Television

Superman Contends With Parenthood and Villainy in New Series

Can the Man of Steel have it all?

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Superman & Lois. The CW Tuesday, February 23, 9 p.m.

I have a damning confession to make. Though I'm a TV critic in an entertainment world rife with superheroes, I haven't laid eyes on Superman—not in a TV show, a movie, a video game, or comic book—in more than 40 years. (And then only because a journalist friend advised me that the movie Superman, with Christopher Reeve, included Daily Planet editor Perry White's explanation of what made Clark Kent such a great reporter: He was "the fastest typist I've ever seen.")

Otherwise, my knowledge of the character is pretty much limited to the old 1950s TV series, which my elementary-schoolkid pals and I watched endlessly in syndication, laughing ourselves into tears as Superman busted such threats to the American way of life as a rogue ventriloquist's dummy, some Haitian voodoo priests and even—egad! —a crooked professional wrestler. We lost interest when we realized Superman was never going to use his X-ray vision to look under Lois Lane's clothes. (We continued to hold out hope for those X-Ray Spex we saw in ads in the back of comic books.)

In the years since, I've missed about 200 Superman movies and TV shows, and that's only counting those that have the word "Superman" in the title—when you start adding  Superboys and Supergirls and Superdogs (seriously), the numbers turn googolesque. I am, generally speaking, unrepentant about this, though I'll confess to an occasional twinge of longing to see Superman and the Mole Men, in which a grungy race of underground creatures wield a death-ray thingy which looked alarmingly like my mom's Electrolux vacuum.

So I wasn't expecting much out of The CW's Superman & Lois, the big guy's latest iteration. Instead, you can color me amazed. The ageless Man of Steel has leapt not over tall buildings at a single bound, but an entire generation. At the cusp of middle age, he's got money problems, sullen teenagers, carping in-laws and a restless wife. For the first time ever, he's getting a taste of the inevitability facing a substantial number of his fans: Getting old is not for wimps.

Not that Superman & Lois isn't planted squarely with The CW's Arrowverse, the shared universe of DC Comics superheroes that the network began building a decade ago with Arrow and now numbers six series. It even features familiar faces in its title roles; Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch have been playing Clark Kent and Lois Lane as recurring characters on CW shows like Supergirl and The Flash for several years.

But in Superman & Lois, they're well past the incognito-superhero-and-suspicious-ingenue-reporter stage. They're married, with twin sons on the verge of starting high school and already fully immersed in the mom-and-dad-bashing ethos of teenage life. "You may have been sent here to be some kind of hero," declares one of the boys to his dad, "but you sure as hell weren't sent here to be a father."

Less brutally, perhaps, but just as pointedly, Lois shares the kids' conviction that Clark is away from home too much, working double-time as a reporter by day and then donning the superhero tights at night. Even his sweet old human mother back in little Smallville joins in the chorus of carping about his late hours. "I do have a responsibility to the world, Mom," wearily replies Clark, just back from stopping the meltdown of a nuclear power plant.

He doesn't mention the latest round of newsroom layoffs at his paper, the Daily Planet, which even with its endless stream of Superman scoops (written by Lois in splendidly blithe disregard for any known code of journalism ethics), faces declining circulation and increasing pressure to produce clickbait crap. Or maybe fake news: "People quit reading that paper because you reporters can't keep your politics to yourselves," snipes one of Clark's friends.

And his worse-for-wear mom says nothing of the troubles in Smallville, an economic moonscape where trailer-park meth labs are the only growth industry and a predatory zillionaire is gobbling up all the foreclosed farms. Like a lot of Americans taking their first steps onto the downhill side of middle age, Clark and Lois feel the melancholia and menace of a world closing in.  "When we were dreaming about having a family," murmurs a forlorn Lois in an unguarded moment, "it didn't look like this, did it?"

To be sure, Superman & Lois is not some do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-Kryptonite wallow in gerontologic despair. It has plenty of conventional superhero plots, all imaginative and well-crafted. (That nuclear power plant mess was no one-off, but the work of a serial melt-downer who appears to have a grudge against Superman.) It's not above having a little straight-faced fun with itself—I loved a scene where Clark super-slaps around a vending machine that refused to turn loose a bag of potato chips. And the acting never turns hacky or camp. In particular, Jordan Elsass (Little Fires Everywhere) and stage actor Alex Garfin as Clark and Lois' kids manage to seem troubled without turning into martyred teenage drama queens.

Overall, the show—or at least its pilot episode, the only one The CW made available—manages the extraordinary feat of appealing to young genre fans as well striking a chord with their parents, even those still wondering if modern technology can't produce a pair of X-Ray Spex that really work. As an embroidered sampler on the Kent family home in Smallville observes, "IT ALL WENT BY SO FAST."

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  1. “when you start adding Superboys and Supergirls and Superdogs (seriously)”

    Don’t forget Streaky the Supercat, Comet the Superhorse, and Beppo the Supermonkey, who along with Krypto the Superdog formed the Legion of Superpets

    Oh yeah, and before he was Superboy, Clark was Superbaby

    The Silver Age was weird

    1. Beppo?!? Wasn’t he found by Sherlock Holmes in The Six Napoleons?

    2. If you’re THAT Kevin Smith, you’d sure know just how weird.

  2. To be honest Lois Lane should have been killed off in the 60’s. And he should have married Wonder Woman. Of all of Super mans love interest she was the better match. But given all the SJW crap that their doing to comic super heroes, I’m just glad he not married to Louis Lane.

