Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Brutal Youth”/”The People v. Lois Lane”
Chris: Man, I don’t understand TV. I know that here at the Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie home office we’re supposed to be experts in the field. Why else would anyone possibly want to read about a 25 year old show that no one liked in the first place? The only way any of this makes sense is if we’re providing crucial context and insightful commentary that better illuminates our relationship as individuals to what is arguably the most significant invention of the twentieth century, television. Otherwise this is just a giant jerk-off and an enormous waste of everyone’s time. But even I, probably the smartest person anyone reading these words knows, am still sometimes baffled by its ebbs and flows. Our last two episodes covered, “Swear to God, This Time We Aren’t Kidding” and especially “Soul Mates” were among the worst episodes of L&C that we’ve yet seen. They were lazily written, indifferently performed affairs that seemed more interested in running out the clock on a doomed show than actually, you know, making anything interesting. But the next episode, the first we’re covering today, is pretty decent. As usual, the L&C curve applies, but still.
So in “Brutal Youth” we pick up with our heroes as they’re basking in a post-coital haze. Apparently they spent their entire honeymoon fucking and never even left the apartment, to say nothing of all the way to Hawaii. That seems like the understandable result of staying a virgin for thirty odd years, but I hope they were able to get whatever deposits they may have made in Hawaii back. Airline tickets were easier to fuck around with before 9.11, but I bet those Honeymoon Sweets in Maui are booked months in advance, and the money they put down might just be gone. That doesn’t really have anything to do with anything except to say that the wedding and honeymoon are finally in the rearview mirror and it’s time to address what’s next, namely, the rest of their lives together. But one of them is going to live a lot longer than the other, and the realization that she’s going to age and die while her husband stays basically the same age hits Lois like a ton of bricks. Sure Clark loves her when she looks like a 1996 Teri Hatcher (minus the haircut, what is it with this show and bad haircuts for Teri Hatcher?), but will he feel the same way in the far off year of, say, 2023, when she’s 58 and has maybe pooped out a couple of super babies? Getting older is hard enough on its own, getting older while your partner stays the same age sounds like torture.
“Piece of shit isn’t an organ donor! I’m glad he aged to death.”
This all comes up because there’s a new villain in town, and whoever they are, they’re causing rapid aging and death in their victims. The villain is actually two villains this time, Dr. Vita Duetsen and Connor Schenk, Scehnk is a geriatric bank robber who is broken out of prison by Dr. Vita so he can tell her where he stashed all his loot before being sent to the hoosegow. See, the doc has been working on a machine that restores a person’s youth, but so far the effect is only temporary. Also it works by draining the youth out of a younger person and replenishing the older one, which causes them to age and die in a matter of days. But that’s whatever. She needs Schenk’s riches to further her R&D on the machine so as to make the transformation permanent, and in return she’ll young him up for good. Their first victim turns out to be a friend of Jimmy’s, and when Jimmy investigates, he ends up a prematurely geriatric too. Now Lois and Clark and Superman (who, remember, is Clark Kent’s alter ego) need to find the villains and find a cure before Jimmy goes the way of all things. Man, just the description of the plot is more interesting than anything they did in the previous four episodes combined.
Ronnie: I don’t know if you noticed, Chris, but Old Jimmy was portrayed by Jack Larson, who of course was Jimmy on the old George Reeves show. Superman shows love this kind of stunt casting and I’ll admit it works to a degree here. It’s much better than Smallville’s approach, which was to jam everyone in with less and less subtlety, to the point that I’m pretty sure Teri Hatcher played Lois’ mom on some video tapes. Remember that time Lois & Clark straight up adapted an episode of Adventures of Superman? That was weird. Anyway, “Brutal Youth” is a step up from the previous two episodes, because it would have to be. Eventually you hit rock bottom.
That’s not to say it’s brilliant television. Normal people are turning into the elderly, one of whom accosts the gang at the Planet, asking for Jimmy’s help. He’s Jimmy’s heretofore unmentioned buddy Benny, who dies on the spot. Olsen naturally wants the story, but Perry chides him for being too young for it. Our boy hero isn’t dissuaded, however; he does some journalismisming of his own by checking the deceased’s wallet. I like how Benny has a card for the pizza place at which he is a delivery driver. Do you think he wielded it like a business card? Now I’m thinking of that scene in American Psycho. “Hm, his pizza mascot is a French stereotype. Very nice.” Anyway, Jimmy impersonates his dead friend and ends up getting his youth whammied out of him. Good job, cub reporter.
