Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Just Say Noah”/”Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape”

Chris: Hello friends, it’s that time again. Time to go back to the magical year of 1995, one of the best years for American movies of the last fifty years, to talk about a mediocre television show. No, not Seinfeld, though I can see why you’d think that. Nope, it’s not Friends either. Something much less popular.  That’s right, Lois and Clark and Chris and Ronnie is back to talk about America’s second favorite Superman television show of the 90’s. When we last saw our heroes, they’d broken up for the third time in as many episodes, this time because Lois was mad at Clark for breaking up with her the week before. Relationships are hard, folks! To make matters worse, the duo is forced to go undercover as a married couple in order to get to the bottom of a suspicious relationship guru whose patients have begun to disappear. It’s a plot that’s remarkably similar to previous season entry “Ordinary People”  where L&C pretended to be a married couple in order to get to the bottom of a suspicious nudie magazine.


This should’ve just been real. “In the universe of Lois & Clark, miracles exist.” No further explanation.

“Ordinary People” was, to my thinking, the high-water mark of the still new season, and I think this week’s episode “Just Say Noah” should be placed right up there at the top with it. It’s a little weird that the two best episodes have the same underlying premise, but if Bond can do it, so can L&C. Speaking of Bond, Goldeneye was released in 1995, and marked the beginning of the extremely successful Pierce Brosnan era and general turn-around of the franchise after diminishing critical and commercial returns of the 80’s.  It’s a really interesting story about how a series that seemed married to the cold war finally found a way to establish a new, more progressive (for the 90’s) voice that was respectful of its rich legacy but also willing to challenge its more problematic aspects. There’s really a lot to be said about the tightrope walk Goldeneye managed and how easily the series could have just faded into obscurity and irrelevance, but we don’t have time for that because we really need to focus on this TV show no one remembers.

So, one of the things I was complaining about last time was how “Irish Eyes” Kinda-Irish villain Patrick’s plotline had virtually nothing to do with the conflict between Lois and Clark.  His desire to sacrifice Lois to his Druid god (why was he doing that again? To be immortal maybe?) was in no way related to Lois and Clark’s problems. Also, he was thematically redundant and the actor playing him was a big fat nothing. The villain in “Noah” is a Larry Smiley, an Andy Griffith type of Aw Shucks Good Ol’ Boy who dispenses homespun wisdom about how married couples should behave who’s also a religious crackpot who thinks he’s getting phone calls from God on a magic telephone and is planning on flooding the Earth and repopulating it with couples that he personally approves of. His fanatical obsession with creating “perfect couples” is a personification L&C’s concerns with one another and their fears that they don’t work as easily as they’d imagined . It also does what Lois & Clark is best at, letting their two stars act and work together. Lois’s knowledge of Clark’s powers continues to be exploited in new, fun ways, like when he uses his super-vision to make out the imprint of a letter written on a desk, or when he has to hover-sleep while they’re undercover because there’s just one bed.


Lois & Clark vastly overestimates the number of nuns in peril from things other than clergy sexual violence.

Ronnie: We open on Lois and Clark each separately leaving the same movie. Lois says she walked out because it was “Bambi without the political subtext” and Clark because he fell asleep during it. Now, I want to unpack this a little. Besides a general anti-gun message, I don’t parse much politics from Bambi; it’s more about the loss of innocence and having to grow up faster than you want. Clark claims he went with Jimmy and Jimmy loved it. That tracks. I could see Jimmy loving a dumb version of a children’s movie. Anyway, soon after Lois says “we’re about as in sync as the English in a Japanese horror film” of her and Clark. I still don’t know what that means. What Japanese horror film is she referring to that has English involvement? Did I not pay enough attention during House?

“Just Say Noah” is another undercover couple episode, and I’m going to get sick of them real fast if this becomes a pattern. But I think the fake couple aspect is stronger in this one, even if it lacks the dizzying heights of a Captain Pike trying to steal Superman’s body for sex reasons. That’s not to say Larry Smiley isn’t a compelling villain; his homespun affect combined with his cheesy intonations of religion make for someone memorable. Perry extols Larry, saying his marriage would be a shutout if not for him. Because of Larry, his marriage is now going into extra innings. I’m not sure the baseball as marriage metaphor quite works, but what do I know. Perry gets his comeuppance when he and wife Alice are kidnapped for Larry’s half-assed Noah’s Ark 2.0 project. Yes, folks, the oft-mentioned but never seen Alice makes an appearance in the 49th episode of the series. But she doesn’t say a word and her face is never seen. Can’t unravel every mystery of life, you see.


He kinda looks like Randy Quaid in Major League 2.

