It’s easy to lose sight of now, amidst a storm of cross media adaptations, but there was a time where superhero stories were barely seen without comics. Movies featured only the elite of the top-tier heroes and TV shows were predominantly kids cartoons. In this context, Lois and Clark was a trailblazer. In a market that generally thought of superheroes as kids fare, Lois and Clark took a risk and focused on the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent over superheroics. Its risque marketing acted as a statement saying “take us seriously”, but in execution it wasn’t as mature as promised.
Campier than a caravan full of clowns, it built itself around the budding romance between Lois and Clark but dragged it out as much as possible. The adaptation fans hoped for never came, replaced by a show that either mis-adapted the comics, or invented their own ludicrous replacements. But people watched it because it was all they could get. Of course, now we’re spoiled for choice and superheroes rule the box office. So, spoiled as we are, let’s take a look back at Lois and Clark and laugh at all the things it got wrong, shall we? Come on. We’ve earned it.
16. KILLED LEX OFF
Consider this: in a show about Lois Lane and Clark Kent, Perry White appears more than Lex Luthor. As a matter of fact, so does Jimmy Olsen. Not saying that Perry and Jimmy don’t have their place (we love them!) but, come on, where did Lex Luthor go? As it turns out, he didn’t want to travel from New York all the time — the actor, that is.
John Shea grew tired of the commute between his native New York and Los Angeles where the series was filmed, so the writers killed him off at the end of season one.
Despite this, he continued to make sporadic appearances throughout the next 3 seasons (presumably when they could find cheap flights or something). The show was definitely at it’s most cohesive with Lex as a stable villain in the first season, veering steadily into more ridiculous territory thereafter.
15. THE WEDDING FAKEOUT
After (X) episodes and countless “almost’s”, in a series centered around the origin of the timeless romance between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, you’d think that a Lane/Kent wedding episode would be regarded with the utmost sincerity. The last thing you’d do is, say, have Clark unknowingly marry a Lois-clone created by Lex Luthor. But that’s exactly what the writers did.
Clark and Lois hadn’t even been married in the comics yet, so fans waited in gleeful anticipation of what would have been their first chance to see the beloved couple wed each other. Instead, Lois and Clark manufactured a cheap fake out and actually convinced DC Comics to POSTPONE THE IN-COMICS WEDDING UNTIL THEY WERE READY. We can understand synergy between an adaptation and the source, but not in service of a gimmick like this. We’re not mad, Lois and Clark. We’re just disappointed.
There’s so much wrong with Lois and Clark‘s Deathstroke that we don’t know where to start. Perhaps the fact that, apart from his name and his profession (assassinations), he shares nothing with his comics counterpart? Maybe his origin, which saw him gain powers over magnetism as a result of some accident with (you guessed it) magnets? Or maybe the fact that he’s perhaps the most incompetent assassin in world history? He actually wears the mark his powers leave on his victims on his chest for god’s sake.
It would have been cheaper to simply adapt the existing Deathstroke from the comics.
And if they were dead-set on having a magnet themed villain, why did they essentially make him a laughing stock? His whole motivation is, of all things, the lack of workman’s comp afforded to him by his employers. As hilarious as that is, it’s hard to take him seriously.
13. LOIS: DAMSEL IN DISTRESS
Lois Lane is a capable, determined and intelligent person. She’s a fantastic investigative journalist and a source of strength and support for everyone around her, most of all Clark/Superman. So why do so many of the plots in Lois and Clark revolve around Lois getting kidnapped by some nefarious villain? More often than not because they fall instantly, madly in love with her?
Granted, there’s a handful of times where Lois gets herself out of trouble, or subverts the trope and saves Superman instead. But usually Lois ends up in the stereotypical “damsel in distress” situation. It’s a disservice to the character and the strong relationship between Lois and Clark. And no, giving her superpowers for one episode does not a strong female character make.
12. RECYCLED PLOTS
A villain falls in love with Lois and does general villainy to try and marry her. Something, usually a lightning bolt, transfers Clark’s powers to someone else who, surprisingly, misuses them. One of our beloved characters is framed for a crime they didn’t commit. They’re all fairly strong plots, if you use them once.
Lois and Clark, however, is really, really guilty of redressing the same plots to use in a whole new episode.