    1. Wonder Woman has the wrong initials. Superman’s biggest love interests have always had the initials L. L.

      Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris….

      And as many have pointed out, Lex Luthor could work, too.

    2. The way those CW shows have been going, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their version of Lois was born Louis.

  3. We lost interest when we realized Superman was never going to use his X-ray vision to look under Lois Lane’s clothes.

    Superman was a beta.

    1. this version of Superman is

  4. Isn’t this the 3rd or 4th ‘retelling’ of Superman *on the CW*? The premise on that fact alone is so bad I don’t even have words for it. It’s like new and improved Purina-brand canned ham byproduct.

    1. Though I’m a TV critic in an entertainment world rife with superheroes, I haven’t laid eyes on Superman—not in a TV show, a movie, a video game, or comic book—in more than 40 years.

      Ah! Now the review makes more sense. “I’ve been on a desert island for the past 40 yrs. and this new and improved Purina-brand canned ham byproduct gets my endorsement.”

      Glen, the CW took a ready-made SJW lesbian superheroine and managed to turn out crap that neither straight men nor lesbians would watch. That’s like failing at crack-laced bacon.

  5. Garvin should try Supergirl (which this is spun off of). It is one of the worst shows on television.

    1. Oh, come on. I mean, it’s bad, don’t get me wrong. But there’s stuff out there that’s *vastly* worse.

      Also, I have to admit that I find it hilarious that the president in Supergirl is literally a lizard alien.

      1. Huh. Can’t believe I typed that it was “one of the worst” there. I mean, it is in the running for the worst. The acting is so overwrought. And the signalling, which I can usually take to a point, overwhelms the storytelling. Cryer as Luthor was good, though.

  6. written by Lois in splendidly blithe disregard for any known code of journalism ethics

    Holy contradiction in terms, Batman.

  7. Had a nice discussion with the four year old over which was the better superhero Batman or Superman. He thought Batman. Of course that would be Lego Batman so he might have me there.

    1. Did he provide a rationale? Is it the gadgets?

      1. Lego Batman is a wiseass and awesome at fighting baddies. But mostly he’s a wiseass, which makes him the fun guy compared to the dour omnipotent Lego Superman.

        He’s really amusing.

  8. Clever writing style Mr. Garvin, but I’ll pass on the latest SJW gruel.

  9. Superman’s day job should be being Superman. He could earn way more money and help way more people.

    https://mises.org/library/superman-needs-agent

    1. Right, he only had two reasons for being a reporter:

      1) It got him quick access to news of disasters.

      2) He got to have a human life.

      The internet and having a family would seem to have that solved, he should crush a piece of coal into diamond annually, and concentrate on the super work.

      1. A piece of coal the size of his fit would create a diamond so small it would be worthless. Diamonds are much more dense than coal.

        To create a good diamond that has gemstone value, it would require a ton of coal and a lot of time.

        Rush the process as Superman did in the movie and it will appear lab grown, which I has value only for industrial and experimental use.

  10. With the pandemic people had made their cinemas at home and Netflix gives the wide variety and genres of what you would like to watch in your time , your place whenever and wherever you see fit . Even the celebrity and actors have moved from movies to the Netflix series.
    Lauren German one of the hardworking actress from Hollywood has made her way to the top with widely popular series Lucifer .
    Know more about Lauren German in : https://celebsgraphy.com/lauren-german/

    1. I have versus superman all series I love this universe I also was recently watched Lucifer series inkarmakshetra Online

  11. Lucifer Season 5b is near around the corner to be released as per rumor . After some development in the season of Lucifer . The cast is also completing the shooting of season 6 . The whole series of Lucifer is available now on Netflix since the Fox Broadcasting Company refused to renew the contract after two seasons.
    Lucifer stars Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar,Lauren German as Det. Chloe Decker, D.B. Woodside as Amenadiel, Rachael Harris as Dr. Linda Martin, Kevin Alejandro as Det. Dan Espinoza, Lesley-Ann Brandt as Mazikeen Smith and Aimee Garcia as Ella Lopez.
    Know more about Lauren German in https://celebsgraphy.com/lauren-german/

  12. Actually, you SHOULD watch Superman and the Mole Men. Great movie. Spoiler: The Mole Men weren’t actually villains, the townsfolk were.

  13. More CW garbage.

    Every show of theirs has at least one obligatory Asian, Hispanic, black, homosexual, and native. Some have more of each, but there’s always one each.

    Every show of theirs pushes a social justice woke agenda, with beta males and alpha women. Even their male heroes are wimps that happen to have superpower privilege and awful posture.

  14. Who is Elizabeth Bitsie Tulloch?
    The actress who played Lois Lane is Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch .
    Bitsie Tulloch is an American actress who has been in the Hollywood film industry since 2002 and still active . Bitsie’s original name is Elizabeth Tulloch, born in 1981 January 19 San Diego , California . She got her name as Bitsie from her grandfather, now she introduces herself as Bitsie but hasn’t changed it legally . She has played various role throughout her journey , she is widely famous for two roles she played one is Juliette Silverton and other as Lois Lane in the DC Universe films . The last project she did is Superman and Lois in which she is the main character of the film .

    Know more about Bitsie Tulloch in : https://celebsgraphy.com/bitsie-tulloch/

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