
It was a different time and different era when this now legendary program was first televised. Yes some of the episodes toward the end of the series are on the hokey and corny side. However this show is a part of television history. The opening credits with the great theme music always set the mood. My favorite was the two part ` The Unknown People' episode. Although I always thought Noel Neill was a cuter and sexier Lois Lane Phyllis Coates played the part to a T. Jack Larsons Jimmy Olsen idolized Clark Kent as a father figure like the character did in the comics. John Hamilton was superb as the gruff but understanding Perry White. Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson who never solved a case by himself but did it matter? Then George Reeves. Other actors donned the costume through the years but George Reeves was and always will be Superman, and when you think about it that's not too shabby.
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Jeepers, Mr. Kent!!!
ccthemovieman-122 January 2006
What a hoot!! I loved it. I watched this television series as a little kid but the stories in this first season were so old (almost 55 years ago!), I didn't remember more than a few scenes, although they sure brought back memories.

The special effects and the credibility (picking a scene apart) were beyond bad. Apparently, they had a budget of about $5 a show, or so it looks, so you'd see the same scene over and over in various episodes. I could write volumes on all the ludicrous scenes that made no sense but that's what helps make this so entertaining. It's so bad, it's good! I don't want to sound like I am criticizing this because I thoroughly enjoyed it and have already purchased the second season.

It was especially fun to see the first show, the TV version of the origins of Superman. Then, as the episodes continued, to hear the innocence of a young Jimmy Olsen saying, "Jeepers, Mr. Kent," "Golly, gee whiz" and other similar exclamations. I laugh every time I hear those. Wow, compare that to today's TV.

Phyllis Coates was good as Lois Lane. It's too bad she left after one year. I'd rate her a slightly better Lane than Noel Neill, but Noel was good, too. Lois and Jimmy, with their nosiness, naiveté and just plain stupidity would have to be bailed out by Superman show after show.

George Reeves is likable as Superman but I got tired of John Hamilton screaming all the time as Perry White. They did calm him down a bit in subsequent years, but that first year all he did was yell.

Each episode was completely different and entertaining on this DVD package. This is great stuff for nostalgia buffs. Right now, I am in the middle of watching the second season on DVD and look forward to all of the sets that will be released.....hopefully, all of the seasons.
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10/10
George Reeves' Superman was a great hero!!
lotsafun30 August 2005
George Reeves' Superman was a tremendous heroic figure to many of us as children. It's unfortunate that some previous reviewers have made remarks about Reeves' appearance which indicate that they just don't get it. The fact that Reeves' Superman seems more mature than others who have played the same role only helps the appeal of his type of Superman. Many heroes of classic TV and movie serials may not have "the look" of their modern incarnations, but there's more to a hero than just looks and fashion. The great myths tell us that small boys can be slayers of giants, the elderly can be wielders of magic, and a poor battered carpenter can be the savior of the world. It's not all about looks. It's much deeper than that. It's about HEART. It's about BRAVERY. It's about TRUTH and JUSTICE! Reeves' Superman is a symbol of all these things. I appreciate everything that made (and still makes) George Reeves' Superman a great hero.
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10/10
Update with impressions of Seasons 5 & 6
dadoo405018 January 2006
(Initial comments) My son gave me a copy of Season One of "The Adventures of Superman" for Christmas, and I must say it was the best present I've received in a long while. We had such a good time watching favorite episodes. I am a child of the 50's and grew up with Superman while it was still fairly new. My son experienced it on Nick at Nite re-runs, a special time for us both.

Now I have purchased the Season Two set, and the episodes here may be in many ways better than those in the first. A particular favorite is "Panic in the Sky," where our hero has to deflect a meteor as it hurtles towards Earth. Special flying sequences were filmed for this episode that were not used in any other.

A special treat is "Stamp Day for Superman," a special episode that I never saw as a child. While it is a quickie "freebie" made to support the U.S. Treasury Dept., this episode stands up pretty well with the "regular" episodes.