Between this and the drawn out “will-they-won’t-they” dynamic of Lois and Clark’s relationship, the show often found itself spinning its wheels. When you have a superhuman god and a prodigious investigative reporter as your leads, never mind one of the most timeless romances in comics, to mine for material, there’s really no excuse.
11. NOT ONE, BUT TWO ILLEGITIMATE SONS
That Lex Luthor sure does get around. Not one, but two of his illegitimate sons show up over the course of the series to, essentially, act as a Lex Luthor stand in. Is the Luthor villainy genetic or something? Neither son was close to their father, yet seemed to inherit his infatuation with Lois Lane, penchant for extravagant lairs and his general flair for evil-doing.
Guys, he abandoned and neglected you. You can be whoever you want to be! You don’t have to dig out another underground lair and try to marry Lois Lane! Go travelling! Write a novel! Live your own true lives! Alas, no-one was ever there to tell them this, so they had to settle for being stand-in’s when the writers couldn’t get the real Lex in for a guest role. You kind of feel sorry for them…
10. ROGER DALTREY?!
There was a plethora of guest stars over Lois and Clark‘s four seasons. Mostly soap opera stars, to be fair, but there was a couple of gems in and amongst them. Roger Daltrey was not one such gem. Daltrey gave an, ahem, memorable performance as an evil shapeshifter named Tez in the season three finale.
Fitted with clawed nails, some white boy dreadlocks and teeth fit for chewing the scenery, Daltrey plays his role with Nicolas Cage levels of overacting.
What really makes it though, is while he’s covered in makeup and screeching villainously, you can never forget that it’s Roger Daltrey, legendary frontman of The Who shooting eye-bolts at Superman. It’s maybe the most egregious guest star role in the whole run — and that’s saying something.
9. CLARK’S KRYPTONIAN MARRIAGE
Lois and Clark always played fast and loose with the source material. Case in point: the whole “New Krypton” arc. At the end of season three, it’s revealed that not only did a bunch of Kryptonians survive the destruction of their home planet, but Clark was married to one. Well, technically. A Kryptonian custom saw children bethrothed/married to each other from birth, and Clark’s birth-wife had sought him out to return to New Krypton, depose a thinly veiled General Zod analog and generally live that married life.
Thing is, Clark had absolutely no idea about any of this — he hadn’t experienced a lick of Kryptonian culture. So to travel to his new home, essentially go “btw we’re married come home with me” and expect him to acquiesce is, at best, pretty dumb. How could they even be sure he’d survived?! Kryptonian? More like Creep-tonian! We’ll be here all week.
8. MR. MXYZPTLK IS…A NORMAL DUDE?!
In all fairness, the problems we have with Mr. Mxyzptlk are common across all his live-action portrayals. Namely, no one seems to want to fully commit to him! Take the Lois and Clark version as an example. Portrayed by Howie Mandel, of all people, this Mxyzptlk is still an imp from the 5th Dimension, but instead of the otherworldly fashion sense we’re used to, he looks closer to a third-rate Doctor Who rip-off.
Mandel actually puts in a good performance, invoking a passive sense of mischief, but we want to see a full live-action Mxyzptlk, bowler hat and all.
Oddly enough, the late ’80s/early ’90s Superboy TV show is the only live action adaptation to embrace the over the top, comic book trappings of our formidable imp. We never thought we’d praise Superboy for anything but hey, sometimes life takes you to weird places.
7. KLAUS MENSA
To be fair, this one’s so bad, it’s good. But we can’t just leave the entry there, so let’s acknowledge the ridiculousness for a second. Klaus Mensa is a villain with a super-human intellect, so vast he can move things with his mind alone. Yes, they named a super-smart character “Mensa”. It’s so on-the-nose that it’s jammed up the proverbial nostril. As if that wasn’t silly enough, his nickname is “Fat Head”, which is just laughable.
With “Fat Head”, his hilarious surname and his “old professor” hair around his oversized head, Klaus Mensa hits the hat-trick of awful villainy. It’s kind of applicable, to be honest. As the very last villain to feature in the series, Klaus Mensa encapsulates the spirit of the patchy, often hokey final season.
