Back when Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman launched on television, it seemed like a breath of fresh air. For one thing, the emphasis was much more on Lois Lane. For another, it was clearly based on the John Byrne reboot from the 1980s, which seemed like a cool notion.
Lois and Clark eventually went way downhill, but I'd retained fond memories of the early episodes. Until I rewatched bits of the pilot earlier today, while trying to decide whether to include it in the "pilots that are as good as most summer movies" post. And... wow. Just check out the above scene where Superman confronts Lex Luthor for the first time, and it's every bit as bad as the Veronica Cale/Wonder Woman scenes in the recently scrapped David E. Kelley Wonder Woman pilot. In fact, it's weirdly reminiscent. And Jesus, is Superman pompous. Listen to his speech:
I came to tell you that I know who you are. Who you... really... are. I suppose on its face it was a good plan. Destroy Prometheus so that you could put your own space station in its place. Then not only would you make billions from the patents of the vaccines developed, but you would also be the supposed savior of the space program... Like any other citizen of the planet, I must obey the law. I am not above it. You, it seems, believe you are... There is nothing that would please me more than to see you dethroned and placed behind bars like any other common criminal. That day will come.
Meanwhile, Lex is chomping on a big cigar, staring at Superman's skin-tight outfit, and saying "Let the games begin."
Then there's the "Ma Kent makes Superman's costume" montage, which is sort of sweet — it reminds me of one of those old-school "post-regeneration trying on outfits" scenes from Doctor Who — until it ends up with Ma Kent gazing at her son's package and saying, "Well one thing's for sure, nobody's going to be looking at your face." It's cute, but also feels insanely dated, after we've seen so many superhero stories that avoided that level of campiness in favor of quasi-realism mixed with stylization.
But, I hear you say, what about the fact that Lois and Clark was more character-focused? Umm... yeah. Sadly, when you watch it now, all of the acting in the pilot looks positively Wagnerian, or maybe Shatnerian — like this introduction to Lois Lane, in which Perry White is gesturing so hard that every finger is like a baton while declaiming, "Never UNDERESTIMATE the NEED for a GOOD OBITUARY." Or Cat Grant's so-sassy it's practically covered in sparkles delivery of the line, "I see it but I don't believe it... Lois Lane finally swept off her feet. Too bad he's an alien." And then there's Lois' completely vamptastic "Don't fall for me farmboy," to Clark. Subtle, this show wasn't.
We should definitely still appreciate Lois and Clark for its place in superhero history and its role in helping to popularize the idea that superheroes' relationships were as important as their fisticuffs. But it's jarrring to realize that if David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman had just emerged 18 years ago, we might be hailing it as a classic now.