Smallville (2001)
The Complete First Season
Main cast: Tom Welling (Clark Kent), Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang), Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor), Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan), Sam Jones III (Pete Ross), Eric Johnson (Whitney Fordman), John Glover (Lionel Luthor), Annette O'Toole (Martha Kent), and John Schneider (Jonathan Kent)
Created by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar

Smallville is a really lousy TV show. Let's get that clear. It is littered with horrible dialogues, non-existant continuity, really stupid villains, and there are too many conveniently placed kryptonites to make our Clark Kent weak at pivotal moments. Just like how Ultraman's stupid chest thing starts to bleep when he's going to win (only they tell us in badly-dubbed voiceover that the Earth's atmosphere - or something - is weakening Ultraman, ooh), when Clark Kent starts getting kryptonitey vericose veins on his hands, you know he's going to win and the show will end in, oh, ten minutes.

Lana Lang is still as dull as ever even by the second season as we speak, with Kristen Kreuk improving only by varying the speed of her lines a little bit faster. Tom Welling is still a barely passable actor, saved only by the script actually giving Clark Kent good lines (see below). The TV show is still laboring that Welling and Kreuk have chemistry when Welling and Allison Mack, who plays Chloe, have enough chemistry to detonate nuclear warheads. Of course, the real chemistry is between Welling and the delicious Michael Rosenbaum, who plays Lex Luthor.

But somehow, despite having what is arguably the worst scripts ever, hubby and I tune in faithfully to Smallville every week during the first season. We aren't Superman fans. If truth be told, this show is simply the gayest show ever, surpassing even Star Trek in the slash quotient. Lex Luthor and Clark Kent's interactions in this show are simply screaming for a marriage to formalize their love story, while Chloe and Lana aren't above emanating lesboerotic tensions. Hubby can dream of Lana and Chloe getting it on, I can dream of Lex and Clark getting it on. Now that's democracy. Smallville has corrupted two innocent fuddy-wuddy senior citizens and it's all their fault, not ours. Kids, if you're reading this, your Mommy and Daddy are helpless thralls in face of the Slash Goodness Onslaught that is Smallville.

But let's be a (little bit) more serious. Smallville may have crap plots, but it humanizes Clark Kent and Lex Luthor better than any DC comic ever could. This show goes one better than DC - it portrays Clark Kent as a teenage boy with barely concealed psychotic behavior, stalker tendencies, and obsessive compulsions. Frankly, if you ask me, this show makes Clark Kent a dark, brooding romantic hero, and I'm sold. Tom Welling is still too pretty to be Clark Kent if you ask me, but I may be biased in that I saw his pictures in the Abercrombie and Fitch catalogues and "androgyny" becomes an ugly word when it comes to Welling wearing mascara and a jockstrap.

I love this Clark Kent. I love this Kent who stalks Lana, spying into her room with his telescope from the barn (the show doesn't exactly show what Kent is doing, ahem, as he is peeping into the telescope). This is the same Kent who tears into walls and goes on a near-murderous rampage when his loved ones are threatened. And the Kent who blurts out "I don't want to be alone!" or "I will never let anyone hurt you!" - so bluntly, so simply, so matter-of-factedly, in a childlike honesty - this is a Kent who, underneath his obedient son facade, can be very dangerous when provoked. Lonely, terrified that his powers would alienate him from everyone he wants so badly to be close to, this Kent would do anything to ensure that he will remain "normal". If the DC comics portray Kent as a dull white-bread superhero, Smallville imbues Kent with a teenager's flexible morals and unpredictability to create a Heathcliffian hero in the making.

Also, for a superhero in the making, teenager Kent is refreshingly normal. When his parents are away, he throws a party in an attempt to remain cool. Yet at the same time he is so cute in his insecurities regarding Lang and even cuter in his gloriously slashy relationship with Luthor - Kent is simultaneously an outcast as well as a kid who could easily be the coolest one in the crowd. What this show does well in bringing out the darker aspects of Kent that clearly explains why he is an outsider. There is one episode, I can't remember which, that ends with a scene of Kent standing in the middle of the school hallway, surrounded by his peers that at the same time stay clear of coming too close to him. And there was Kent, looking at Lana's back (she is walking away from him, towards the audience). Welling may be an uneven actor, but he is excellent in that his expressionless one-note acting can easily be reinterpreted as shell-shocked resignation. So yeah, in this case, the scene is haunting. Kent is alone, his face suggests that he knows it, and while he is terrified of being alone, he is fighting an inner struggle to control this urge to abuse his powers to make people like him.

And I wonder, how did Kent become this complex and wonderful? In a TV show littered with laughable villains and ridiculous plots burdened with contrivances no respectable scriptwriter will even touch?

Kristen Kreuk is a lousy actress, and Welling is only slightly better, but how could their tiny little moments make me feel like tearing up inside? How can two horrible actors make their scenes resonate with so much delightfully adolescent romantic idealisms?

I don't know, but I suspect the scriptwriters have somehow, by serendipity or by genius, hit upon the perfect formula. By making Kent a conondrum of a multifaceted geek/angst-ridden teen, they turn him into a beautifully James Deanesque hero with scruples. They turn one of the most irritating female characters on TV - Lana is only less annoying than Phoebe Halliwell of Charmed - into a symbol of Kent's desperate search for normalcy.

They gave Luthor a beautiful, tender side - he is a mean baddie, but he cares for Kent in his own way. Luthor and Kent are in love. I mean, come on, how many times can one watch how Luthor will wait at the restaurant only to run out when Kent walks past, just to ask Kent if he can help Kent in any way, before muttering "Oh just get married already!" How do you explain Kent's unreasonably extreme jealousies at Luthor's lady? Or how they bitch and moan about unreasonable daddies together and their faces were so close they could - should - have just kissed? The Great Homoerotica has slashed Smallville to shreds, and it's glorious how each Kent/Luthor camaraderie and exchanges can be interpreted as innuendos or Spartacus-like courtship between two closeted drama queens?

Whatever it is, however bad it is that sometimes the plots have me rolling on the floor laughing, I love this show. It's horrible, it's cheesey, but damn, I find it painfully romantic. John Hughes will be proud. Somehow the writers of Smallville have studied his brand of teen angst melodrama and turn it into a weekly hour of prime entertainment for me.

If bad TV can be pure guilty pleasure, Smallville is its proof. I could of course suggest ways to improve this show. For one, if we cannot have a Luthor/Kent coupling, Kent/Chloe makes a far more watchable couple than Kent/Lana. Bo Hazard, I mean, Pappa Kent must die or shut up. Mama Kent can stay - Mr Giggles thinks she's the hottest momma ever. The convenient kryptonite crystals or Kryponite as the Root of All Mutations crap has to die a swift death now. They should give Doris Egan, who wrote some of the best Dark Angel episodes and is now making Smallville just as good, a raise or blackball her into staying with this show as long as possible. And more Whitney! Eric Johnson is hot on the eyes!

But I do wonder - why improve the show when the show is so good at being bad?

Smallville - there's nothing puny about this show. Take me flying, Clark Kent. To quote Alisha's Attic from their fab song The Air We Breathe, "So take me in your right hand and we'll fly away Superman style - it feels so good, I'll never look back." You bet I won't.

Rating: 88

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