SMALLVILLE has a tricky balance to find. It’s trying to be, while not a serious drama, a serious melodrama,
standing alongside the Dawson’s Creeks and Pasadenas of this world. And yet, because it is about Superman
in his teen years, it is filled out with superhero action (in street clothes, as young Clark Kent does not yet
have his cape and skintights) and requisite supernatural menaces.
This is not a balance that is quite achieved the first time out. The superaction elements make the
melodrama seem unimportant, while the melodrama makes the action seem cheesy. It’s hard to care
about will-she-kiss-him as a dramatic point while the electricity-weilding murderer is on the loose.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which this replaces on the WB schedule) can balance the drama and
the action by filtering both through a layer of humor, a layer which Smallville lacks, probably to its
And yet, there are things to be said for it. The young lead looks the part, although he lacks
a steely-eyed look of determination that Superman needs to be able to summon up. He does
have a reasonable lost-Clark look, and wears it most of the time. The acting is all reasonable,
if never quite inspiring. And the look of the piece is strong; at least for the pilot, the spend the
This could turn out to be okay, and yet I fear it will not. There are writers who can integrate
the super and the real, but they are mostly writing comics. TV writers may not know the pitfalls.
There are already hints of an over-reliance on a single chunk of Kryptonite, needed to keep
SuperClark from saving the day. Even in the pilot, the reasons for the K to be in various hands
(and four people have had it by the end of the episode) strain credulity; imagine what difficulties
they will face by episode 12.
I’ll check out at least a couple more episodes; I want to see what defines Lex as a villain
beyond self-destructively careless driving and penchant for wearing black. Certainly, for superhero
readers it’s worth taking a look at.