Look, you throw around some desk lamps and some microscopes and anybody can become a scientist.
One of the subplots for “Brutal Youth” is Lois and Clark decide they ought to find a place of their own rather than move into either of their apartments. I appreciated this because it does suggest they’re an actual couple, though it’s pretty insane it didn’t come up before they were married. Then again, this show doesn’t seem to understand how actual human relationships work, much less ones in 1996, so I shouldn’t criticize too much. Otherwise the show is kinda weak, although strong relative to what came before. Like, the villain’s whole motivation for studying youth is that her husband left her for a younger woman. Come on. Can’t a woman do something without being motivated by something a man did?
Chris: Let me stand up for the villain a little here. I like it when the A and B plots of shows are thematically connected, and the lady being mad that her husband left her for a younger woman was an obvious literalization of Lois’s fear of abandonment and her fear of her obsession with that abandonment. Like, the Doc was a super successful and renown lady until her husband dumped her, causing her to collapse into herself. Lois used to be an extremely successful solo act, and now that she’s part of a duo she’s worried that she’ll no longer be able to stand on her own two feet. I think that’s pretty solid. And compared with The Wedding Smasher, and Whatever Tempus Was Doing Last Time, she’s basically Ledger’s Joker. I dunno, maybe I’ve developed some kind of Stockholm Syndrome or PTSD after the last few episodes, but if the rest of the show performs at this level I will be perfectly satisfied.
“Did you know… I was the life partner… of the guy who wrote The China Syndrome?”
I do however agree with you on getting the house together. L&C has the magical quality of making the most obvious steps in a relationship feel forced and poorly thought out, so it makes sense that they would realize they should probably live in the same place together, go house hunting, and buy a home in what seems like about three days.To be fair, that’s how TV often worked back then, if Kelly and Donna decided they wanted to open a store up at the beginning of one episode of Beverly Hills 90210 then by god it will be up and running by the end. Of course I’m referring here to season 9 Episode 4 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” wherein Kelly, still reeling from her wedding to Brandon being canceled at pretty much the last second, decides to become a business woman because why not. So she asks her best friend and village idiot Donna to go in on a fashion boutique with her. And you know Donna, she’s never got anything going on, so she never stops to question why a “modeling assistant” and psychology major would succeed at running a business (again, not that bright), so she agrees right away. As it happens, the storefront they lease for the is right below the office of hunky lawyer and new-to-the-show-character Matt Durning. Well, I don’t have to tell you that sparks fly pretty much immediately between the despondent Kelly and her sexy new neighbor, but she has to wonder if it’s maybe too soon to get back into the dating world and… I feel like I’ve gotten off track here. Where was I? Oh yeah, the house. It’s fine I guess.
Ronnie: It just smacks of misplaced priorities. Instead of Lois being cursed with something that will kill her if she has sex they could frontload the season with matters such as “where are they going to live”; I guess I am asking for more slice of life relationship material than sci-fi nonsense that’s off the wall with magic robots; the show does that marginally better. For instance, Lois’ fear of Clark not aging maybe goes on a bit too long and maybe it’s something that should’ve come up in the midst of their dating relationship, but it’s overall good stuff. It is an issue for them. What will Clark do after Lois grows old and eventually passes away? If the comics are any indication, he goes and fucks Wonder Woman. I love how their in-universe relationship basically exists because she’s an immortal-ish woman and he’s an immortal-ish man. So they do it like they do on the Discovery Channel, and that’s how Kingdom Come happens.
Odds & Ends
-Perry and Alice spent their honeymoon in Graceland. I love hearing about Perry’s shitty marriage.
-Jimmy gets his first byline in the newspaper. It’s about library hours, which seems about right for Jimmy.
-I hope all of Jimmy’s friends’ names end with the Y sound. Jimmy, Benny, Tommy, Danny, Fonzie, Spanky, Alfalfey…
Return of the Seinfeld Alum Tracker: Young Connor Schenk is played by John D’Aquino, AKA Todd Gack, the guy who tricked Elaine into dating him by betting her a dinner that Dustin Hoffman was in Star Wars and trades up for the Beautiful Godzilla when he bets her that the M in Richard M Nixon’s name stood for Mo.
