Television Review: Smallville
by Seth Gunderson
Published: November 5, 2001
Smallville, Kansas. The biggest little town you've ever seen.
The WB would be nothing without Buffy. Tuesday nights would never be the same again. The WB would lose viewers and ad revenue for sure. They should’ve never let Buffy jump ship.
That was the talk until Smallville made its debut on October 16, 2001 — 8.4 million viewers, the highest ever for a new series on WB. The series did so well over its first two episodes that the WB picked it up for the remainder of the year.
Written and developed by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar ("Shanghai Noon"), the series follows a young Clark Kent, growing up in Smallville. The premiere showed the history of Superman, crashing to Earth in his small spaceship during a meteor shower. The crash landing of his ship in Smallville also brought with it some of the famous anti-Superman rock, Kryptonite, not to mention tons of strange and bizarre mutations and consequences for many town-folk.
Clark Kent, played by Christopher Reeve look-alike Tom Welling, is not the Superman, or Superboy, that we all know. In this ‘prequel’ series, if you will, Clark is a student in high school (10th grade, I think) and is just starting to realize his unique superpowers. It’s not easy for him, though, going through adolescence, coming to terms with his powers and history, figuring out what kryptonite does to him, all the while battling weird things (a la Monster of the Week) that have come about ever since the meteor shower.
Clark’s adoptive parents, Jonathon and Martha Kent — played by John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard) and Annette O'Toole (Superman III) — also know something of Clark’s history and powers, but have sheltered him from the truth until now.
Superman’s longtime nemesis, Lex Luthor, is also living in town with Clark. Taking on the part of Lex is Michael Rosenbaum (Jack & Jane). Lex has moved to Smallville after college to try and resurrect his father’s struggling fertilizer company. It seems, for now, that Lex and Clark get along well, but we all know what their future will bring.
Clark’s untouchable love interest is Lana Lane (high school sweetheart from Superman III). Lana, played by Kristin Kreuk, is Smallville High’s most popular girl and is dating the Smallville quarterback Whitney Fordman (Eric Johnson). Clark has worshiped Lana from afar for a long time and blames himself for her parents’ death, which occurred the night of the meteor storm. While Lana feels some sort of tie to Clark, he can’t seem to get near her without getting weak in the knees — maybe it’s her kryptonite necklace.
Smallville is an interesting series and tells the story of Superman in a way we’ve never seen before. Every episode revolves around the continuing storyline of Superman’s past, while having to overcome odds and defeat that week’s Monster of the Week. Smallville combines a great concept, decent writing, sub-par acting, and state-of-the-art special effects, and it ends up with a show that feels like a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files.
The WB knows that it has a winner, it’s killing The WB defector Roswell in ratings, and it looks as if Smallville will continue to draw viewers their way.
I enjoy the show and catch it whenever I’m around on Tuesday nights, I recommend you do the same. Now if my wife would just let me run around in a cape like I used to. Up, up, and away!