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Smallville - The Complete First Season

Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 23, 2003
List Price: $64.92 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Shannon Nutt | posted September 24, 2003 | E-mail the Author

Coming only a few years after the somewhat successful, but often corny, Lois & Clark, there were a lot of expectations and fears going into Smallville. Would the series appeal to die-hard Superman fans, or would it just be another WB drama geared toward teenagers?

Fortunately, Smallville turns out to be super – easily the best on-screen depiction of the Superman character since the original Superman: The Movie. But it does take most of the season to get things rolling. Too many of the shows in Season One are simply "Villain of the Week" kind of deals, with Clark Kent going up against a villain who has one superpower or another (the explanation for why all these genetically altered people are showing up in Smallville is attributed to the meteor shower that hit the town – and brought Clark to Earth).

It is obvious, however, in the early going that the relationships between the main characters would develop into something special. Clark is just beginning to discover his super powers (he does not yet have the ability to fly – following the concept that he will not gain all of his super powers until he reaches maturity), and Lex Luthor actually starts out as a good guy, who is slowly turning towards his evil ways.

Also noteworthy is the developing relationship between Clark and Lana Lang, a girl whom he is infatuated with, but can't get close to…not only because he is unsure of himself, but because Lana (whose parents were killed in the meteor shower) sports a necklace with a piece of the meteor as a way of remembering her mother and father. The meteor is, of course, Kryptonite, so Clark both literally and figuratively gets weak in the knees every time he gets close to the woman he loves!

But the relationship that is really worth tuning into Smallville for is the one between Clark and his adoptive parents (played by Dukes of Hazzard's John Schneider and Superman III's Annette O'Toole). I really like the father figure presented here for a young Clark – a man who both loves his son, yet is afraid about how his special abilities may affect his future. It's really a relationship that has never been deeply developed in any previous incarnations of the Superman legend, so it's nice to see a show that focuses on it so strongly.

By the time Season One wraps up, all the pieces are in place for Season Two – which really did a great job of exploring Clark's Kryptonian heritage and had him start asking some real questions about his purpose in life. But until Season Two arrives on DVD (or you catch the reruns on the WB), Season One has enough to keep fans entertained. So keep in mind when viewing these shows that they do indeed get deeper and more meaningful as they go along.


A brief word first about the way this DVD is packaged, which I don't usually comment on, but I have to in this case – because I really hate it! The DVDs are packaged in hard plastic holders (much thicker than the ones you'll find on the CSI sets, but similar in design) which should keep the discs in place. However, the packaging around these is just a normal cardboard, which means the spine has two big unattractive creases running through it, and I'm not sure how long the cardboard is going to stay solidly glued to the base, since it seems pretty flimsy. This may be the WB's answer to complaints about others' (i.e. FOX's) fold-out cardboard season sets – but I'd take the fold-out ones over this kind any day. I guess it's a matter of preference, but I vote "thumbs down" on this style – although it doesn't affect my rating for this box set.

Ahh…here's where things get interesting. The video is presented in amamorphic widescreen (the box doesn't specify, but I'm assuming it's the 1.78:1 that other widescreen shows are shot in). Upon first glance, the picture is remarkably sharp, but I did notice that during some of the "brighter" scenes, the colors almost looked a little over-saturated. A closer look using freeze-frame and slow motion reveals that there is a noticeable amount of pixilation going on in the background (most notably on non-moving solids) of most scenes. I use the word pixilation instead of "grain" since it is obviously a problem that happened with the digital transfer, rather than any grain that would be on the original source material. So call it "pixilation" or "digital grain", but there's a lot of it evident on the episodes. The weird thing is that usually when you notice this kind of stuff, the rest of the transfer is pretty bad as well, but here most of the flesh tones are properly balanced and the overall picture is rather sharp, so this video problem is only going to be a distraction if you have a really large TV screen (I have a 32", so I'm guessing anyone with 40" or more is not going to be thrilled). I'm also guessing that anyone with smaller TV sets will hardly notice the problem at all. Even with this problem, the Smallville transfer still ranks above average for a TV show.

I was quite impressed with the audio for these episodes, and even more when I looked down at my Home Theater Receiver and noticed that the audio was only a 2.0 track and not a 5.1 track. While I would have liked to see these shows remastered for 5.1, the 2.0 is not only serviceable, it's quite good – and fans of the show should be happy with what they get here.

The extras on this box set aren't overly impressive, but they aren't as minimal as what other sites have reported. Included on Disc One are Commentary Tracks for the first two episodes (which, by the way, are presented as separate shows here, even though they originally aired together as the 2-hour pilot). Creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar join director David Nutter for the pilot, while Gough and Millar offer additional commentary for the second episode (which Nutter didn't direct, so he bows out of the commentary). Disc Six contains Deleted Scenes from the pilot and second episode of the series, plus a Storyboard to Screen segment which is a non-interactive featurette that shows storyboards compared to the actual episode. Also on Disc Six is an Interactive Tour of Smallville which allows you to click on a section of the town and get some commentary about that location or set. There's also a pair of Promos for the WB – a "Smallville Sizzles" commercial for the show, plus another promo which gives peeks of Tarzan and Jane (which has since been renamed to just Tarzan) and Fearless. Disc Six also includes some DVD-ROM Material, in which you can use your computer to check out the "Wall of Weird" (Chloe's reports on some of the strange people and events in Smallville) or log into LuthorCorp. Both require logins and passwords, but they can be found in the insert booklet provided with this box set.


Despite a few complaints about the DVD set itself, the overall episodes are fairly strong, and for the most part, presented well on DVD format by Warners. It's getting a "Highly Recommended" not so much for the overall package, but for the overall strength of the episodes. Sure to bring new fans to the series and appease those who are already big followers of the show, this box set may not leap tall buildings in a single bound, but it has got enough spring in it to make it a worthwhile purchase.
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Highly Recommended

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