Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Contact”/”When Irish Eyes Are Killing”

Ronnie: Welcome back to Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie, what I figure must be the only weekly column that devotes upwards of 4000 words on a superhero show from 25 years ago. We’re well over the halfway point of the series Lois & Clark, so with it I think we have to recognize that this is it. This is the show. It may change a bit, but it won’t change a lot. Lois and Clark’s relationship will ebb and flow, but basically every episode is them investigating someone or something with minimal involvement from Superman because the program doesn’t have much in the way of a special effects budget necessary for such sequences. Anyway, it’s with this viewpoint that we must approach this pair of episodes, the first of which is called “Contact”. Now, contrary to my original belief, this is not a reference to the Zemeckis film, because this aired in 1995 and that came out in 1997. Still, it could’ve used some David Morse representing an alien race and maybe also God. Instead Lois gets Scully in Season 2 of X-Files’d, minus the pregnancy necessitating the storyline.


“Dean Cain’s career gets that bad?”

I guess the thing about an alien abduction is that unlike a lot of other shows, you can’t immediately discount its veracity, since the main fucking character is an alien. That said, I twigged it was going to be bullshit because it’s pretty late in the game for Lois & Clark to be introducing rival alien races. Kryptonians are all we’re going to get and they’re dead save one. Besides aliens, Lois also attains a psychic neighbor and Christ I do not have time for it. Look, psychic plotlines always go the same way: they’re not real but they also know too many details so maybe they ARE real. Anyway, as an effect of the “abduction” Lois will occasionally go into a trance and do something necessitating Superman saving her, such as jumping out of a helicopter. The purpose of this is Superman will be too busy saving Lois to stop a robbery masterminded by this nerd who plays and sexualizes with action figures. Yeah, it’s stupid.

Bob’s not a funny enough a character for the plot they’re doing so he comes off more annoying than anything. I certainly didn’t appreciate his interludes of talking to action figures. Bob can’t credibly be blackmailing the prime minister of “Pacifinesia”–awful fake country name–with a transmitter that “microwaves people like popcorn” while also blabbing about Princess Cleavage. The psychic comes back into play as she is deployed to hypnotize Clark into remembering pertinent plot details. Haw haw, he says his name is Kal-El. I may be able to believe a doomed alien race can send their boy to Kansas in a spaceship, but I can’t believe hypnosis works. Suspension of disbelief shredded.


I always thought Pa Kent would sleep in the nude.

Chris: I’m pretty much in lock-step with you regarding your pronouncement that This Is It. This is the show, good and bad, and it would be silly to expect it to be anything other than what it’s settled into. To that point, I don’t think I disliked this episode as much as you seemed to because I feel like it’s serving the function that I most want it to serve, namely the deepening of Lois and Clarks relationship. At least to a point, we’ll come back to that I’m sure. If the first episode of the season was about establishing the new status quo between L&C, and the second was about the personal/romantic aspect of that status quo, “Contact” is concerned with their working relationship. We open literally in the middle of an action sequence with Lois bursting out of a door and running full tilt onto the tarmac of an airport. Points for ambition I guess but it’s pretty confusing. When Michael Mann opens in media res in Miami Vice it’s thrilling, when Lois & Clark does it I think HBOMax is glitching.

So Lois is chasing some baddies and throwing her body into harm’s way as usual and Clark is saving her bacon, also as usual. But what makes this different is now Lois’s knowledge of Clark’s alter ego has removed her last vestige of self care. Now that she knows for a fact that Superman is a few steps behind her, why does she need to give even a cursory thought to her own safety? It’s a troubling realization for Clark because he’d never considered the idea that his presence would make Lois more reckless. Lois is also relying on Clark’s powers in less dangerous ways, like when she asks him to use his super vision to spy on the bad guy after they’re thrown out of his office. I like that we’re seeing the show have the characters considering the potentials of their new relationship, and testing their limits. I like that Lois knowing about Clark doesn’t make everything perfect between them and leads to new, unexpected problems for the two of them. What I don’t like is how Clark ends the episode by breaking up with Lois. Or something?


Bob Costas had a rough patch in the mid-90s.

It turns out that the bad guy has hypnotized Lois into putting herself into danger at specific moments so he can commit crimes while Superman is concentrating on saving her. Which is a perfectly respectable Stupid Superman Plot (or SSP, as it’s commonly known), but his dumping her doesn’t really change anything, because he was saving Lois all the time before they were a couple so what changes by their breaking up? Also, were they actually dating? I seem to recall them going on something like two dates in season two, and then him proposing. They’re not engaged, but they seem to spend all their time together at work, like always. The major difference is they kiss sometimes. So does him “breaking up with her” mean he’s not going to work with her anymore? Is he going to keep working with her at the office and just not kiss her anymore? I suppose we have to stay tuned to see, but as the sort of dramatic impact of his rejecting her is dulled by the simple fact that the show never took the time to set up what it is he’s rejecting exactly.