The featurette "First Lady of Metropolis" is a wonderful tribute to Noel Neill, who took over the role of Lois when Phyllis Coates was unable to continue. It is so nice to see Ms. Neill still looking lovely. She still has the "sparkle" in her eyes that made her Lois so enjoyable to watch.

Another favorite episode is "Around the World with Superman." Anyone who is not moved by this story of a blind girl's attempt to re-unite her troubled family just doesn't have a heart.

Thanks to Warners and to my son for helping me capture a sense of my own youth.

(June 20, 2006) I just got my copy of Seasons 3 & 4 of Adventures of Superman. Special features include a piece entitled "Adventures of Superman: The Color Era" and another called "Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Special Effects of The Adventures Of Superman."

The former, about the series being filmed in color features interviews with Jack Larsen, Noel Neill, Gary Grossman (author of "Superman: Serial to Cereal") and a television historian whose name escapes me. All pretty much agree that it was a shrewd move of the producers to start filming the show in color, and saving the negatives until color television was common a decade later. In the words of Larsen, "Those guys were pretty smart."

The one about the sfx was mainly a profile and interview with Thol Simonson, along with Larsen and Neill. Both cast members were effusive with praise for Simonson, saying they always felt safe, no matter how risky the effect looked on screen. Something I had not seen before is a diagram of the "pan" apparatus and counterbalance that replaced the wires that had earlier suspended Reeves.

Episodes I have watched so far are "The Wedding of Superman," "The Big Freeze," and "Through the Time Barrier." As has been noted elsewhere, these stories are much less heavily dramatic as the nourish early episodes. However, the light comedy is not really campy, just good-natured. Also, Neill as Lois looks quite fetching in her cave-girl outfit in the time-travel story.

In fact, Ms. Neill still looks quite lovely in the new interview footage. She still has those same sparkling eyes and the lovely smile that gave me that first crush on Lois all those years ago.

(Update: December 3, 2006: Initial impressions of Seasons 5 & 6:)

"Superman's Wife" is not as hokey as many of the other episodes in the final season. Joi Lansing is a knockout, and John Eldredge, as usual, makes one of the more interesting, intelligent villains.

"The Perils of Superman" is pure FUN.

Noel makes for some NICE cheesecake in that proto-Jeannie outfit in "The Tomb of Zaharan." The story was pure cheese, though. (In "Foghorn Leghorn" voice: hey, I made a funny. Cheese--Cheesecake.)

"The Big Forget" contains the greatest tease in the entire series: Clark changing into Supes in full view of all the series regulars!

The final shot of "All That Glitters" is really poignant, considering how things turned out for George.

The featurette about Jack Larsen is a nice little tribute.

A fun time with old friends that I now share with my grandkids. (All warm and fuzzy.)
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Superman The television show
COONOWL@AOL.COM31 August 2005
What a great TV show. Sit back in time and watch as TV brought out the best of Superman.I remember as a child watching the reruns and was so amazed how Superman would fight off the bad guys. Bending steel and bullets that just bounced off his chest. He was my favorite super hero. Let yourself go and relive the Adventures of Superman.I just loved his outfit. The man of steel wearing red and blue. We need more shows like these instead of what we have now. Every show was like a cliff hanger. Nail biting action. Would Superman make it in time? Can he get to the bad guys before they hurt Olsen and Miss. Lois Lane? These were questions that were answered every time Superman came on. He made you feel good about the world. He was just simply the best.
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One of the best from the early days of television
krorie6 November 2005
Growing up in the 1950's I was an avid collector of comics. One of my favorites was superhero Superman. The other was Plastic Man. For some reason few have heard of the original Plastic Man, but Superman is still very much with us and probably will be for some time to come. Before judging this series, one must remember that only televisions that showed black and white were on the market. There was no color. If an early television show was produced in color it was for other reasons, say possible release on the big screen. Some producers hoped to string two or three episodes of a popular television series together and distribute it to movie houses as one feature as was done with The Lone Ranger. Also, there were no big-screen TV's. Therefore special effects could be kept fairly primitive (and inexpensive) because the viewer wouldn't be seeing much anyway. The average TV screen was about 13". A person was uptown if he/she had a 17" screen.

