Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “I’ve Got A Crush On You”/”Smart Kids”
Ronnie: Welcome to yet another installment of Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie, your only Lois & Clark recap review article series with a title that parodies Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. What do we have on the docket for this one? Well, with “I’ve Got A Crush On You” both Lois and Clark go undercover to investigate a series of arsons that have been plaguing Metropolis, whereas “Smart Kids” is pretty self-explanatory. Starting with the former, we must make one admission: Teri Hatcher is an incredibly attractive woman. On my 5th birthday (I believe Chris was in his early 20s at the time) she starred in an episode of Seinfeld titled “The Implant”. For a section of the populace, her name is forever linked with the phrase “they’re real and they’re spectacular”. I bring this up because “I’ve Got A Crush On You” is the first episode of Lois & Clark to really reckon with Teri Hatcher’s attractiveness and integrate it into the proceedings. Shameless cheesecake or savvy capitalization? I’ll let you decide…after I bloviate for a while.
Both Lois and Clark decide to go undercover to find out what’s going on with the spate of fires started in the West River area. Lois is a waitress whereas Clark becomes a bartender, albeit only getting the job after he saves multiple people’s lives from an arson. This inspires some light romantic-ish hijinks as Clark becomes close to the nightclub owner’s sister and Lois doesn’t like that one bit. She has to contend with the affections of Lex Luthor. He can take time out of his scheming to pop up at Lois’ doorstep with the proposition “let’s do it”. Sometimes the sexual innuendo is inventive and sometimes it’s that. The arsonists turn out to be a foursome called The Toasters and let me tell you, the line between “firestarters for hire” and “improv troupe” has never been more blurred than it has at this moment. They’re terrible, with the lead Toaster brimming with unwelcome theatre kid energy. When we were discussing it on Messenger Chris compared them to Devo and it is apt.
This was sex appeal in the early 90s and if you don’t get it you weren’t there.
Like a lot of episodes so far, “I’ve Got A Crush On You” directly confronts sexism, this time in the organized crime industry. The nightclub owner/leader of “The Metros” Johnny doesn’t believe his sister Toni, or women in general, belong in his racket. There’s an especially terrible line where Johnny says their father would tell her “to get a good husband, start having babies and leave the real work to the men”. If you can’t manage gender parity in the mob, what hope is there for the rest of society? For all the efforts at confronting sexism, this falls into some traps itself. Lois witnesses Clark kissing a woman, returns to her apartment, changes into a robe and starts eating ice cream while crying and admitting she is jealous. That comic strip Cathy looks like an Andrea Dworkin screed by comparison.
Chris: After a string of fun episodes, “I’ve Got a Crush On You” is a dud. It’s definitely shooting for sexy, what with the squeezing of Teri Hatcher into a bunch of low-cut, form fitting outfits and letting her sing a torch song while running her hands up and down her hips like sultry women are always doing. But it’s just too goofy a show to actually commit to the bit in a way that might actually, you know, actually be sexy. Yes, there’s Lois in a skimpy cocktail waitress outfit that’s basically a playboy bunny get-up minus the ears, but she also dresses up like a burlesque chicken for a Li’ll Abner inspired number. And sure, she wears a slinky evening gown while singing a sexy song, but a few minutes later Clark carries her out of the nightclub over his shoulder and tosses her into a dumpster filled with rotten garbage. Her cover got blown and he needed to 86 her in a humiliating fashion to maintain his, so that’s just how it goes sometimes.
He looks like a teenager trying to buy beer.
It’s like the show wants to create an air of actual adult sexual tension, but in the end chickens out like a boy who asks a girl out and then immediately says he was kidding, pulls her hair and runs away. It’s okay to make a show about attractive adults who behave in adult ways; it also happens to be how the show was marketed. Magazines were filled with promotional shots of Hatcher and Cain posing provocatively against one another. That was supposed to be the show’s whole deal. That said, it wasn’t necessary either. I’m on record as having really enjoyed the dopey cheeseball plots of the last three episodes and if L&C had continued in that vein I would have been perfectly happy. But this kind of stuttered, one foot in the adult world of attraction and sex and the other in the kiddie world of goofball slapstick. Just doesn’t work. They needed to pick a lane.