Ronnie: I can see the merits of the relationship stuff, but to me it’s buried underneath gaffes and bad puns. I’ll try to look on the bright side regardless, despite how it may stretch my abilities. The underlying premise of “Contact” is good because it takes a tendency of Lois’–putting herself in danger for a story–and amplifies it given what she knows about Clark Kent. Unfortunately, I think the execution is lacking. It’s all fake aliens and a guy playing with action figures. Don’t get me wrong, I have a disgusting number of plastic NECA things. But I don’t talk to them. I don’t make them talk; I’m not a monster. I’m noticing a pattern with the program, in that it’s either good idea executed poorly (this episode) or stupid idea executed masterfully (David Leisure taking Superman’s body so he can fuck Lois Lane). There’s rarely a case where the good idea is handled with care whereas a lot of on paper stupid bullshit sings due to a combination of go for broke wherewithal and cheesy whimsy.

The result is a frustrating inconsistency that makes it difficult to judge the show. What I mean is even at this juncture I can’t say the show is outright terrible, but I also cannot claim it’s good. It’s C-level television, and I don’t usually watch that for a sustained period of time. I either watch the best (The Shield, Breaking Bad) or the worst (The Following, Law & Order: SVU). “Sustained mediocrity”, which I think is the correct phrase to use to describe Lois & Clark, is frustrating because the little variances will lead you to believe either it’s turning a corner into something better than it is or it’s descending into so-bad-it’s-good territory. I’d prefer it if the show either got a little better or much worse. While there’s analysis to be had with what we’ve got, there’s nothing better than tearing into something irredeemably dumb.

Chris: I think you hit it right on the head. L&C is in some ways the worst kind of show, just good enough to keep watching, but never really satisfying. It’s like those snacks that taste like shit but are chemically engineered to make you want more, regardless. I don’t dislike L&C, in fact, I kind of like it, but it’s rarely what I want it to be. And I think part of what makes the show so enjoyable is what makes it also kind of terrible. Like, take Star The Psychic. Is she a good character? No. Did I laugh every time she put someone in a hypnotic trance and then get sidetracked complaining about her shitty family? Yes I did. A huge part of what makes L&C compelling to me is that it feels lively and spontaneous. Things happen for no reason and then disappear. Like Perry spending all his scenes bouncing up and down while shadow boxing because he’s decided to get into better shape. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything and was almost certainly added at the last minute to give Perry and Jimmy something to do while they delivered exposition (remember when they had plots of their own?), but it also suggests that the characters have lives beyond the parameters of the show. Like if the camera just wandered away from Lois and Clark and followed Perry and Jimmy, Slacker style, there’d be some entirely different show about a weird old man and his boy companion.


X-Files fever was alive and well, my friends.

The Arrowverse shows I watched often felt sterile, formulaic and self-aware. Like everything was focus-grouped and pre-approved. L&C is out there trying shit and seeing what works, a lot of it doesn’t, but I can’t help admire the attempts. And of course, this was the original question of the entire series of articles. Is Lois & Clark any good in the twenty-first century, and do the things it did badly at the time seem better or at least more interesting with the benefit of hindsight? I guess the answer to both questions at this point is “marginally.” And there’s no reason to think it will ever get better than that. Like you said, this is the show, a mixture of bad done well, and good done poorly, with the rare Love Potion or Return of Lex thrown in to keep us on our toes. The result is a show that I enjoy more than I probably should, but, as you said, will be harder and harder to write about because they’re going to keep making the same mistakes on the way to delivering the same product. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can digress and bullshit with the best of them, but I wonder if there’s any new material to mine. I guess we’ll see.

Odds & Ends

-Seinfeld alum tracker: it’s been a while. Or it’s felt that way. Anyway, the guy who played Kramer on Jerry is the absent minded professor.
-At the beginning of the episode, Lois is on the trail of a luggage smuggling ring at the airport. She’s the paper’s star reporter. Surely she has better things to do than chase after crooked bag handlers who throw luggage at her like Donkey Kong does barrels.
-Post-helicopter jump, Jimmy compares Lois to Greg Louganis. Louganis is an Olympic diver and AIDS activist. I assume the comparison is due to how Lois threw herself out of the helicopter and not her involvement in HIV/AIDS-related charities.
-”Contact” is directed by Dan Attias, who did the Gary Busey Stephen King werewolf picture Silver Bullet and 16 episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He also did an episode of The Boys. It always tickles me that Boys directors previously did straight superhero shows.
-Perry asks Star the psychic “if she’s talked to the king lately”. Here I thought the show forgot about Perry’s Elvis obsession.
-One nice touch is that Clark’s superhearing is useless in the office because there’s too many people there.

