With the first issue of Superman: Lois and Clark dropping this Wednesday from DC Comics, we're taking a look back at the original Lois & Clark... Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the ABC TV series that made household names out of Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher and provided audiences with Superman by way of Moonlighting.
While nobody has said so, it doesn't seem unreasonable to guess that Superman: Lois & Clark was named for the popular series the same way The Adventures of Superman was created in the 1980s partially as an homage to the George Reeves TV show of those creators' childhood.
Lois & Clark went on for four years and 87 episodes. While the series is not streaming at this time, all four seasons are availble for digital purchase and can usually be found cheaply on DVD. Today, we're looking back at ten of the best or most historically-relevant episodes of the ABC series, in chronological order.
"Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)
"One thing's for sure. Nobody's going to be looking at your face!"
The very first episode of Lois & Clark set up the concept, and in retrospect, it's interesting to note that the Superman costume doesn't even come in until fairly late in the program. Emphasis is made on the relationships between Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) and Clark Kent (Dean Cain), with some witty banter and clever dialogue from creator and Executive Producer Deborah Joy LeVine. If anything, the Lois & Clark pilot -- directed by Robert Butler -- actually also makes for a good Superman movie in its own right, albeit with fairly limited visual effects.
In addition to Lane and Kent, elements from the Superman mythos in the show's first episode include Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Cat Grant, Lex Luthor, and even Inspector Henderson. The "Superman stops a plane disaster" origin trope is upgraded to a colonized shuttle to space, and the show borrows from the then-recent John Byrne update to the comics by giving Clark Kent a set of parents who are alive.
"The Green, Green Glow of Home" (Season 1, Episode 8)
"That was fear, Kent. Real fear. Superman doesn't fear guns. Nice try, but I want the real thing."
Aside from an unrelated teaser before the episode would begin, Superman does not appear in costume at all in this episode, and for most of it, Clark Kent doesn't even have his powers! "The Green, Green Glow of Home" introduced Kryptonite to the show's mythos, and, as is to be expected in a Superman story, Clark doesn't respond very well to it, physically.
The episode marks the first real visit to Smallville on the series outside of the Kents' house, and Lois Lane's reactions to small town life make the episode even more enjoyable. At this point, Lois & Clark is a series played [mostly] seriously, and the notion of a powerless Clark provides a genuine threat.
One might notice when watching the episode that Clark has an old flame in the series who is not Lana Lang. Various sources have debated the situation, but it is believed that the producers at the time assumed they were not allowed to use Lana as a result of the Superboy series. Whether or not that was true, the series did eventually introduce a shrill Lana in Season 3's "Tempus Anyone."
"Barbarians at the Planet/The House of Luthor" (Season 1, Episodes 20 & 21)
"Is that Kryptonite in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
Slightly cheating here, counting two episodes in one here. As the first season of Lois & Clark ended, everything was crashing around Clark Kent's life. The Daily Planet was destroyed and he seemed to be losing Lois to Lex Luthor, who proposed marriage.
Clark, Jimmy, Perry, and their new friend Jack (a character who mysteriously disappeared after Season 1, who seemed to know Clark's secret) work together to prove that Lex Luthor is the one behind the Daily Planet's downfall -- hopefully in time to stop Lois from marrying Luthor.
Original The Adventures of Superman actress Phyllis Coates appears in "The House of Luthor" as Lois Lane's mother, Ellen Lane, and James Earl Jones makes an appearance as Franklin Stern. While this turned out to not be the final episode of the entire series, it may have been a fitting series finale for the show itself, as most plotlines found themselves wrapped up.
"Season's Greedings" (Season 2, Episode 9)
"I never spanked you. I never had to. But right now, I'd like to drop your britches and tan your hide like cheap leather."
The series' first and best Christmas episode was written by "Clark Kent" himself, Dean Cain. In a piece of stunt casting reuniting TV's The Jeffersons, toyman Winslow Schott (Sherman Hemsley), with his assistant Ms. Duffy (Isabel Sanford) at his side, creates a toy that emits a spray that makes children and adults greedy, and the adults start acting like greedy children, which makes it even worse. Even Clark is affected by the Atomic Space Rats' spray, using his powers for naughtiness.
The Lois and Clark relationship also takes a giant leap forward in this episode, as the two characters end up spending a Christmas night together, holding hands underneath a Christmas tree. Lois might not have Superman (that she knows), but her shell around Clark is definitely cracking around this point.
"The Phoenix" (Season 2, Episode 13)
"Lois, I'm just trying to ask you out. I'm not trying to negotiate a nuclear arms treaty."
The "villain of the week" direction that Lois & Clark was taking in the first half of the show's second season didn't seem to take, so the producers of the show finally started making more of an effort to get Lois and Clark together... and in this episode, Clark finally asks Lois out on a date, which was a big deal at a time to audiences even before "shipping" was a thing with a quantifiable word to describe it.
