Best Postmodern Show Ever

Clark Kent and Lois Lane meet
Well, maybe Arrested Development is the best postmodern show ever (and Boston Legal would be up there, too), but Smallville, my latest television obsession, is probably the second.

I’ve been plowing through the show for about two months now, and have reached the season four premier. I’ve been meaning to post about the postmodern, self-reflexive greatness for a while, but nothing has compelled me more than this episode.

For those not aware, Smallville basically goes back to the origins of Superman and follows Clark Kent growing up in Smallville, Kansas. The show is set in contemporary times so it’s not like some ’50s or ’70s version of Superman-as-a-kid.

I myself am not a huge Superman fan (when it comes to comic heroes/stories, I prefer Batman and X-Men), so I was reluctant to start the show… but after the urging of a couple of friends, I took the plunge. And now, obviously, I’m quite hooked.

From a television entertainment standpoint, I like the way the show is serialized (like Lost) and not many weekly stand-alone episodes. The first season was “monster of the week” (a la old X-Files episodes), but once season two came around the show did a great job of incorporating those MOTW stories with the overarching mythology of the show.

What I really love about the show, though, is all the little references and allusions it makes to other pop culture incarnations of Superman. Some of my favorites (in a quick, incomplete list):

  • Lex Luthor telling Clark, “Our friendship is going to be the stuff of legend.”
  • Casting Annette O’Toole to play Clark’s mom. She played Lana Lang in Superman 3
  • Casting Christopher Reeve to play the mysterious Dr. Swann. He, of course, is the most well-known actor of Superman.
  • In “Crusade” (the season four premier) the pilots of a plane notice the approaching and now-flying Superman and one says, “Is it a bird?” while the other says, “Is it a plane?” in reference to “It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s Superman!”

There are tons others and I probably should’ve kept a list, but oh well… you get the idea.

One of my favorites, however, is the fact that in “Crusade” (the aforementioned season four premier), Margot Kidder (the most well-known actress to play Lois Lane) appears in the same episode that we are introduced to the Smallville version of Lois Lane. So basically the episode is an all-around Lois Lane fest.

Another thing I love about Smallville is the tension that I felt when I started watching the show and saw that Clark was friends with Lex Luthor and Clark’s main romantic interest is Lana Lang. I say “tension” because ever since I started watching, I’ve been waiting to see when Lex and Clark have their falling-out and when we’d meet Lois Lane, who we all know becomes Clark’s primary love interest for most of the Superman mythology. It’s an interesting way to do the show, since we all know what happens in the end, but it’s all the details in the beginning and the middle that are murky, and I think the creators/people who make the show do an awesome job teasing that tension out.

So all-in-all, I’m delightedly surprised at how much I am loving Smallville. My only concern now is that I’m almost on season five, and that’s the last season available on DVD now, which means I’m almost all caught-up. I’m gonna have to start thinking of new sci-fi television shows to fill the void that I’m still trying to fill that was left by X-Files and Buffy.

One thought on “Best Postmodern Show Ever

  1. I bet your next one aside from the rest, i.e. Battle Star Galactaca, etc. will be the new Bionic Woman. Cynborg, nanites, and fembots (Starbuck from Galactaca). What more can you ask! I think those of us who prefere to be house bound have a lot of adventures ahead, above, and beyond.

    There’s my $.02

    ~P

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