Ronnie: This episode is also about Lois in peril, though it’s not as fun as little green men potentially probing her. Lois and Clark aren’t together because Clark thinks it’s too much of a danger to Lois. We’ve seen this play out with various superheroes and their love interests in various mediums and I’ve never felt it to be too compelling. It robs the love interest of agency for one thing. This episode tries to add further complication by bringing in a blast from Lois’ past, an ex-boyfriend to whom Clark immediately takes a dislike. Lois seems to want to get close to him again out of spite. Not a good reason; not a good reason to return a jacket or date someone with whom you’ve already ended things.

But yeah, Lois & Clark still doing the will they/won’t they when Lois knows Clark’s secret is pretty annoying because the excuses keeping them apart get flimsier and flimsier with each passing hour. As Clark puts it to his parents, Lois is already in danger constantly. I contend her being in a relationship with Superman would not lead to an appreciable increase in threats against her life. That’s sort of the beautiful part about their relationship: they’re both proactive in improving the world in their own ways. A Lois Lane solo story ought to be as action-packed as anything Superman does. Inevitably the old boyfriend turns out to be a baddie and I’m somehow waxing nostalgic for Scardino. Remember him? At least he wasn’t doing a Druid sacrifice to something something possibly fool Lloyd Braun. “When Irish Eyes Are Killing” is the most anti-Irish thing I’ve watched since one of those Leprechaun sequels. Eventually Patrick puts on a mask and becomes the cheapest Dr. Doom outside of the one from Roger Corman’s 1994 ashcan movie.


Look how big that fucking phone is

“I guess the green eyed monster wasn’t so powerful after all” quips Superman after he…kills Patrick? It’s questionable. He fires his heat vision, Patrick’s eyes start glowing, he crawls into the fetal position and disappears without a trace into some fog machine smoke. Do all Irish people die this way? I’m not sure. But it seems to me that Superman claimed another life and joked about it as though he were James Bond. I don’t care for this trend. I’m fine with villains on this series meeting their end, but Superman shouldn’t be an active participant in it. Bad enough he didn’t stop Lex’s suicide attempt; I don’t need to see him knock off dime store Dr. Dooms. At the end it’s more relationship rubbish and it almost reads as parody. If only. I was reminded of the Black Books scene where Bernard exhorts Fran to let him in and then he immediately admits he’s just acting the way television has conditioned him when she questions him. Why aren’t I watching Black Books right now?

Chris: This episode does continue a couple of recent trends, one that I don’t like, and one that I do. The troubling trend is, as you pointed out, Superman’s new habit of murdering folks in cold blood and then cracking wise. You can quibble with the murder tag by saying that what happened with Patrick was kind of ambiguous as was exactly how responsible Superman was for it. They’re fighting with their respective beams and maybe Patrick kind of overloads and explodes? Like maybe we’re supposed to think he was hoisted by his own petard? But even if that was how it went down, no one needs to see Superman being shitty about it. He should care that someone is dead, even if that person was Irish. And it’s hard not to feel like part of the reason Superman isn’t sweating Patrick’s death is that Patrick was making time with Lois and Superman didn’t like that. Sure, he tried to kill her too, but everyone tries to kill Lois.That’s her thing. It’s like that scene in Cape Feare where the lawyer asks the courtroom who was thinking about killing Selma and everyone raises their hands.If Superman executed everyone who wanted to kill Lois, Metropolis would be a smoking ruin like at the end of Man of Steel.

What I did like was Ilana Levine as Veronica, the vaguely annoying but earnest and helpful museum employee(?) who gets the hots for Clark and helps him figure out what Patrick is using his magic jewels on. Veronica, like season premiere villain Mindy Church, is a woman who lives in Metropolis in 1995 but dresses and speaks as if she was Judy Holliday’s understudy in Born Yesterday. She  has that kind of loud brassy voice that’s hilarious in large part because it’s so irritating, and she tends towards wearing tight, form fitting dresses, but also knows a lot about history. It’s not that those characteristics can’t go together, it’s just super funny when they do specifically because they don’t typically unless that’s the point somehow. It isn’t here. It would be one thing if Veronica existed for characters to underestimate or stereotype her because of how she speaks and dresses, but, no, she’s just a smart lady who behaves like a 1930’s gangsters moll. Whatever.


We get Clark in a phone booth but no phone booth transformation. BULLSHIT.