Chris: And just like that, Lois & Clark’s streak of episodes that don’t trigger a spiral into panic and despair over what’s become of my life stretches all the way to two. “The People v. Lois Lane” is another episode that eschews the kind of over ambitious, high concept, plotting that gummed up the works earlier in the season along with the endless turgid romantic bullshit that drug the end of season three to a grinding halt. It’s not great (I just feel like I’m going to be making this qualification for the rest of the series), and it’s not something I personally would have watched in 1996 (you can tell because I didn’t), but it’s a perfectly cromulent episode of mediocre mid-90’s television as far as these things go (otherwise known as a Lois & Clark Rave).
So in “The People v. Lois Lane” Lois is reasonably effectively framed for murder in that she’s holding a gun that fires a bullet into the person she’s standing in front of and killing him while the whole thing is caught on video tape. She’s innocent of the crime of course, the gun having been rigged to fire remotely and the woman recording the shooting being a carefully placed plant, but they can’t prove any of that and the guy who got shot was an old snitch of Lois’s who purposely burned her years ago, damaging her reputation. I do feel like at this point it should be SOP for the Metropolis criminal justice system to hold off prosecuting anyone who works at the Daily Planet, because if any of them ever appear to have done anything wrong it almost always turns out to be a frame, or a robot duplicate, or clone, or possession by evil amulet, or, or, or, into infinity. But in this case I can see why the Metropolis DA thought he had an open and shut case. He doesn’t of course, he’s going to end up falling flat on his ass in public like he always does when he goes after a Daily Planet employee, but I can see how he thought this time would be different.
“All I did was try to get my kid into a good college!”
The real culprits are an embittered professor who was sent to prison because of Lois’s reporting years ago, and his sidekick, a guy who went to the same adult learning annex as Martha Kent back in season two and so can make undetectable, lifelike, hard light holograms. It will come to no surprise to hear that none of the characters, the snitch, professor, guy from Martha’s class, have ever appeared or been mentioned on the show before, but that pretty much goes without saying. Oh sure, L&C had a snitch character that showed up a half-dozen times in the first two seasons, and having him be Lois’s victim would probably resonate more than some random character from the distant past. And god knows there are plenty of one shot science villains they could have brought back to be the aggrieved mastermind. But whatever, Lois & Clark doesn’t have time to consider piddling details like that, they’re too busy making sure the framing in the courtroom scenes is tight enough to hide the fact that they couldn’t afford any extras to fill in the backgrounds. But those are the kinds of cheap tactics that are more amusing than irritating, it’s a case of the creatives doing the best with what they’ve got and putting together a relatively coherent story that moves efficiently from scene to scene and never does anything obnoxious enough to infuriate you. It’s also the first part of a two parter, and it uses the extra time to let the story expand and breathe in ways the extra characters, dumb-ass exposition, and paltry attempts at scope hamstrung the serialized episodes from earlier in the season.
“Hey, Ninja Turtles! Keep it down!”
Ronnie: Full disclosure: I ate an edible about 10 minutes before I watched this episode, so if you want to be sure what happened actually happened in television, consult Chris’ paragraphs. This is about Lois going to prison for pretend murdering a guy. Along the way crockpots are insulted and so are social workers. Lois trusts the justice system but becomes disenchanted pretty quickly. Clark is steadfast in his belief that his wife is not guilty. The mastermind of the plan is the professor, who does the Norm Macdonald thing of always going “note to self”, only it’s not as funny as in Dirty Work. He also has access to “the hallucinator”, which causes you to see butterflies. To say I was not prepared for “The People v. Lois Lane” is an understatement.
Superman puts his thumb on the scale by having the press ambush the DA and solicit a personal favor out of him, that Lois is released of her own recognizance so long as Superman ensures she does not skip town. Look, do you do this for every accused journalist or just the ones you’re banging? Steve Lombard is a skeleton in prison for refusing to divulge a source for a story. The DA…I can’t imagine him going through with it, because think of papers competing with the Planet. “DA RELEASES MURDERER BECAUSE GUY IN STRONGMAN TRUNKS ASKS HIM” He’d never live it down. Overall it’s pretty funny to me that Lois & Clark is trying to be a crime procedural, throwing around terms like “grand jury” like it’s nothing. It’s like a donkey trying on swimming trunks; you’re just amazed by the sight of it. Like, this show already poorly manages being within the nascent superhero show genre. Once it becomes Dumbass Wiseguy it becomes too much to tolerate.