There were Superman movies out at the time featuring other actors rather than "the real" Superman, George Reeves. The Superman TV shows were compact, well-written, and well-performed. For me Noel Neill will always be Lois Lane. Ditto for Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, John Hamilton as Perry White, Robert Shayne as Inspector Bill Henderson, and even though Christopher Reeves did a bang-up job as a later Superman, George Reeves will always be Superman for my generation.

Another reason I was so drawn to the Superman TV show was because a stunt man who was married to my cousin at the time appeared in one of the episodes. In the episode, "The Wedding of Superman" Doyle Brooks played Mr. Poole, one of the heavies. Brooks was born in the little hamlet of Bethesda, Arkansas, married my cousin and set out to become a movie star in Hollywood. He ended up a successful stuntman but did very little acting. His biggest success was playing the Ajax White Knight in a now famous television commercial.

Superman's may come and go but George Reeves will always be "the" Superman to all of us who were kids in the 1950's.
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Season Two
jr196316 January 2006
For some reason, many people mark season one as the best. I think most Superman fans, I mean real fans, would disagree. Season two is by far the best season. Granted Phyllis Coates was a better Lois Lane for this version of the series because she was sexy, tough, and gave a little sexual tension between her and Superman. Noel Neill was the perfect Lois in the serials and was the obvious second choice when Coates became unavailable. Nobody is going to deny that fact. But we're not talking about The Adventures of Lois Lane. This is Superman and the show was far better in season two than in season one and all subsequent seasons. Here's why:

1. The stories hinged on the dramatic as well as human interest. This was before it became "too" kiddie. It also had enough warmth to make us care about the characters rather than just be extensions of a cartoon. 2. George Reeves looked more comfortable and actually acted much better in both roles (see "warmth") 3. Humor was used but just enough to be real. 4. George looked his absolute best in any of the Superman costumes. This was the only season in which he didn't look padded. He looked refreshed. 5. George's stunts were more acrobatic and there was less use of re-hashed stock footage with flying or leaps into the air. It seemed they actually shot take offs and landings for this season for those individual shows.

So this is why season two is must have out of all the seasons.
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They don't make TV series like this anymore
Chris Gaskin19 April 2005
I remember watching several episodes of The Adventures of Superman when the BBC screened some of them during the summer school holidays around 1987/88. An episode of this usually followed Gentle Ben and Silas (these were on around two or three times a week) but Superman was on, if I remember right, everyday. So a good 90 minutes of entertainment some mornings.

Superman/Clarke Kent was played by George Reeves who is certainly no relation to the late Christopher Reeve who starred in the four Superman movies which some people seem to think so (the surnames are different). Louis Lane was played by Phyllis Coates and later Noel Neill.

We usually had a different story each episode although some episodes were two parters.

It would be nice to see some episodes of The adventures of Superman again. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
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Great Caesar's ghost!
Op_Prime11 January 2000
What a great series. Sure the effects were bad and it might seem corny compared to the movies, but who cares about that? No one watches a movie or tv show for great special effects. They watch for the stories. And this show had some great stories, including the Mole Men episode. But I just have to say it. Lois, Jimmy and the Chief were just dumb. How could they not realize Clark was Superman? I guess we will never know. This where the Man of Steel truly shines.
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Equally successful combination of action and cheese
Dr Wily21 April 2000
This was a very weird series in execution. One part of its life was serious, generally well executed action. The other part was uproarously funny, probably unintentionally so.

Running a span of both black and white and color, the shade factor of the episode determines what you'll get. Black and white generally guarantees serious action scripts, usually well executed for the time. Good episodes include "The Unknown People," (The Mole People movie.) "The Runaway Robot," and "Panic In The Sky." (Superman looses his memory trying to divert an asteroid heading for Earth.) Color usually means in you're in for something outrageously improbable, almost along the lines of the Adam West "Batman" series nearly 10 years later. Episodes so bad they're good include "Flight To The North," (Chuck Connors thinks he's Superman, and a crook wants a lemon meringue pie.) "Great Ceaser's Ghost," (A crook dresses up as Ceaser's ghost to drive Perry White insane.) and some silly episode with a mind reading burro. (Bank robbers steal a peasant boy's burro because it can read minds. They want it to read a vault combination from a guard, and clop it out for them...)

