The adventures of Superman when he was a boy! Actually, as a young man...who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered journalism student at Shuster University, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and...well, you know the rest... Written by
Gregory A. Sheets <email@example.com>
I think of this show sort of the way I think of Tim Burton's Batman. Burtons' Batman focused a lot more on visuals and preferred to explain the story through actions rather than words. Nevertheless, people dug it and flocked to see the film(s). Superboy was much the same. The acting is nothing to write home about, the dialogue is 50/50 at best and the stories are awfully stereotyped comic book stories. Nevertheless, something about it just kicks ass. Maybe it's the fact that it's the only Superman experience ever that features a bang-on 100% accurate version of the costume. Maybe it's the fact that even though the plots are awfully stereotyped and clichéd, it really is the only show that has those plots anyway. I don't know, maybe it's just because it's fun and it doesn't make you depressed with all of the pain and anguish and darkness of the modern day Superman shows like Smallville.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Superboy, originally he was just a spin-off of the Superman comic, showing Clark's adventures as a fully powered teenager. Well in the 80's, they got rid of that character and had the teenage Clark more along the lines of the character you watch in Smallville (which is getting steadily crappier). Now, when those crazy Salkind guys bought the rights to Superman, they also bought the rights to Supergirl, Superboy and (sigh) Superpup. Well, to make a long story short, the Salkinds sold the rights to Superman to those fools who made Superman IV. But they still had those rights to Girl, Boy and Pup. In 1984, Supergirl tanked, so that was no-show. They'd have to be pretty thick to make a live-action show about a dog with super powers, so they also gave that one a miss. But what about a boy? Better yet, a teenager, or better still, a college student with super powers? That could work...
And so, a show was born.
The first season saw John Haymes Newton as the boy of steel. Many claim that Newton was a bit too one-dimensional in terms of acting despite the fact that he looked like he had just walked off the face of a comic book. The stories in the first season generally revolved around social issues, largely because there wasn't much of a budget for fancy special effects (I'll get to that in a sec'). A lot of these episodes were also based upon events that happened in the comics or even in the movies. For example, just like in the comics, Lex loses his hair in a chemical accident and just like in the movies, Kryptonite is discovered in Addis Ababa. Another thing I liked about the first season was the fact that it was really 'Generation X' in the sense that it really tried to appeal to teenagers as well as the traditional Superman audience of kids and adults. If you listen to the first season Superboy theme tune, there's a really cool guitar solo in there. It also really reflects the style and tone of the late eighties which is kind of cool. The other seasons were more timeless and didn't have that eighties feel.
The second season brought in Gerard Christopher as Superboy because John Haymes Newton had portrayed Superboy as too much of a 'badboy' (which I kind of liked, but anyway) and he had also been getting in a bit of trouble with the law off screen. Gerard Christopher played Superboy as the Superman stereotype. He was cool, calm and collected and only ever got angry around villains. His Clark was a clumsy goofball, much the way he was in the movies, only more so. A new, older Lex Luthor was brought in as well, to tie in with a really silly story about Lex making himself look a famous inventor so that he could steal the inventor's weapon and (you guessed it folks) kill Superboy. Because the first season had brought in a bit of dough, the second season had more of a special effects budget and here's where things get really interesting. We got to see villains like Metallo and Bizarro for the first time ever off the pages of a comic. Sadly, we also got a load of silly villains like Dracula (?) and Microboy (a rival superhero in a big yellow foam suit), which made the second season look like a cross between the old Batman show and Power Rangers.
The third season became really dark and sophisticated, despite the fact that it was a show about a cheerful hero. This tone was probably to do with the release and success of Burton's Batman movie. It worked quite well, because it made Superboy look sort of out place (which is sort of cool, because Superman is out of place in today's modern, vice-filled society of sex, drugs, rock and roll and computers). The fourth season was probably the only season which didn't bring anything new to the show. The episodes were in the same dark tone as the third season, but if it counts for anything, they were written better and the overall acting was improving. But then, Warner Bros. came along and got rid of the show, because they didn't own it and it was starting to make some serious money. They took it off the airways for good and it is quite likely that it will never be seen on television ever again. But there is talk of bringing it out on DVD, so don't despair.
Overall, this show is quite good and it is worth noting that this is the last show that focused solely on a character that has been appearing in comics for over sixty years. Lois and Clark and Smallville are both attempts at updating this timeless character. It is definitely worth a watch if you can find some episodes of it.
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