By the same token, the threat of the Toasters has the same half-assed, uncommitted vibe as the undercover shit. The whole idea of the story is rooted in old-school gangster tropes. There’s the nightclub setting, the mysterious fires, and siblings fighting for control of the mob; one progressive sib who wants to go legit and the trigger-happy one who’s happy being a thug and sexually harassing the cocktail waitresses (Teri Hatcher gets her ass slapped twice this week, once by Johnny and once by Clark, but it’s okay because he’s undercover so it doesn’t count). So why are the arsonists a quartet of flame-thrower wielding morons in matching silver suits and goggles? What does that have to do with anything? Just make them a bunch of toothpick chewing goombas in pin striped suits with gas cans (I can say all that because I’m half Italian) and knock off early. You’re doing a gangster story, make the antagonists fucking gangsters. It’s like they had two scripts, one with danger, jealousy, and sex, and the other with color coordinated villains who burn their names into walls, chicken suits, and pratfalls into dumpsters, and instead of picking one, they just cut and pasted the two together.
Ronnie: We’ve been pretty lenient on Dean Cain here so far despite the fact that he’s a human toilet. That’s because he’s done pretty well with what has been asked about him in a professional manner; we’re not subject to outtakes where he’s ranting about how Vince Foster didn’t kill himself or whatever right-wingers did back then. That said, his undercover work is abysmal. I don’t know how much of it is intentional and how much playing a rough and tumble type is outside Dean Cain’s wheelhouse. I’m leaning towards the latter, because we’re supposed to believe his cover stays intact until he detonates it himself. Keep in mind, I’ve seen him on Criminal Minds and he doesn’t have the chops. Donning a shitty fake goatee and a toque doesn’t shore up his bonafides either.
Chris: Yeah, if L&C were a better show I would think that Cain was deliberately tanking his performance because Clark is so essentially decent that he couldn’t even pretend to be a hardass. But if that were the case the show would have the toughs laugh in his face or just walk away, signaling that it was deliberate and the show recognizes that Clark is completely unconvincing as a tough guy. As it is, I’m with you, I think he was supposed to be badass and it came across as petulant and whiny. This is an unfair comparison, but remember that scene in the beginning of Batman Begins when Bruce is in the prison somewhere in Southeast Asia and that giant dude looms over him and is like “This is hell, little man, and I’m the devil” and you’re worried for Bruce because the dude is like the size of a Chrystler Lebaron but then Bruce just goes “you’re not the devil, you’re practice” and you get excited because you realize Bruce is gonna destroy that dude? Remember how awesome that was? You want Clark to exhibit that kind of cool steely menace and instead he’s more reminiscent of Jay Sherman The Critic imploring people to “Buy my book.” It stinks.
So on to other and hopefully better things, namely, the second episode of the week, “Smart Kids.” I haven’t actually re-watched it yet so I can only assume it involves Lois and Clark going on some kind of “What Do Kids Know” style gameshow in order to thwart villain-of-the-week Quiz Kid Donnie Smith’s evil plan to drown Metropolis in frogs. Or something. Take it away Ronnie!
Odds & Ends
-Seinfeld alum tracker: 2. Toni is played by Jessica Tuck, who portrayed George’s girlfriend with a male roommate in “The Label Maker”. Her brother Johnny played a security guard in “The Stranded”.
-Lois needs a better undercover name than “Lola Dane”. Clark’s is “Charlie King”.
-Lex’s plot this time around is the most insidious one of all: gentrification. He plans on rejuvenating the crime riddled West River area of Metropolis into “Lex Harbor”.
-At one of the mob meetings, Johnny references a guy named Rocco. I’m glad the Roccos of the world were still getting meaningful hoodlum work in 1993.