A decidedly unusual series whose only faults would be the special effects of the time, the on the surface unsettling mix of action and stupidity, and there were no licensed character or recurring villains. But, all in all, in the end, a series definitely worth watching.
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They don't make 'em like they used to!
Pete-2325 January 2000
I can remember watching the re-runs of this great series as a kid. Everyday I would rush home from school just so I could watch it, even if I had seen the episode before. My all-time favorite is the one with the Mole Men. Anyway, the series was something that a young boy or girl could emulate: a hero fighting for (even if it DOES sound corny) "truth, justice, and the American way." No dark past, no evil secrets, no psychotic flashbacks, just pure heroism. Just like heroes were meant to be. And as much as I admire Christopher Reeve and his great success at playing the Man of Steel, to me Superman was, is, and always will be George Reeves.
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8/10
Superman--First 26 episodes were the best!!!
lrcdmnhd7222 May 2005
Superman was one of the TV programs that I grew up on in the early 1950's. I believe the first 26 episodes were the best, possibly because I first viewed them in a little town of Algonac, MICHIGAN where, between the ages of seven to ten, I spent three of the best years of my life. I think Phyllis Coates was perfect for the role of Lois Lane. To me, she came across as being very beautiful and very feisty. I had a crush on her then and I still do. I really liked Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson. John Hamilton as Perry White and Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, were also quite good.

My favorite episode is "Czar of the Underworld." I enjoy watching these episodes, especially when I get stressed, as they give me an enjoyable trip down memory lane...
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Accuracy is preferred
jwtinsley29 April 2005
Okay, folks. This is a great show. But the "trivia" given about the black-and-white costume is incorrect. The costume used in the first two seasons was brown and gray, not brown and white. I've seen it. It's odd-looking, no doubt. The actual color costume is much better looking, but that wasn't the point when they created the brown/gray combo. It was just what they felt would photograph properly for early television broadcasts.

With so much dreck being released on DVD, when is Warner going to wise up and finally release the entire series for the world to enjoy? It certainly puts forth a very positive message and George Reeves is great as Superman.
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10/10
a wonderful series
comicbook-guy7 June 2006
This program fueled my youthful imagination and made me happy with it's warmth and it's continual positive spirit. The more kid friendly episodes were favorites of mine and they still are. I'm still a kid at heart and I still adore the series. Perils of Superman is my favorite episode and there are too many other favorites to mention here. I can't agree with the critics who take a purely "adult" or "logical" view of this program. Wearing glasses as a disguise was the biggest lapse of logic, but so what? That sort of thing didn't matter to me when I was young. I also didn't mind the different Lois Lanes. How can you not adore 'em both? The Adventures of Superman never failed to uplift me and make me happy. It's heart was always in the right place. It's positive spirit never faltered. It always radiated good will, fun, and decency. There will always be a special place in my heart for the Adventures of Superman. I'm thrilled that every episode is being released on DVD.
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Great introduction, Sci-Fi classic
stuff_10046 August 2002
"The Adventures of Superman" Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. "Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman." Strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men

Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers bend steel with his bare hands and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

