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Lois & Clark - The New Adventures of Superman - The Complete Third Season
With all of the excitement surrounding Superman these days it's definitely worth it for fans to take a gander at prior takes on the character. From Reeve's riveting performances in the films to the animated series there is something a little different about each incarnation. Lois & Clark: The Adventures of Superman is a prime example.
During the 90s this superhero soap-opera was one of the hottest tickets on TV. It single handedly put Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain on the map and brought Superman's character to a new generation. The series caught on like wildfire and amassed an incredibly diverse fan base that extended beyond those who loved the comic books. Purists of the printed form may have scoffed about this that or the next thing, but when you got right down to it you couldn't argue that Lois & Clark was entertaining.
Throughout the first two seasons of the show the writers played often less-than-subtle inferences into the love triangle between Lois, Clark, and Superman. I suppose you could argue that it was a quadrangle with Lex Luthor tossed into the mix, but that's a conversation for another day. Cain and Hatcher had near perfect chemistry and they played off of each other very well. The cutesy relationship type banter was great for a while but towards the end of the second season and beginning of the third it appeared as if the writers had run out of ideas so they took it to the next step.
I don't believe I have ever watched a show that propelled its characters (after just two seasons) into a serious commitment like marriage. A significant change like this is usually a bullet to the dynamic of the show and eliminates a good portion of viewers. It should be no surprise then that after watching the third season its plain as the "S" on Superman's chest that even he couldn't dodge this bullet. This season was probably the kryptonite that brought the series to its knees.
Now don't get me wrong. There are quite a few episodes here that are highly entertaining and several guest stars make note-worthy appearances. It's just that with a looming wedding, pre-marital stress, and a villain of the week popping up every now and then it gets old fast. As a viewer I was left with the impression that the writers hit a block and found themselves disconnected from reality. Several episodes in this season left me scratching my head and wondering how many shots of tequila were involved in their creation. Other ones left me in stitches and relatively entertained. It's a rollercoaster ride, with so many ups and downs, that you never know what you're going to be subjected to next.
I'm not going to beat around the bush; there are some absolutely terrible plotlines to be found in this season. The "Super Mann" episode comes to mind when thinking of some low points. In that particular story Nazi's from World War II are revived in an attempt to take over the world. Whoopee! Another golden moment from this season ("Ordinary People") includes a pissy guy in a box who is obsessed with installing his head on Superman's body. From there things get even goofier when Lex Luthor's bastard child traps Lois and Clark in a virtual reality Metropolis in the episode "Virtually Destroyed."
Then to top it all of Lois' ex-boyfriend comes to town in "When Irish Eyes are Killing." The episode isn't worth mentioning because of the plot involving a druid and some human sacrifice. I found it to be better served as a metaphor for the season. In one particular scene Jimmy asks Lois to spot him a $20 but when she hands him the bill a quick pause of the DVD reveals that the currency is indeed a one dollar bill. That's the best way to describe this show. You come hoping for, and expecting, a Jackson but the rug is pulled out from beneath and all you are left with is a Washington.
If you're still checking out episodes after being subjected to the lowest of the low, there are a few gems hidden among the roughage. In the last season the characters of Tempus and H. G. Wells were introduced with an impressive amount of flare. Both characters return with more time traveling goodness in "Tempus Anyone?" that sees Lois taken to an alternate universe where there is no Superman and Tempus is trying to take over the world.
Other episodes like "Ultra Woman" and "Chip off the old Clark" were also very entertaining. In the former Lois finds herself equipped with Superman's powers after getting shot by a blast of red kryptonite. Hilarity ensues as she herself dons spandex and begins fighting crime. Along the same lines, "Chip off the old Clark" involves a plot that brings Superman's alleged "love child" into the picture. Things are not exactly as they seem but the kid can fly, lift sofas, and punch through walls so naturally Clark has some explaining to do to Lois.
The season ender was another interesting storyline that featured more Kryptonians and a plot to bring Clark to New Krypton as one of their rulers. The noble blood that runs through his veins gets him in trouble when he finds out that he was betrothed at birth to another of his kind. Naturally this causes some friction between him and Lois. In the end Clark is forced to decide between helping his own race and remaining on Earth.
Between the good and the bad episodes found in this season there are several that are just kind of there. Most are villain of the week stints but there is a lengthy arc involving the wedding of Lois and Clark. Let's just say that the plot involves Lex Luthor, human clones made from frogs, a bout of amnesia, and more exposure to Clark's bitchy future in-laws. Is this an important part of the overall story for this season? Yes, yes it is. But did it have to be so asinine?
Let's get one thing straight; I used to LOVE Lois & Clark. When the show aired I tuned in every week to see what was going on. Though, I do have to admit that I drifted away from the series around the end of the second season. I caught a couple of episodes from the third season every now and then, but the writing (and acting) fell to such a degree that the show couldn't be taken seriously anymore. What was once an insightful and entertaining look at the world of Superman turned into an immature soap opera that never went anywhere. Diehard fans of the series will get the most out of the episodes in this season but even then you will still be taking the good with the bad.
Originally airing in the 1995 to 1996 season, the third time around for Lois & Clark holds up pretty well on DVD. Compared to prior seasons and other TV shows from the time period the 1.33:1 full frame image is looking good. The video has been cleaned up with sharper detail and less compression, though a few of the minor bumps in the road still remain. Darker spots show off grain and several scenes are softer than others.
Just as you'd expect the audio presentation for Lois & Clark comes in the form of Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. For what it is the quality is decent though you obviously can't expect too much from the soundstage in terms of technical brilliance. Dialogue and music tend to drown together at times and voices offer very limited directionality between the two channels. French and Spanish subtitles are the only ones available here, so if you were looking for English you're just out of luck.
A few bonus features make their way onto the boxed set though none of them are really that spectacular. In "Lois and Clark a History of Romance" various people involved in Superman projects (including an oddly blonde Dean Cain) take a look at the relationship of the two characters from comic books to the big screen. It's not that long of a feature and it's not the most in depth but Superman aficionados will get some satisfaction out of it.
A laughably simplistic Superman trivia game is included with several plugs for "the upcoming film, Superman Returns." And what's your reward for sitting through the trivia? A lame smattering of video compiled from the events of this season. Apart from some trailers and an excerpt from Look, Up in the Sky - The Amazing Story of Superman there is nothing else to entice fans to explore the DVDs.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was a show that had a lot going for it. An attractive cast with good chemistry and decent stories kept things rolling for a while, but the third season is where we see the train wreck begin to happen. The writing went downhill in a big way and good ideas were poorly executed. There are a few diamonds in the rough to be found in this season but as a whole much of what's here exemplifies the immaturity that seeped into the show by this point. Diehard fans will get the most out of the set whereas casual viewers and the uninitiated could easily get by with a rental.