Like I said, this is pretty good. The contrived nature of Superman sitting in on group couples therapy is offset by the amusement of the scene. I’ve determined that most Lois & Clark episodes fly by the seat of their pants and don’t really make sense under closer scrutiny and “Just Say Noah” fits that bill. Like when Lois’ neighbors are abducted, what purpose does it serve to momentarily trick them with a burning bush and a booming voice? It just feeds into the not-quite-there religious element to Larry Smiley’s plot. Why does Lois’ psychic friend become possessed by a dubbed over voice when Clark solicits her for help? There are no answers in this show, only more questions.

Chris: About that opening, the poster hanging in the marquee behind Lois and Clark is for the semi-infamous Cindy Crawford vehicle and kinda-sorta Cobra remake Fair Game. If Fair Game is known for anything, it’s for the hilariously unsexy sex scene between Crawford and America’s second favorite Baldwin, Billy. The two of them fuck on the hood of a car while riding in a boxcar on a freight train, and if I remember correctly Baldwin get’s interrupted mid-thrust by machine wielding badguys and has to dispatch them with his pants around his ankles. That might not be exactly true but it’s how I remember the scene and I’m not going to go and double check because if that wasn’t how it went down, it should have. Is that the movie that they were all at? I can see how Cindy Crawford’s shaky performance could bring a frightened baby dear to Lois’s mind, and I could see how Jimmy would both desperately want to watch it and also need Clark to buy his ticket.

I feel like this season is starting to wade back into the first season smart kids with a pet pig territory, and I’m all for it. I think your observation that L&C tends to be better the less sense it makes has merit. The show can’t seem to  manage more than a couple  smart, well constructed episodes a season, so might as well lean into wildness. And I think an evil Andy Griffith building an ark and planning to unleash a second biblical flood utilizing never-before-mentioned weather controlling satellites fits that to a T. And add those weather machines to the list of throw away L&C plot devices that are infinitely more significant/interesting than whatever is going on in the main plot. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed seeing a clearly uncomfortable Superman having to sit in a rocking chair and listen to a lady complaining about her husband in group, but the fact that there’s apparently technology that can control the weather is more important than whatever shenanigans Sheriff Andy is up to. Yeah, he’s planning to use that tech for nefarious purposes, so it all ties together, but honestly, how has this not come up before? Shouldn’t drought and famine and global warming all be things of the past? I feel like it would be a big deal. Almost as significant as the time Doctor Hamilton cured death and it was never mentioned again.

Ronnie: If anything, I think Evil Andy Griffith–is that what we’re going with?–has too much going on for a one-shot villain. He’s got the weird unexplained religious angle, the marriage counseling, his obsession with his mother. All I’m saying is that you could wring out that material for a return appearance, especially because he doesn’t perish in this episode. He basically goes “oh boy, mama must be disappointed in me”, then it cuts to her looking disapproving (from a tube?) and that’s it. Far be it from me to criticize a lack of consequences in this show but it seems he deserves a worse fate than that, especially given how a solid 10% of Lois & Clark vaporize into a pile of goo for poorly defined reasons.


This is just embarrassing for everyone involved. Silly voices… come on, people, let’s get real.

Generally I’m okay with this incarnation of the series, which is what I like to refer to as “Silver Age Superman if it were a romantic comedy”. Sure, Silver Age stories were often about Lois trying to marry Superman, but it wasn’t really about their relationship. For better or for worse, Lois & Clark foregrounds the relationship and takes great pains to make it believable these two would fall for each other. So because of that the formula for this series seems to be taking a romantic concept–couples retreat, in this instance–and giving it a Silver Age twist, this being “the couples retreat is run by a folksy religious zealot who wants to recreate the Biblical Flood”. I think it works as well as anything in the series so far, and if the show isn’t going to be able to use Lex Luthor or other traditional Superman villains on a regular basis this is a worthwhile direction.

Odds & Ends

-The nun in the episode is none other than Dean Cain’s mother.
-”You want validation? Go to a parking lot!” is a solid comeback.
-Jimmy, thinking he’s about to die, confesses to Lois that he’s had wet dreams about her. Justin Whelan plays it about as well as you can.
-Jimmy and Lois deem Larry Smiley’s whole plot to be a less expensive version of Waterworld. Take that, Kevin Costner!

Chris: I’m solidly on the record for liking when the plots of Lois & Clark tie into whatever drama the two are going through in their personal relationship. It’s a way to give some weight and dimension to whatever the problem and villain of the week is and keeps the show from floating off into the stratosphere of silliness and bad effects. That said, there’s something to be said for writing a whole bunch of ideas on index cards, throwing the cards in the air and structuring the episode by what cards you pick up in random order. “Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape” manages a little from column A and a little from column B and comes up with another better-than-average episode of the series. “Don’t Tug” pits Superman against one of his most reliable criminal opponents: rich dickheads with nothing better to do than bother him. This time the villains are married couple Tim and Amber lake, they’re one of those couples that agree on everything and never tire of demonstrating how ridiculously in sync and in love they are. But along with having only eyes, they also only seem to have any trace of compassion, affection, or any other kind of humanity, for each other.