But yeah, this is a pretty dull episode overall. I guess it was inevitable that they would do the old “boyfriend-from-before-the-show-comes-back” bit, but making him a fucking druid is just too much. There’s precedent for Superman fighting irish supernatural monsters in the comics, so it’s not like it’s totally out of nowhere, but at the same time, what? How does this have anything to do with anything? The better L&C episodes have some kind of connection between the problem of the week and whatever is going on in Lois and Clark’s relationship, like that episode way back in the first season where Superman fought an invisible man while also trying to figure out how to get Lois more interested in Clark and Lois worried that Superman was forgetting about her. Hell, even that David Leisure episode you mentioned takes the time to fold the work drama with the personal. But an old flame who’s a druid? That’s just random and tired, a cliche with an indifferent twist. I guess it’s something that the show suggests that Irish people are shifty and dangerous, that’s always a good lesson for the kids, but it’s too little too late.

Ronnie: Fun story. My roommate used to swear to me that John Glover, Smallville’s Lionel Luthor, did a guest shot on Lois & Clark. He remembers it distinctly from childhood. Turns out he was thinking of this episode, and what we thought was John Glover was actually David Leisure. I can see why he made the mistake; they do look similar, especially if memories have been eroded over the decades. I’m still chagrined that Glover didn’t actually appear in the series; he would’ve been a dynamite friend or foe to the dynamic duo. I suppose you’re wondering what this has to do with “When Irish Eyes Are Killing”? Nothing. I forgot to include it in the writeup for “Ordinary People” and there’s so little to this episode I felt I had the time and space to divulge it here.

It’s just a bad episode. “When Irish Eyes Are Killing” should be a lot more fun than it is by virtue of its absurd druid angle. Yet even with it the episode lags. It’s hard in a third season to create anybody who poses even an incidentally credible threat to Lois & Clark’s relationship, but Patrick Sullivan is particularly poor. He’s not particularly charming and you never get the sense that he has anything that Clark doesn’t. I mean maybe he has more Flogging Molly CDs but that is about it. Approaching Lois’ propensity for danger is a fine enough idea, but entangling it with crazy sacrifice nonsense does it no favors.


Second best onscreen Dr. Doom so far, honestly.

Chris: Here’s the thing Ronnie, you’re right. This episode is a dud and this time can be better used talking about other things. So here’s what I want to do, I want to take a moment and discuss something we rarely talk about here at Lois and Clark and Chris and Ronnie: fashion. What’s the deal with Teri Hatcher’s outfits and hair?  I am not a person who can cast any aspersions on anyone’s looks, I have a style, and that style can best be described as chemically depressed hobo. Teri Hatcher is an objectively lovely woman, and it’s very difficult for to ever look bad. That said, her outfits are often extremely confusing and her current hairstyle looks like a wig that was accidentally put in a dryer. I know that styles change and that, like, shoulder pads were in back in 1995 (I guess?), but Hatcher sometimes looks wider than she is tall. And a lot of them are too ornate to be, you know, work clothes. You’ll see a scene where Dean Cain is wearing slacks, shirt, tie and jacket, and Hatcher is wearing a tight red dress with wide ass shoulders and giant crisscrossing white laces running up the arms. It’s schizophrenic.

I’m not saying that Hatcher needs to dress like a mumble-core character or a sex-pot, I just think her wardrobe is emblematic of the paradox that the show was never able to reconcile. Teri Hatcher is a very attractive woman who was known for playing sexy characters and was cast as a sexy Lois Lane and then suddenly needed to be family friendly, but also desirable, but also relatable, while still being glamorous. It’s trying to straddle lines that can’t be straddled and as a result she often comes off as, well, like if someone’s aunts helped them get dressed for a date. Much like the pseudo-threat of Patrick or Tony Baloney last season, the show wants to generate heat and tension, but often ends up looking half-baked because no one can ever really bring what the show needs to cook, sex. This show, which is about two people who are wildly attracted to one another, can never let itself actually be sexy for more than a few minutes at a time (I maintain that Hatcher and Cain generated some actual heat back when they were stuck on that island) and so it ends up doing shit liking dressing Teri Hatcher up in boxy clothes and giving her haircuts like that wig Bart wore when he was singing “The Shoop Shoop Song”.


Actually how all Irish people die.

Odds & Ends

-To add insult to injury, I’ve found no evidence that Patrick Sullivan’s actor, Julian Stone, is…uh…Irish. I’m guessing real Irishmen had too much self-respect to take on the role.
-The name “Dennis O’Neil” crops up over the course of the show. I’m choosing to believe it’s a nod to the late, great Batman (among others) writer of same name. The scarcity of references to the comics do make them hit harder, I must admit.

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