You just can't get much better than that

In a book about the greatest science fiction shows of all time, Superman was a write-in vote and got in the top 25.
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SIMPLY, THE BEST
MASONALM22212 January 2003
I was born in the year that the series started. By the time the series completed it's original run, I had seen each episode at least a dozen times. I was one of those kid who occasionally walk around with a lump on my head, the result of putting on my cape (bath towel) and trying to fly like my hero. Cheezy by todays standards, This was one of the best shows on television, and it alway sent a positive message to the young, impressionable viewers. Even today, at 3:00 am on TV LAND, I find myself catching episodes of the original series, and thoroughly enjoying them...never mind that I have seen them dozens and dozens of times. Admittedly, I could never figure out why eyeglasses prevented Lois, Jimmy, Perry White, and Inspector Henderson from being able to recognize that Superman and Clark Kent were one in the same person, or why Superman would crash through a wall, stand with his fist on his hips, while bad guys emptied their guns into his chest (bullets bouncing off of course) then duck when the thugs threw their empty weapons at him. Superman stood for everything good, and young viewers such as myself always got a positive, wholesome message. Even now, I get that lump in my throat when I hear, "Truth, Justice, and the American way." A simple show, still one of the best ever made. George Reeves was great, with his witty comments, and that knowing wink into the camera to the viewer. This was good TV !!!
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GREAT SERIES
Big Movie Fan27 February 2002
Along with Batman, this was a great 60's superhero series about the adventures of my favourite superhero.

George Reeves was very good in the role as Superman and he was well supported by an excellant supporting cast.

The stories themselves were just pure fun. Some of them may have been tongue in cheek but who wants seriousness when they switch on a TV? If you want seriousness switch onto the news. This show was great fantasy (like most shows in the 1960's) and when they repeated it here in England back in the late 1980's I tuned in again.

Here in England none of the good TV series ever seem to be released on video but I wish someone would release the entire series onto video someday.

Fantastic and fun-watching it was a real treat.
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7/10
Better than you might remember
gatsby063 March 2007
If you watched these when you were a kid, especially if you did so back in the 50s or 60s, watching the episodes on DVD may surprise you.

The production values of the black and white episodes during the first two years were very good. The resolution of the images was sharp as a tack, and the black and white tonal gradation and lighting was very professional. Yet on the old black and white sets, much of that would have been lost.

On the other hand, they took some cheap shortcuts, such as inserting stock footage that was surprisingly out of date, sometimes it seems from the 30s or even 20s.

In the third season they moved to color, even though according to the commentary, the show was not actually broadcast in color until 1965. (Color broadcasting began in 1954, but most people could not afford the $1,000 color television sets in a time when cars cost about $2,000.) The old black and white episodes are more geared to adults than the later color versions, which go with a more comic book approach. Some BW episodes are more like Perry Mason mysteries, though the quality and type of approach varies all over the place in those early years.

This is also the beginning of television, and the producers were pioneering a new medium, not always quite sure what approach to take, or which would work. There is an obvious influence of the old radio dramas, seen especially in the announced opening. Some of the early episodes seem to follow the format of the old Hardy Boys boy's book series of mysteries, complete with hidden stairways to secret basements, haunted lighthouses, and secret tunnels to boathouses. I wonder if any of the Superman writers had been ghost writers for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which actually wrote the Hardy Boys books.

The commentaries are fairly interesting, though often redundant, and sometimes inaccurate. The commentator does not appear to be good with numbers. The consensus seems to be that the series began filming in 1951, but began airing in 1952. The commentator says that the show has been broadcast from every presidential administration since Eisenhower, yet Truman was president in 51, 52 and into early 53. He also keeps going on and on about how little boys would have been watching the shows on tiny 8 or 10 inch black and white TVs in 1951. Not if they weren't on the air. And he says Jack Larson was a very young 17 (or did he say 19?) when the series began, yet IMDb shows he was 23.

What would be more telling about those old TVs is that they cut off portions of the image, especially the corners, but also tops and bottoms. So the occasional moment when Superman's springboard is visible today, would not have shown up on anything but professional TV monitors.

The commentator also remarks on how it seems Clark Kent didn't have such a large office. I've got news for you, viewers, I have never seen a newspaper that had offices for reporters. The publisher gets an office, the managing editor gets an office, with windows onto the newsroom, but just about everyone else is in one big room. The writers show a certain amount of insight into newspaper work, many writers having been reporters at some point, but the show obviously didn't want to pay for extras standing around in a newsroom, I presume.

But the best part, in my opinion, of the first year, was Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane for one year. She was (is) a fine actress, who seemed to give the show a certain gravitas lacking in later episodes. And she was a babe!

