Case Number 10780


Warner Bros. // 1996 // 1002 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // February 7th, 2007

The Charge

"My heart is waiting for me, back on earth." -- Ka-El

Opening Statement

Watching Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman explains where shows like Charmed (possibly even V.I.P. and its ilk) came from. Teri Hatcher isn't the first "Top 100 Sexiest" woman to act like a goofball in a sci-fi fluff fest. But it is easy to connect the dots between Teri Hatcher's ultra-hot, bumbling brunette persona and Alyssa Milano's turn as Phoebe in Charmed. More broadly, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman's success paved the way for the spate of airy, sci-fi-tinged comedies that ruled the late '90s.

Now that we know where Charmed came from, the only remaining question is "Where did Lois & Clark come from?" Because this is one seriously goofy show.

Facts of the Case

After three seasons of "will they, won't they," the fate of Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives) and Clark Kent (Dean Cain) is sealed. They'll tie the knot -- just as soon as rogue Kryptonians and earthly villains give them a few moments of peace. With the knot tied, Lois and Clark make the most of married life -- superhero style -- in these fine episodes:

* "Lord of the Flys"
* "Battleground Earth"
* "Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding"
* "Soul Mates"
* "Brutal Youth"
* "The People vs. Lois Lane"
* "Dead Lois Walking"
* "Bob and Carol and Lois and Clark"
* "Ghosts"
* "Stop the Presses"
* "'Twas the Night Before Mxymas"
* "Lethal Weapon"
* "Sex, Lies and Videotape"
* "Meet John Doe"
* "Lois and Clarks"
* "AKA Superman"
* "Faster Than A Speeding Vixen"
* "Shadow Of A Doubt"
* "Voice From The Past"
* "I've Got You Under My Skin"
* "Toy Story"
* "The Family Hour"

The Evidence

Through random fluctuations of fate, I've recently reviewed the final seasons of a few sci-fi-ish shows with central romances between main characters: La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fifth Season, Forever Knight: The Trilogy: Part Three, and now Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: The Complete Fourth Season. One of those shows (spoilers follow for all shows involved, by the way!) ended with a satisfying, ambiguous ending where the romantic tension was still going strong. One of them ended with everybody dying -- a less satisfying, yet still respectable, conclusion. And this show ends most awkwardly of all: with an early marriage, a season's worth of anticlimactic domesticity, and a final twist that should have been a lead-in to Season Five -- but unfortunately caps off the whole series.

When at its best, Lois & Clark evokes the vibe from the Radio Shack commercials featuring Teri Hatcher and Howie Long. This is no coincidence, nor is it an insult. Teri and Howie had the powerful, unforced chemistry of two attractive people together in a close, non-threatening environment. Neither had to really act; they simply had to flirt capably enough to enthrall millions of viewers. The blueprint for this chemistry is Teri and Dean in Lois & Clark.

Dean Cain shares more than Howie's good looks and a comely co-star. Dean was also a pro-caliber athlete destined for the Buffalo Bills before injury took him the Hollywood route instead. And when it comes to primal chemistry, it is hard to beat the combination of Teri's fiery brown eyes and good looks with a model-quality football player.

The chemistry between Hatcher and Cain has always been the show's strong point. Previous seasons capitalized on heavy anticipation of their romantic relationship. With the question settled, Lois & Clark had to find a new source of tension, and a good one never materialized.

The writers make a valiant effort with the two-part season opening, where Clark is pulled away from Earth to rule his people. Naturally, rogue Lords threaten Earth with annihilation in Clark's absence. The problem with this direction (aside from egregiously wooden acting, especially from Justine Bateman) is that it dramatically alters the basic format of the show. It's obvious that no one was sure where to take this new threat: in the space of a few minutes, Clark is almost killed three times and miraculously saved. Lois and his parents are threatened with death and miraculously saved. The integrity of Clark's throne is threatened and miraculously saved. There wasn't much else in between these miraculous saves.

The following episodes are like a balloon that has had most of the air drained out of it. Teri and Dean do their damnest to make it work, and recapture moments that remind us of the first three seasons. There are also great moments of the show's trademark humor. Best of all, the amazing supporting cast (including Lane Smith, Eddie Jones, and K Callan) is in top form. But none of these factors outweighs the formlessness of the season. Like Charlie in High Fidelity, I was hoping for something a little...sunnier. Sparkier.

Oddly enough, the final episode was the most enjoyable in the set, despite its utter failing as a series ender. Harry Anderson (perhaps best known as Judge Harry Stone on Night Court) uses his trademark melancholy and impeccable comedic timing to craft one of the show's most outrageous villains. Dr. Klaus 'Fat Head' Mensa has an impressively large head, along with telekinetic powers, a criminal mind, and a huge chip on his shoulder. Anderson is an absolute hoot and steals the show from the main plot where Lois and Clark are trying to get pregnant.

The people involved in this series are great. The characters are great. The goofy vibe is periodically intact. There simply isn't enough substance to replace the romantic tension that dissipated with the words "I do."

Warner Bros. only provides one extra, but it's well worth it for fans of Superman: an annotated timeline of the character, with video clips, photos, summaries, and an interactive host in the form of Dean Cain. It was well worth digging through, even if it doesn't go particularly deep. The video shows signs of age because CGI was used heavily. It has a retro feel that makes the show seem older than it really is. Audio is up to snuff.

Closing Statement

Lois & Clark took a big risk when it focused on the romantic angle between our favorite superhero and his lady friend. It took an even bigger risk in playing the show for goofy laughs instead of the noble, chest-thrusting dignity that the franchise is known for. The risks paid off and led to a likable, trend-setting show. But Lois & Clark was cancelled for a reason, and that reason is Season Four's lack of spark.

The Verdict

Is it better to burn out or fade away?

Review content copyright © 2007 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 92
Extras: 55
Acting: 75
Story: 60
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 1002 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Kryptonian Kronology: Dean Cain hosts an interactive history of the Superman timeline

* IMDb

* DVD Verdict review of Season One

* DVD Verdict review of Season Two