-Another Cat free episode. Again, it’s weird that they would bench the most sexual character in the sexy episode. Maybe they felt Cat’s inclusion would be sex overload? Did the 90s have a sex cap?
That pig has some powerful friends.
Ronnie: Is there anything that can sink a project faster than irritating child actors? I’m open to suggestions. “Smart Kids” unfortunately lives up to its title and showcases some smart kids on the run from their minders. “Watch out, Metropolis, here we come” one of them opines after the little shits drink some cups of smart juice. Lois has trouble with her groceries on the steps to her apartment, sees the kids walking down the street, asks “is that a pig?” and the kids go, yeah that’s our pet pig, what are you, a fucking idiot. Cue some pretty awful score that suggests Lois & Clark shares DNA with Full House. It doesn’t get better. During a pitch meeting at the Planet, the TV turns on by itself and Smart Kids News broadcasts, telling people not to look for the missing kids because they don’t want to be found. I don’t often wish I still drank but a few swigs of vodka would’ve taken the edge off this shit. Can’t these little turds be like regular smart kids and grow up to be unexceptional adults who cling to their stunted identity as “gifted children”?
“I see no reason why Amy can’t stay with Miss Lane on a temporary basis” is not a line of dialogue that inspires a lot of confidence in the plot. Then something astonishing happens. The episode improves. Or, if it doesn’t improve, it at least reaches heights of insanity/inanity that Lois & Clark has yet to accomplish. This hour is so stupid it manages to transcend and become funny. The thrust of the back half is that the Smart Kids hacked into the city’s surveillance systems and deduced Clark is Superman, so they’re blackmailing him with insane demands. (Look to Odds & Ends for what those are.) There is honest to god a moment of two kids stacked on top of each other in a trenchcoat impersonating an adult in this shit. If you can’t laugh at that, what can you laugh at?
I was pumping my fist when this happened, dear reader.
Anyway, eventually the adults convince the Smart Kids that they don’t want to be smart, because “we start off as kids so we can learn to be adults”. There’s also the little fact that overuse of Metamide 5 “burns out your brain”. With the evil scientist (in hoc to Lex Luthor, naturally) taken care of, the kids are free to roam the playground. They write in chalk on the ground “Clark Kent = Superman?” and everyone has a good laugh. What an odd hour of television. On the one hand, it’s time wasting bullshit. On the other hand, it’s delightful time wasting bullshit. Chris, what do you think?
Chris: Let’s talk about that pig. The kids have a pig. It’s, I think, the very first thing you see in the episode.We open on a close up of a pig on a leash walking down the street (no I won’t be double checking to make sure), and pull back to reveal the Smart Kids trailing behind it. The Kids walk past Lois, who is struggling to carry several grocery bags. She sees the pig, gapes and loses control of the bags which spill out onto the sidewalk, causing her to trip and fall. Instead of stopping to help, the Smart Kids laughingly walk past Lois who proceeds to look directly into the camera and mutter “kids” presumably to the audience. The pig then shows up a few more times over the course of the episode, in the backgrounds of shots or one of the Kids pets it in a dialogue scene or whatever, but it isn’t really acknowledged until the end of the episode when it shows up again, back at the orphanage with the Now Regular Kids. Lois catches a glimpse of it and says “I know that pig” and that’s a picture wrap on the pig.
Here’s the thing, though: that pig has nothing to do with anything. It’s at the beginning and ending of the episode and is featured throughout, but it’s never referenced (except by Lois at the end), has nothing to do with the plot in any way or is explained. You would think that at one point the Kids would get tied up and the pig would, like, chew through the ropes or something, or they would have some secret technology that runs on pig shit. Or at the very least, one of the kids would do a little monologue about how pigs are actually really smart but they’re considered by the world at large to be nothing more than stinky animals, much like kids. But no. There’s nothing. The episode doesn’t even go to the trouble to mention how the kids procured a pig in the first place, or how it is they’re apparently allowed to keep it while staying in a state run orphanage. There’s just a pig. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.