Tim and Amber have spent their entire lives acquiring rare items, such as the arms of the Venus de Milo and the Batmobile (hey, that’s from that other comic!), and now they have their eyes set on Superman. They concoct an elaborate and clever (for L&C anyway) scheme to capture the Man of Steel that involves arranging for the release of the dastardly criminal and Lois Lane hater Bad Brain Johnson from prison, killing him, and using his signature to tech to lure Lois into a trap for Superman using her as  bait. The mechanics are, of course, ridiculous, but their scheme to frame a dead man is a little deeper than most L&C villains, as is their long term goal of keeping Lois and Superman prisoner for the rest of their lives in a private trophy room. And the fact that Tim and Amber are played by real life married couple Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis doesn’t hurt either. I confess I’m unfamiliar with Francis’s work, but any time Jonathan Frakes shows up it’s a win, and if he likes her, that’s good enough for me.


“I Love Lois” was RIGHT THERE.

That’s the part that makes sense. The last couple of episodes have been about Lois and Clark worrying that they’re too different to work as a couple, and fighting manifestations of more traditional relationships. That’s solid. What’s weirder, is the bizarre themed dream sequences that both Clark and Lois have about each other that cast them in famous television and movie roles and explore their anxieties through parody. Or something. The cold open, for instance, is a parody of I Love Lucy with Lois as Lucy and Clark as Ricky. It’s in black and white and has a laugh track and gives Cain a chance to show off his racist accent chops. I’m not sure how racist it is to do an impression of a famous specific voice, but I certainly wouldn’t do it. And Cain is partially Japanese, so maybe that makes it okay? Should we be talking about this? I think it would be okay if Cain or Ricardo were here.  I’m gonna move on. So it ends with Clark waking up in a sweat and then later Lois gets a dream where she’s a Bond Girl (two years before Hatcher played a Bond GIrl) and after that Clark daydreams(?) that he’s in Dragnet. There’s no reason given for why they’re both having these vivid pop-culture infused dream/hallucinations, and the show doesn’t have any history of those kinds of Scrubs and Dream On style flights of fancy either. They just showed up suddenly, and I assume they’ll be gone next week.  It’s confusing and nonsensical and I approve. How about you?

Ronnie: Before I get into my thoughts overall, I want to weigh in on Ricardogate as I’m going to call it. While Dean Cain gets close at times to racial caricature–I think it’s good the parody ended when it did–I ultimately don’t think it’s problematic or offensive. I would know, considering I’m a cisgender heterosexual white male. Ricky Ricardo was not just a Cuban man, he was a celebrity, and upon reaching a certain strata of celebrity you open yourself up to impersonation. This is especially true if your voice is distinctive, which his was. No one bats an eye at doing serial rapist and comedian Bill Cosby. No one thinks a Danny Glover voice is racist. My closing argument lies with Ricardo’s laugh. If you’ve got a laugh that stands out, I’m sorry, you’re fair game to mimic. Also, it was the mid 90s, nobody gave a shit, so why should we care now. No, Dean Cain shouldn’t suffer any repercussions for participation in an I Love Lucy parody. Now, everything he’s done since Lois & Clark, that’s another story.

This episode is about beloved villain Bad Brain Johnson being broken out of prison. You remember Bad Brain, don’t you? He was in a sum total of zero previous episodes, yet Lois and Clark act as though he’s a worthy fuckin’ adversary. Bad Brain is played by Michael Harris, who you might remember as the evil brother in the overlooked and quite frankly fantastic film Suture. Of all the crackpot inventors Lois & Clark has paraded around over the years, he’s definitely one of them. It’s no fault of Harris’; it’s just hard for him to shine amidst the likes of Jonathan Frakes. It’s even harder when you’re blown up in the first 10 minutes.


“And there is the complete series bible of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. It even includes the weird James Brolin season.”

I know you addressed it before but I was left flummoxed by the parodies at the beginning of every act. There’s I Love Lucy, then James Bond, then Dragnet. I think it’s less throwing note cards into a weird order and an admission of boredom on part of the creative team. They’ve run out of things to say with the state of Lois and Clark’s current relationship, so what the hell, let’s get Lane Smith pretending to be Joe Friday and interrogating Dean Cain for ‘marital nonparticipation’. These are apparently dreams characters are having but there’s no explanation or thematic reason for them to happen. It, again, suggests to me the writers are bored and trying to amuse themselves. The same thing happened in House when they did a Two and a Half Men parody. The worst part of this whole thing isn’t the parodies themselves, which are done well in spite of adding no insight to anything, it’s that they’re dropped without explanation. No “oh, the Lakes doused us with a hallucinogen that gave us vivid dreams that skirted copyright laws”, no nothing.

