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'Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman': Tube Talk Gold

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Teri Hatcher starred with Dean Cain in the '90s TV show 'Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman'.
There have been a few television shows based on the DC Comics hero Superman - the '50s iteration starring George Reeves, 1988-1992's Superboy and, most recently, the CW's teen drama Smallville. But one adaptation that really gets the nostalgia juices flowing is the '90s drama Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Lois & Clark was something different - not simply a straightforward adaptation of the comic. As the title implies, it focused as much on the personal lives of its lead characters as it did on the action-packed exploits of the Man of Steel.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Originally broadcast from September 12, 1993 - June 14, 1997

Using Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's original characters (as well as John Byrne's 1986 comic mini-series The Man of Steel) as a loose basis for inspiration, writer and producer Deborah Joy LeVine developed the project that would eventually become Lois & Clark.

While Gerard Christopher - the star of the '80s Superboy series - was originally cast as the show's lead, he was later dismissed when the producers learnt of his past association with the Superman character. Looking for a fresh start, they turned instead to 27-year-old actor Dean Cain.

With his easy charm and cut-off vests, Cain's Clark Kent was not quite the character familiar to fans of the comic. But his performance was perfectly suited to the camp, soapy style of LeVine's adaptation.

Joining him as the show's female lead Lois Lane was Teri Hatcher, now world-famous for her role in Desperate Housewives but then best known for playing a woman with "spectacular" breasts in an episode of NBC's Seinfeld. As Lois, Hatcher gave a spirited, spunky performance that launched her to international stardom.



Other characters from the DC comics were realised with equal skill. Daily Planet editor Perry White - here portrayed as a hardcore Elvis aficionado - is played with real warmth and charm by the talented character actor Lane Smith, who tragically passed away in 2005.

Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen, meanwhile, was portrayed by two different actors throughout the show's four year run - Michael Landes in the first season and Justin Whalin in the three that followed. Both do a good job in bringing the chipper young photographer to life, lending the character a modern edge.

But if pushed to name a favourite Jimmy, this writer would have to plump for Landes - it's a shame the star was ditched, apparently over the rather bizarre concern that he too closely resembled Dean Cain.

Of course, every hero needs a villain and one of the most enjoyable aspects of Lois & Clark's early years was John Shea's underrated performance as corrupt tycoon Lex Luthor. Whether romancing Lois or exchanging barbs with The Last Son of Krypton, Shea brings a charm and icy cool to the role. It's unfortunate that he only appeared sporadically after the show's first year.

The New Adventures of Superman

© Rex Features / Moviestore Collection/Rex Features

Unlike some comic adaptations, Lois & Clark worked best when it strayed from its source material. Lex Luthor aside, the show's attempts to depict comic book villains - such as Howie Mandel's portrayal of Mxyzptlk in the 1996 episode 'Twas the Night Before Mxymas' - were usually less than successful.

The New Adventures of Superman was essentially a romantic comedy, in the vein of ABC's hit show Moonlighting - the comic book trappings were just a framework for the romantic tension between the two leads, their barbs and banter frequently accompanied on the soundtrack by some jazzy piano tinkling.

Of course, TV obsessives will be aware of the Moonlighting curse - that tragic rule that, once a show's two leads get together, all of the fizz and sparkle that drew viewers in suddenly evaporates. And that curse hit Lois & Clark harder than most. Once Lois and Clark got together - and worse, got married - the show rapidly began running out of steam.

The writers spun ever more unlikely tales in a vain attempt to maintain audience interest, but ultimately the gambit failed. Despite initially announcing that the show would continue for a fifth season, Lois & Clark was to be no more after its fourth season finale, ending on a cliffhanger as our two leads found an infant in Clark's old bassinet...

But in its heyday, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was a seriously enjoyable and influential series. DC Comics even collaborated with the show's producers to have Lois and Clark's comic book wedding coincide with their television nuptials. Some critics might turn their nose up at the kind of frothy fun that Lois & Clark provided, but watched with tongue firmly in cheek, it really is terrific entertainment.

Did you watch Lois & Clark? Share your memories of the show below!
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