Remember in our first episode when I asked if a show can be charming because of the factors that keep it from being good? This is what I was talking about. If this was made today, there would either be A. no pig because it’s a Serious Thing We’re Doing or B. characters lampshading it by going on about how WEIRD it is that there’s a PIG, EVERYBODY! I’d bet money that Legends of Tomorrow has done it already. Watching “Smart Kids” I had no idea why there was a pig there, what purpose it was supposed to serve, or if the show had any idea how strange it was to so prominently feature such an odd choice and do nothing with it. It’s distracting and pointless and borderline incompetent storytelling, but it’s also extremely funny because of all those things. Is that the purpose the pig serves? Is it just a shaggy dog plot that deliberately goes nowhere? I’m really asking! It’s either a stupid joke that doesn’t work or a brilliant joke that’s hilarious because it doesn’t work. Either way, it really made me laugh.
Lois is foiled by fiber optics cables, throwing into question her smartness.
Ronnie: It’s safe to say “Smart Kids” is neither a good episode in terms of quality or a pivotal episode in terms of the season arc. Yes, Lex may be involved, but it’s just the same old same old “Lex is behind every crime in Metropolis somehow” that most episodes become. Yet there’s an insane quality to “Smart Kids” that makes it memorable and distinct. It’s the pig thing. It’s how Superman’s first major secret identity situation occurs and it’s a couple of snotty smart kids who are wilding out on smart juice. None of it makes any sense, suggesting within the first 10 episodes they’re already writing the show off. Only on Lois & Clark, folks, would Clark Kent drink wine and fake a bloody finger injury to sow the seeds of doubt in the Smart Kids’ minds. “Do you bleed?” was famously asked in Batman v. Superman. This episode answers “only if he wants to fool some children”.
Chris: It’s funny you mentioned that, because the way he fools the kids was the other thing I really enjoyed about the episode.One of the things that makes the smart kid trope so irritating is that the smart kids are frequently written as being sophisticated and worldly, which really doesn’t have anything to do with being smart. Being smart just means you learn quickly and remember things well, something the show actually goes to the trouble to have Little Amy say. The kids in “Smart Kids” are quick on the uptake and clever about putting things together, but they’re still kids. They play video games, use their skills to pull dumb pranks and are easily fooled by Clark because as smart as they are, they haven’t been around long enough to understand how simple scams work. That’s the kind of surprising characterization that gives me hope they’re gonna figure this show out yet.
“Man, this paper used to publish letters sent by the Zodiac…”
And that wraps up “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and “Smart Kids”, join us next time as we look at episodes 8 and 9 and get to see Superman take on kryptonite (finally!) and global warming (I hope he punches it to death!). Join us, won’t you?
Odds & Ends
-Seinfeld alum tracker: 0. This could’ve used that kid who fucked up Jerry’s cassette tape, the one whose dad owned the frozen yogurt shop.
-According to Perry, Elvis’ pet chimp “Scatter” drank himself to death. I feel like at this pace by the end of the show I’ll know more Elvis trivia than I know about my dad’s side of the family.
-”What is postmodernist angst?” asks Cat Grant. Later in the episode it’s revealed that she also doesn’t know what gummy bears are. Glad to have you back, Cat.
-Lois refers to orphaned children as “brats”.
-A Lucy mention! She’s brought up when Lois is asked to shore up her childcare bonafides.
-Smart Kids’ list of demands: F-18 Hornet fighter jet (painted red and yellow), four mountain bikes, a ten carat emerald, three Aqua-Lungs, one hundred pounds of gooey bears and an island.
-At the end of the episode, Clark convinces that last Smart Kid to go back to being a normal kid by bemoaning how lonely and isolating being special truly is. Suggesting that being gifted and unique is less preferable to being an orphan in a state run facility where you’re at risk of being experimented on by unethical doctors is an unusual rhetorical position for the Man of Steel.