Spontaneously appearing butterflies is dirty pool for a man consuming drugs.
Chris:I dunno, I’m standing behind the DA taking Superman’s word for something. Like I said, I think it was a mistake to bring charges against Lois to begin with. He should just assume things aren’t what they seem and go back to prosecuting black men for having a few marijuana seeds embedded in the souls of their shoes to the fullest extent of the law. Gottta keep those streets safe! At least Lois appears to be in the largest, cleanest prison cell I can ever remember seeing. She also is allowed random visits from Superman at what seems like any hour of the day. He keeps not-so-subtly intimating that he’ll bust her the fuck out the moment she gives him the okay. But she demures, choosing to trust in the system and goes back to doing push-ups. Seriously. Jailhouse pushups. I’m hoping the next episode opens with tight closeups on the muscles and giant tattoo of a crucifix with the scales of justice hanging off either side of the cross-piece on Lois’s back as she goes through her daily calisthenics routine. Later she could come-on to Jimmy by saying “Maybe I’m the big bad cheetah (cause it’d be fun Wonder Woman reference),” and shoving her thumb in his mouth.
If you’re wondering if anyone notices that Superman seems to be extremely invested in the fate of a married woman, maybe to the point of panic, someone does. The DA calls Superman to the stand despite him being nowhere near the crime scene at the time of the incident, and having no real evidence to offer either way, and asks him if he’s in love with Lois. I’m not sure what the dictionary definition of prosecutorial misconduct is, but calling someone to testify just to find out if he likes the defendant or like likes her, seems like a pretty big waste of taxpayer money. But anyway, Superman is in kind of a pickle now because he swore to tell the truth, and since no one on the defense objected to the question on the grounds of its relevance to a murder trial, he’s duty bound to tell the truth. Fortunately, Superman’s super brain goes into overdrive and comes up with a super solution, he looks at the DA and says, “I can honestly say that Clark Kent loves Lois Lane.” Well played, Clark, well played.
Ronnie: I feel like it’s too late to do this storyline. Like, we all know Lois isn’t guilty, but we super super know it when it’s Season 4 and they just got married a few weeks ago. It stinks of fearing writing them together so the writers find the easiest opportunity to separate them as early as possible. What’s next, Clark has jury duty? Lois goes to Kosovo for some war tourism? The way Lois & Clark goes about it, the writers appear terrified of the titular couple showing physical or emotional intimacy for a sustained period. I know if you go wrong it ends up being the “Schmoopie” subplot from Seinfeld, but it’s literally a program about a married couple. Making them sexless entities who go in on the rent together doesn’t cut it anymore.
The Honorable Judge Guy I Thought Played Boon In Animal House But Didn’t Actually Presiding
If you ARE going to do this storyline, you could do it a lot worse. It could be better, but it also could be worse is what I’m trying to say. Like, we already hit the nadir of the series the last couple weeks. At least Lois won’t die from some sort of virus if she has sex. Hatcher plays Lois’ arc as a woman wrongfully condemned well; her acting talent shines through the material. I suppose I should also credit Lois & Clark for engaging in serialized storytelling at all. Why not, I’m feeling generous today. Anyway, I think we’ll wrap up now because if I have more to say about this arc it’s incumbent on how the second episode pans out. In addition to that conclusion, next time we’ll also experience something very special: an episode with a title that has the same basis as our article series. That’s right, prepare yourselves for “Bob and Carol and Lois and Clark”! It features Deathstroke…in a fashion you’ll never be able to predict. Trust me.
Odds & Ends
-“My mother spanked me when I pointed a water pistol at my sister” – Lucy Lane confirmed again and also Lois was subject to corporal punishment and NOT from her robot banging creep dad. -Speaking of the Lane parents, they’re “on a safari”, which is not a euphemism.
-Professor Cole calls him “Super-pain-in-the-butt”. Got him