This episode also brought Lex Luthor (John Shea) back to the series, and for the first time... he's bald! In many ways, this episode was a game-changer and an indicator of some of the great things that would be coming to the series as Season 2 progressed.
"Tempus Fugitive" (Season 2, Episode 18)
"Hello! Duh! Clark Kent is Superman!"
We've all thought it: How could Lois Lane not realize that Clark Kent minus glaases is Superman? According to Tempus, a rogue time traveler from a "boring" Utopian future, children debated that very notion for centuries, even if Lois Lane was a revered figure in their future.
Without spoiling how this episode ends, it is the first time that Lois finds out the truth about Clark on the series, and it is probably the most realistic reaction that one would expect when someone special has been lying to her all these years.
Lane Davies' performance is great as Tempus, somewhat evoking memories of Doctor Who's Master, and the show would bring him back several times over the course of the next two seasons. Traveling through time in this episode is also a "real-life" H.G. Wells, portrayed by Weekend at Bernie's actor Terry Kiser.
"Whine, Whine, Whine" (Season 2, Episode 21)
"I'm not going to run, Lois. I'm ready to take the next step, if you are."
This episode is memorable not only for the continued progress in evolving the Lois and Clark relationship, but also because of the star power making cameos in this installment, which involves a guitar player who decides to sue Superman after injuring his hand while being rescued.
Needless to say, greed is a foe that Superman isn't that great at fighting, as it is not a physical thing. Guest stars in this episode include Bruce Campbell, Ben Stein, Adam West, Frank Gorshin, Barbara Bosson, and Martin Mull, and there is a lot of meta humor about the current state of the series sprinkled within. Definitely not a "Superman vs. supervillains" show, but absolutely a good watch.
"We Have A Lot To Talk About" (Season 3, Episode 1)
"That is SO unfair! You know I can't fly!"
Also known as "The One Where Lois Really Does Find Out Clark's Secret."
In the Season 2 finale, after barely dating, Clark proposed to Lois... and in the Season 3 premiere, she answered: "Who's asking, Clark... or Superman?" Yes, Lois had finally figured things out, even if it took two years to put it all together, and she's not too happy with being lied to. There is a lot to talk about, but that might have to wait, as Bill Church and Intergang are causing trouble with bombs across Metropolis.
The episode introduces Jessica Collins as occasional villain Mindy Church and features the return of Peter Boyle as Bill Church and Bruce Campbell as his son, Bill Church Jr. (For some reason, the show used the Church family for Intergang rather than Morgan Edge who was known from the comics.) Fans would have to wait a little while for the couple to get engaged, but -- spoiler alert! -- it does happen.
"Tempus, Anyone?" (Season 3, Episode 14)
"If only I lived in a world with no Superman. Oh, wait! Duh! I do!"
This was the calm before the storm, and the frog-eating-clone wedding storyline that permanently derailed the series. "Tempus, Anyone?" is a brilliant opportunity to explore an alternate universe, as Lois is transported to a world where Clark Kent never embraced his Superman side and was engaged to Lana Lang. Meanwhile, returning foe Tempus is running for Mayor of Metropolis against Perry White.
"Tempus, Anyone?" is a great exploration of what the characters mean to each other, and gets Lois in the right headspace to finally marry Clark (or so she thinks.) Lane Davies again shines as Tempus, and Hamilton Camp takes over the role of H.G. Wells, who apparently regenerated somewhere along the line.
"Brutal Youth" (Season 4, Episode 5)
"Well, it's all speculation, you understand, but I think it's safe to say, that long after you and I are dead and gone, Superman will still be in his prime, fighting for truth, justice... "
This one is included more for historical significance rather than being "the best;" it probably wouldn't be fair to include even more Tempus episodes, even though the "Meet John Doe" and "Lois and Clarks" two-parter was definitely superior.
Lois & Clark's fourth season was certainly the weakest, with the producers blaming the decline on the notion that Lois and Clark finally got together and were married in the season's third episode -- a story that involved guardian angels and was more weird than anything else, that led to a story about soul mates that also didn't make much sense. It might not have been the union of the characters -- which, to be fair, was accelerated by the fans feeling burned by a fake wedding the year before -- but the show definitely did stop having fun with the relationship and Clark's secret for the most part, by this point.
"Brutal Youth" was written by Tim Minear, who would later write for many more memorable things, but this episode made our list because it involved Jimmy (by this time played by Justin Whalin) being aged into a much older form... and the older Jimmy was played by the late Jack Larson, who played the role in the original Adventures of Superman! The episode also dealt with some heady subjects as Lois realizes that Clark, whose aging is slower than a normal human's, will likely outlive her -- a theme that will probably be explored in the new Superman: Lois and Clark comic book series.
In the end, Lois & Clark had some great episodes, and some not-so-great episodes, and it's a shame they can't be binged. If you are going to pick and choose, though, these ten might be a great place to begin.