6. SOMEWHAT SUPERMAN
Ah, the ancient nemesis of genre TV: budgetary concerns. Budgets can scupper even the best shows from time to time. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is notorious for its cost cutting. Doctor Who has battled the budget for its whole run. Even Game of Thrones skipped several major battles from the books due to money. So really, what chance did Lois and Clark have? Understandable as it is, the ways that Lois and Clark skirt around Superman’s powers are blindingly obvious. Most famous is how they show Supes fly.
In order to avoid CGI and wire work, they just had Superman swish his cape into the camera and/or jump off-screen.
5. SPENCER SPENCER
With perhaps the laziest name in the entire series, Spencer Spencer marks a low point in Lois and Clark villainy. He’s essentially just a dude with a faulty, dying body that rolls around in a giant box. Presumably sick of looking like a sentient Caesar’s Palace decoration, he plans to steal Superman’s body to replace his own.
Spencer Spencer’s plan is ridiculous (why target Superman, a man that can easily beat you? Why not just grab some random guy from a gym?) but his name is unforgivable. Was there not enough time to think of a surname for him? We know, naming characters can be hard. There’s lots of decisions that encompass the creative process. But just calling him “Spencer” (like Prince) would be better that what we got. Jeez.
4. SUDDEN CANCELLATION
Regardless of how you (or we) feel about the show’s quality, any Superman story deserves a proper ending. Unfortunately, Lois and Clark was denied this. The showrunners had been promised five seasons, and planned their stories accordingly. But at the last minute, their network ABC sprung cancellation on them, quoting the shows admittedly dwindling ratings to justify its trip to the guillotine.
Thinking at the time that they had at least one more season to work with, the writers ended season four on a cliffhanger.
The season saw Lois and Clark finding a mysterious baby with the Superman emblem on its blanket in their apartment. Eventually, the writers divulged the resolution of the cliffhanger to fans, but all in all it was an unceremonious end to the show. Poor show, ABC. Give Superman his due.
3. WASTING GOOD VILLAINS
Superman’s got one of the strongest and most versatile rogues galleries in comicdom. From high-sci fi, to mischief makers to sheer powerhouses, there’s a villain to cover any kind of story you’d want to tell. It’s a shame nobody told the Lois and Clark team this. Lex Luthor aside, only three villains from the comics were used: Metallo, The Prankster and Toyman. And the longest any of them lasted was two episodes.
Considering the caliber of the villains they invented for the show (spoiler: not good), you’d think the writing team would want to take advantage of the rich list of villains they already had pre-made and ready for use. Even Bizarro, who would have fit perfectly into the show’s campy tone, was killed after one episode. Throwing salt in the wound, he wasn’t even called Bizarro! We’ve given ourselves a headache trying to think this one through…
2. RED KRYPTONITE DOES WHAT?
A well-known challenge in writing Superman is the difficulty of creating any real sense of danger. Enter Kryptonite. Everyone knows what Kryptonite does to Supes so it was a no-brainer for Lois and Clark to have some kryptonite floating around.
Their use of Red Kryptonite, too, was a no-brainer, in the sense that it makes absolutely no sense in any way whatsoever.
Need Superman to be lazy? Hit him with some Red Kryptonite. Want his powers to be transferred to someone? Red Kryptonite! Does the story need Supes to lose his powers? Take a guess. If you guessed Red Kryptonite, then congratulations, you’ve been promoted to lead writer of Lois and Clark! Alright, we’re being a little hyperbolic here. But in truth, Lois and Clark‘s use of Red Kryptonite was comical in its vagueness. Why not just have new colors of Kryptonite for each use?
1. LEX LUTHOR’S WEIRD SUPERPOWER
Picture this. Lex Luthor reclines before a crackling fireplace, a cigar in hand. Suddenly, a cobra enters the room, slithering towards him. Lightning cracks and illuminates the room. The cobra draws closer, Lex seemingly unaware of its presence. It hisses, drawing Lex’s attention with a snap. Lex and the cobra stare each other down, eyes locked. Lightning sounds again. Lex stares deep into the cobra’s soul, and the cobra slowly retreats.
A man in the doorway scoops it up and addresses the victor. “Will that be all for this evening, sir?”. This moment actually happened in Lois and Clark. This Lex Luthor has incorporated staring down cobras into his routine. We could honestly write an entire article about this. We have no idea how this scene was conceived, but we’d love to go back and witness the conversation. Find the clip on YouTube to bask in the sheer lunacy.
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