The move to color was a stroke of genius. This enabled them to keep reselling the series many years down the line. And the color holds up quite well.
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10/10
Best. Superman. Ever.
flapdoodle648 January 2008
'The Adventures of Superman' (TAS) was made under difficult circumstances: almost no time, almost no money, and no CGI. Yet three things make TAS a timeless classic:

1) The recurring cast members were all superb, especially George Reeves as Superman. Reeves played the part with just the right combination of intelligence, righteousness, manliness, and, when necessary, gentleness. A WWII vet and former boxer, Reeves had a physical presence that implied strength and power. Reeves never played Clark Kent as a sissy or klutz, and within the framework of the show this approach worked well. Reeves is to Superman as Errol Flynn is to Robin Hood, as Sean Connery is to 007. 2) Tight, disciplined stories. Every episode has some kind of hook early on, and each one has some element of suspense to keep you involved. 3) Good to excellent directing and cinematography. Every episode is at least competently done, and some work marvelously.

There is a widespread concensus among fans that the 1st two seasons of TAS are the best, due to their being less whimsical than the remaining 4 seasons, and due to their being shot in crisp black and white, which lends a film noir aspect, making these shows seem somehow more realistic than the color episodes.

There is considerable debate as to whether the 1st season or the 2nd season is actually the best. In season 1, Lois Lane was played by Phyllis Coates, a good actress who somehow got stuck doing exclusively B movies. Her Lois is a little edgier and tougher than then Noel Niell, who played Lois in the rest of the 6 seasons, as well as playing Lois in the 2 Columbia pictures movie serials. Fans who prefer Phyllis Coates' Lois will give an edge to Season 1.

A deeper difference is that Season 1's stories are a little more hard-boiled, with more guns being fired and more people getting shot and/or killed. The decision to tone-down the violence probably had something to do with the fact that the Kelloggs cereal company had assumed sponsorship of the program, and due to the Senator Estes Kefauver crusade against violence in comic books.

Violence is a major element in the best Season 1 episode, 'The Stolen Costume.' This episode also provides the most ambivalent portrayal of Superman in the entire series. 'The Stolen Costume' is one of the two greatest episodes in the whole series, the other being 'Panic in the Sky' from Season 2.

Many episodes in Season 1 and Season 2 are almost as great. Even the weakest episodes of TAS are infinitely better than the 2006 film 'Superman Returns,' which cost all the money in the world and took 3 fricken years to make.

While many fans give the edge to Season 1, I have a slight preference to Season 2, although I've no complaints with Season 1. Season 2 still had the occasional death (of a villain, mind you, and never by Superman's hand!) but also introduced more science fictional elements and stories began to explore the question of Superman's invulnerability. In at least 3 episodes of Season 2, Superman is in some way weakened, injured, or otherwise taken out of action as a major plot point.

Also of note, Season 2 features the TV debut of Noel Niell as Lois Lane. Ms. Niell's portrayal of Lois is softer than Phyllis Coates', and perhaps somewhat more stereotypically female. Many fans of the show debate the 2 Lois' merits, but I will not, finding many appealing qualities to them both. Moreover, to think of them reminds of how woefully inadequate Kate Bosworth was in 'Superman Returns.'

Seasons 3-6 were filmed in color, and the current DVD collections have good prints of them. They are not quite as good as the first 2 seasons, but still tightly plotted and the cast never lets you down. There are, to be sure, many light-hearted or silly episodes. But seeing them now, I appreciate them more than I did as a kid. Bottom Line: Seasons 3-6 are still worth your while, and still stand head and shoulders above 'Superman Returns.'
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'Adventures' that shouldn't be missed!
Christopher Smith6 October 2001
This fabulously successful hit of the 1950's has Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter working for a metropolitan newspaper. Clark is also Superman, a superhero who fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way! When danger looms, he quickly changes from Clark Kent to Superman and is off top save the day! Each episode was creative and action-packed as well as dramatic and funny at the same time. There have been many other SUPERMAN shows, but this one remains to be the best.
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