Beside the timeless duo as its title implies the series is also a lot about Superman. It's the key difference with Smallville as even in its finale we don't really see Welling suited up as the Man of Steel. It leads us to his nemesis, Lex Luthor, played by John Shea. He's actually 17 years older than Cain and it's definitely a quality as his maturity makes his character far much more believable. A worthy villain ? Absolutely ! That's probably why I compared his performance to John Glover, Lionel Luthor in Smallville, and not Michael Rosenbaum's one. But their respective stories are entirely different as in this case Clark and Lex are everything but friends. The cliffhanger clearly states what the first season is about.
Flying with Superman is one thing but in my heart I have always been more into the romance between Lois and Clark. In Smallville their relationship is slowly developed when here the pace is way faster. I understand that the writers intention was to seduce the audience but I wish things had been a bit more subtle. Still even if the working girl and new guy in town are clichés I instantly related to them and developing an empathic connection with these two is natural. Clark finds a job way too easily in my opinion but in Smallville it's the contrary. However I prefer struggling characters, inspiring and realistic ones. Otherwise this Kent is not a teen, it's a fully grown up man who's ready to embrace his destiny. Don't get me wrong it's obvious he doesn't know yet where he belongs, as Hercules (1997) almighty protagonist, but he definitely has what it takes to become Superman. And during his journey he can count on his parents, Jonathan and Martha. The performers are so nice and complementary that you can't help smiling when they're on the phone with their son. I don't know how their work compares to the comics but it's slightly sitcomesque, so miles away from John Schneider and Annette O'Toole in Smallville. However in both cases Jonathan incarnates the father figure a superhero needs, with strong moral values and a stimulating wife.
In order to support the talented cast and entertaining story the show is enriched by many other elements. The first of them would be Lane Smith. His performance as Perry White is both energetic and hilarious. He also demonstrates how superior an intergenerational cast is compared to the "all young and pretty" people hired in the last seasons of Smallville. Phil Morris appearances as Martian Manhunter weren't numerous enough and with Schneider and Glover gone the show failed to fully educate its younger audience. An other thing I enjoyed was the production quality. Don't expect an episode aired in 1993 to blow your mind but most sets are well designed and the visual effects are decent in general if you're not too demanding. All in all it's immersive and it's all what matters. Moreover it's not everyday that you can see Superman on TV ! It leads us to Clark Kent's transformation because it's what the pilot is mostly about. I found it awkward and not just because I'm a huge fan of Smallville. I mean how is it possible to forget installments like Identity ? As for the Pretty Woman (1990) sequence it was entertaining but not respectful of the seriousness surrounding the myth. Even the way CK dealt with his glasses was quick and dirty. Why didn't they decide to make them fall as he was taking off for instance ? Something like that. At the opposite I really enjoyed the way the beginning and ending mirrored. Indeed Lois first appearance can only wow if you haven't already seen the pilot. All along the episode there're breadcrumbs to help Clark shape his new identity. Let's also not forget the cult dialogs and scenes. Most of the ones between Lois & Clark are funny, like at his apartment, when the parts involving Lex are darker and smarter. The scene featuring a cobra is quite intense and reveals him as a fearless predator. The diner was in the same vein and served as a pivotal character developer.
To sum things up this pilot has aged well and not just because the two lead performers are exquisite. Cain fueled his character with strength, wit and wisdom. As for Hatcher focusing on her gorgeous body, from head to toe, would be a fatal mistake as her Lois is feminist, cunning and curious. Add humor to these qualities and you get two of the best role models on TV !
Note : This review was first posted on Kritikenstein, my weblog.