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Al Gough, one of the creators of Smallville, says the following in an interview with Television Without Pity:

It masks the entry of Clark into the atmosphere and also gave us stories every week. How do you build stories out of a small town? Kryptonite. Weird things happen. It's sort of Norman Rockwell and Blue Velvet underneath. It just went from there.

Blue Velvet, eh? You have got to be kidding me, Al, or, more likely, kidding yourself. Don't get me wrong, you've got good taste in hero worship, and that trait is apparently serving you profitably given the motif of Smallville, but David Lynch you are not. Let me see . . . TP first aired 15 years ago and I'm still finding new clues and symbols in it, compared to your show, which has all the nuanced subtlety of an Acme anvil (appropriate, in a way, given the WB presence).

I'll admit that most authors can't resist toying with a little Christ imagery here and there, but even Mel Gibson resisted putting it right on the cover of the DVD. Yeah, yeah, Buffy did it, too, most gratuitously with Spike's scene in the church, but in fairness, 1) Joss had Left the Building by that point and left things in the hands of Marti obNoxious, and 2) James Marsters is a Juilliard-trained actor who has enough talent to make a drek script reasonably palatable.

Still, Al, maybe you need that much hubris to become an executive producer in television these days.

How do I even know this?


Y'see, I really love my husband, and apparently, when it comes to him, I'm an enabler: he keeps tuning in to Smallville, and so, despite my, erm, opinion of the show, I bought him the first three seasons on DVD for Valentine's Day. And I watched it with him, to see what the heck has got him interested.

I'm having fun making fun of it, does that count?

Oh, all right, I'll admit that Lex's character is interesting to a degree, but he's the only one, so far. Show seems to be heading toward being about his fall, which is not quite what I expected, I must admit. Plus, at least Lex has a reason to be a major character, as opposed to S6 and S7 Spike on Buffy. (Sorry, but plot-wise, he was better as salt rather than as the main course, though I know some Marsters 'shippers would disagree with me.)

It's just that the show lacks any symbolism whatsoever, thus far. What you see is what you get. And hey, Martha and Jonathan Kent being the loving parents that they are, wouldn't they move away from someplace totally filled with something that makes their son sick (and makes Villain of the Week characters appear like clockwork)? Just a thought. Not to mention the bit in one where the script clearly states that all the security cameras have been disabled, yet Lex somehow pulls security camera footage from that particular time window out of thin air. Must've been kryptonite, somehow. Plot holes you could drive a Co'Cola truck through, kiddies.

I'd say we're about 2/3rds of the way through the first season right now. I am trying to give the show a fair shake. I really am. I've had so many people try to pimp it to me that it's only just and right to try to be objective about Smallville, aka Dawson's Creek meets DC Comics. However, when the show has characters deliver lines like "Every hero needs a foil," when Lex gives Clark one from his time fencing . . . gee, couldja spell it out IN LARGER TYPE? I think there were a few blind people in the far reaches of outer space who might not have quite gotten it. :/ Even I give the 6th graders of today more credit than that, sheesh.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 14th, 2005 01:26 pm (UTC)
Smallville has its flaws, definitely. I'd suggest that chief among them is that it's based on Superman, the original Man in Tights and the least realistically conceived of the entire pantheon of superheroes. Given that he's an invulnerable flying space alien who nonetheless looks superficially just like us, and by the way becomes totally vulnerable to a single substance in the universe, I think Smallville's creators were clever to take the 'Greatest American Hero' route and make the character vulnerable by making him a teenager. Superman as a fully realized adult just isn't interesting; if you were invulnerable, you'd be able to make uncompromised moral choices, too.

Making Clark a teenager doesn't make him any less the last boy scout, but it does give him some degree of human frailty, which makes the character marginally interesting. The problem is that the human frailty is of the particularly banal sort ordinarily associated with teenage boys.

The main problem with the show, though, is that it's too successful for its own good, forcing the writers never to resolve anything and endlessly play with the interrelationships of the characters, with each new episode being a clean sheet where they seemingly forget the betrayals and mistrust bred in previous episodes. Smallville would have worked as a tight, two-year series, focusing on Clark's growing command of his powers, Lex's descent into evil, and the Moses/Ramses symbology of their relationship.

Unfortunately that doesn't happen. Smallville is ultimately just popcorn entertainment. If you hate it now, just wait 'til season 4 when they introduce the subplot of Lana being possessed by a 16th-century witch. Since you haven't watched that far, I'll leave it as an exercise to determine whether I'm kidding or not :)
Feb. 14th, 2005 03:10 pm (UTC)
Hey now . . .
DC Comics meets Dawson's Creek is exactly why Smallville is good!

I mean, it's not 90210, but really . . . what is? Even the Creek wasn't quite as good as 90210.
Feb. 14th, 2005 08:15 pm (UTC)
Smallville can be great or horrible and it often seems random as to which it will be. The "Freak of the week" episodes get old quick. There are some good ones, but the episodes that tend to be the best are the ones that build on the mythology of Superman. The stuff with the cave, Jor-el, etc are great. The Lex and Lionel heavy episodes are usually really good. The episode with Michael McKean as Perry White was excellent. Etc.

Unfortunately I think a large part of the problem is that Smallville tries to be Buffy played straight. A lot of the episodes have such a bizarre concept and should be played for laughs. A good example is an episode this season which had kryptonite altered gatorade that would cause the football players who drank do the bidding of the cheerleaders who created it. Now I could see something like this happening in Buffy, being so zany and winking at the audience. Unfortunately Smallville plays it straight and it comes off as awkward.

Still, ever once in a while you get some really good episodes. Especially the ones that hint at the future. There's an episode that ends with Lex and Clark in the barn of solitude and they're staring out at the sun and Clark asks Lex if he thinks they'll still be friends as they grow older and Lex says (paraphrased) "Clark, I have a feeling that our relationship will be the stuff that legends are made of." I got a tingle out of that line.
Feb. 14th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
Gosh, you're right. Spot on, in fact: Smallville tries to be BTVS played straight. That's it! Well articulated! I mean it - I'm being sincere. We have Krypton Monster o' de Week, and the show tries to be sincere about it.

One of the bits I liked best was when they had Jonathan hearing the Dukes of Hazzard theme on his truck radio: that was awesome. :) I love self-aware referential stuff like that, but in the interview above, Al worries that it's gone too far. He doesn't seem to get that the genre works best when it has a bit of a sense of humor. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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