Monday, May 16, 2011


These are my O'Bservations about the series finale of 'Smallville', so fair warning - there will be spoilers......

I have to start out this post with a confession: I never watched 'Smallville' on a regular basis. Part of that has to do with my Toobworld bias - once I've written about why a particular show can't be part of Earth Prime-Time, I generally lose interest in it. (Major exceptions have been 'The West Wing', '30 Rock', 'Castle', 'Human Target' and 'Brothers & Sisters' - not that it should be a problem anymore with those last two....)

I only checked in with 'Smallville' on special occasions - like certain plotlines (the death of Jonathan Kent) or when there were special guest stars like Christopher Reeve and Dan Lauria (with whom I went to college). But especially I'd record an episode when another aspect from DC Comics was adapted for TV.

'Smallville' can't be part of Toobworld proper because Earth Prime-Time already had its Superman back in the 1950's, as seen in 'The Adventures Of Superman'. (And if you haven't heard me say this before, he died in the early 1960's because he saved the lives of two petty crooks between seasons of 'Crime Story'.)

I've had to banish plenty of shows to alternate dimensions for similar reasons, but rarely do I regret it. (I like populating those other TV dimensions.) 'Smallville' is one of the exceptions.

Look at all the material adapted from DC Comics:
The Justice League of America, The Justice Society of America, Kandor

The Legion of Super-Heroes, The Phantom Zone, The Fortress of Solitude

Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, General Zod, Green Arrow, Zatanna

The Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Brainiac, Hawkman, Doctor Fate

The Sandman, The Star-Spangled Kid, Black Canary, Cyborg, Stargirl

Supergirl, Booster Gold, and Impulse (that world's version of the Flash)

And as I said, I didn't watch on a regular basis, so I may have missed plenty!

You got none of that in 'The Adventures Of Superman'. At best, there was the origin story of Krypton with Jor-El and Lara, plus supporting players Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen from the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Otherwise, unless there was some crackpot scientist with a weird invention or the occasional Mole Man (more on them in the next post), the Superman of Earth Prime-Time faced nothing more dangerous than low-rent hoodlums. (And as Robert Wuhl pointed out in his HBO special, Superman would duck when the gangsters threw their empty guns at him!)

So 'Smallville' would have been a bonanza for the Toobworld concept.

The Superman mythos is so ingrained into our national psyche that someone with even less familiarity with the series than me could have just watched the finale and been able to follow along. (Of course, the extended "Previously on....." clips helped.)

I was sort of lost with those final moments between Tess and Lex, however. And I felt her death was unnecessary. Still, it was interesting to see the fallout from whatever that toxin was which used to infect her brother - in seven years a squeaky clean Lex Luthor would be President of the United States in that alternate TV dimension.

At the end of the present timeline, the avatar of Jor-El (and the ghost of Jonathan Kent, I guess) deemed their son ready to step into the public eye as the defender of Earth. They gave Kal-El the uniform to wear that would mark him as such, the blue tights, the red cape and the big red "S" insignia splayed across the chest.

Unfortunately, we only got to see the full effect mostly in long-shot. (For alls I could tell, Tom Welling was nothing more than a CGI cartoon at that distance.) But again, our knowledge of Superman can fill in the blanks to cover that seven year gap until we see Lois and Clark again in 2018.
And what a kicker that final minute of the series was!  As Clark raced up the stairs to the roof of the Daily Planet building, the classic John Williams theme music from the 1978 film swelled, and as always happens for me, I got verklempt (as Linda Richman would say) to hear it again.

Best of all for me as a televisiologist, the two-hour finale teased us with the news that the President was in Metropolis. We heard him on the radio; we got updates on his motorcade; and when he finally appeared on Air Force One, we got the classic shot like they used to do in the old days - just part of his body that wouldn't identify him as being any particular man.

Therefore, my theory that 'Smallville' took place in 'The West Wing' TV dimension was safe. This wasn't Obama; but it could have been Matt Santos, and the difference in vocal quality could always be attributed to seasonal allergies.

One last point I'd like to bring up. Throughout the decade of the show, the imminent demise of Chloe Sullivan was always being trumpeted and/or stressed over by the fanbase on the Internet. The producers took care of that worry with the opening sequence - set at least a few years beyond 2018, Chloe is seen reading a "Smallville" comic book to her six year old son. (I'm guessing six, based on the age of my youngest nephew in comparison.) So right away we knew Chloe was going to make it out of the series okay.

Okay, one last trivial note - I loved that Michael McKean came back as Perry White, but was only a vocal cameo near the end.

Series finales are tricky; they never seem to please everybody. (Just ask the good folks from 'Lost'.....) But I think that with a property so firmly established in our hearts and minds, 'Smallville' largely succeeded.

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