Chris: I completely agree that the parodies are an admission of boredom on the part of the behind-the-scenes creatives, that just doesn’t necessarily bother me. I mean, if I worked on Lois & Clark in 1995 I’d be bored too. You can’t really go forward and you can’t go backwards, so you have to find amusing ways to stay in the same place, why not let Hatcher and Cain stretch their acting muscles a little? My feeling is, if the bit works, I’m okay with it, if it doesn’t, I’m not. This isn’t Better Call Saul we’re talking about here, there isn’t some kind of standard to maintain. We’re just showing up every week, throwing shit against the wall and seeing what sticks. I actually think the parodies work better without any kind of context or explanation, it makes them more awkward and almost dada. Standards aside, this show does have a delightful history of introducing side-plots and/or situation generators that are much more interesting than the actual main business of the episode. My favorite example of this of course being Professor Hamilton cracking the human genome and essentially curing death last season in order for Superman to fight Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde. “Yes professor, I understand, I can see my nana again and cancer is a thing of the past, but there’s men in elegant suits driving around Metropolis in old-timey cars and robbing banks!”


If Bad Brain Johnson didn’t commit the crime, then why does this note exist?

What’s more interesting to me is that L&C is still hung up on marriage. You know how in Chasing Amy bisexuality doesn’t appear to be a thing? Lois & Clark seems to exist in a universe where dating doesn’t exist. I genuinely feel like L&C are continuing to grow and change in terms of their relationships to each other. They’re much more comfortable expressing their feelings and more in sync in terms of how to balance Clark’s dual responsibilities, but they’re stuck in a weird feedback loop in terms of their formal status that makes no sense. It would be one thing if this was The Adventures of Superman and it was from 1952, but people had sexual relationships and even lived together without having any kind of societal stigma in 1995. It was not a controversial concept. You don’t have to be Seinfeld and have the staff of the Planet start a contest to see who could go the longest without jerking off, but if you want to have young, relatable, modern, metropolitan (no pun intended) characters in your show, you need to have some sense of how young modern, metropolitan people behave. All that said, I’m going to go ahead and assume that the staff of the Planet did do a contest between seasons one and two, and that Cat actually died of a kind of stress related stroke after two hours. That’s why no one mentions her or what happened to her.  That’s headcanon now.   

Ronnie: One thing I found interesting is an explanation of Superman’s powers this episode offers. Every incarnation of Superman inevitably tries to explain why Superman is invulnerable and why his costume is too. If his costume wasn’t, it’d burn up whenever he activated his super speed, for instance. Some interpretations suggest the materials on his ship were used for his costume; Lois & Clark posits something different. Clark matter of factly explains to Lois that “anything close to me is contained within an aura that extends a few millimeters from my skin”. So if Superman holds Lois to him, she’ll survive whatever Superman survives. DC continuity is such a clusterfuck at this point I don’t know what the explanation for Superman’s invulnerability is right now. All told, it’s a pretty minor part of the episode but I appreciate it, even if there’s a 99% chance this will be contradicted in future episodes if it hasn’t already.


Clark proposes to… himself!

Something we don’t talk about often enough, I don’t think, is how bad and abrupt a number of episodes’ endings, this one included. I might just be speaking for myself here, but I find that I often sort of zone out in the last 5-10 minutes because Lois & Clark doesn’t know how to stick a landing. I couldn’t tell you how this episode ended precisely if you put a gun to my head. Something about Superman vibrating molecules? I dunno. All I know is the show closes with a Daily Planet party welcoming back the reporting duo, as for a hot second Perry and Jimmy thought they had been killed. Boy, if there was a party every time they turned up alive after being thought dead… there’d be a lot of parties! It’s with that that I end this column. Will this engagement proposal storyline finally come to some sort of a conclusion? I sure hope so.

Odds & Ends

-Other items in the Lakes’ possession: Jimmy Hoffa (in a block of cement) and the original draft of the Magna Carta.
-There’s a scene making fun of the glasses disguise. Lois puts on his glasses and Clark goes “where’s Lois Lane?”. Look, man, it’s an 80 year old conceit, you’re not going to find a new joke to make out of it. (Chris respectfully disagrees. It was a solid joke)
-”Superman is somewhere bumming big time” – Jimmy Olsen. Imagine that line reflected through British slang and it’s even funnier. Superman’s out fucking people in the ass in response to Lois’ untimely demise.
“There’s no time like the right time” says Jimmy when Clark asks him about proposing to Lois. THANKS FOR THE MEANINGLESS ADVICE YOU HALFWIT!


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