Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Lois & Clarks”/”…aka Superman”

Ronnie: Hello hello and welcome back to yet another Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie, a series of comical critique articles of a show barely anybody remembers for understandable reasons. Last time on The Clark, Tempus was elected president via mind control subterfuge and immediately started making Superman’s life hell. Last episode ended on a cliffhanger in which Superman got trapped in a time travel thingy and because of the shit Tempus did the future he was sent to no longer exists. Is this the end of Superman? Probably. Lois is crestfallen. The problem is no one believes her about the threat of Tempus due to the mind control. There’s some comic relief that mostly works here; it’s difficult to render Fred Willard unfunny is what I’m saying. Tempus enlists a tough named Dragon (so called because of his dragon tattoo) to be Secretary of State, which in this permutation of the position is President Tempus’ enforcer. You know, like Hillary was for Obama. Tempus also throws a guy out a window just to unnerve Fred Willard. But he’s also mind controlling people so I guess there’s no reason to kill a random guy. Man, who knows. Anything to fill the time.


“Wha’ happened?”

Tempus further takes a whack to the hornet’s nest by requesting Lois cover his inauguration, resulting in some banter between the two. The old version of H.G. Wells (not the Terry Kiser version) shows up with another Clark in tow; I suppose he thinks this’ll help. This version of Clark, also Dean Cain, is basically our Clark with a Golden Age/Silver Age twist that his parents died when he was a child. (His universe’s Lois also went missing in the Congo before they met; that comes up later.) This episode features Ma and Pa so they both get to react to meeting another version of their son as well as author/time traveler/raconteur H.G. Wells. It’s mildly amusing, mildly emotional…mild all the way. I do like that Tempus apparently decided to replace the Secret Service with Hell’s Angels members. Tempus is generally the high point for the entire two parter; I spent considerable time trying to ascertain his political ideology. Authoritarian paternalism, perhaps.

Lois and Other Clark deduce Tempus’ mind control stems from phones, as evidenced by him trying to execute by firing squad some poor suckers who don’t use phones. This is a plotline that reads differently in 2024 because it’s pretty difficult to live an average American life without a smartphone, much less a phone of any kind. As with most of these episodes, the third act is rushed bullshit that reinstates the status quo. Our Clark returns, Tempus’ nonsensical plan to nuke the planet is averted, everything’s fine, the titular couple are assumed to be fucking after the end credits. Sayonara to Tempus and H.G. Wells.

Chris: I liked Dragon because he folded almost immediately after Superman showed up and because his dragon tattoo was really small. Like, maybe he wasn’t sure if he wanted being called Dragon to be his thing, so he just got the little tattoo as a kind of starter to see how it went. Or maybe he was called Dragon before he got the ink and only got tatted up out of a sense of obligation. But people kept hinting at it, talking about how cool dragon tattoos were and how they wished they could get a dragon tattoo but they didn’t want Dragon to feel like they were infringing on his identity. And people would look at him when he wasn’t wearing a shirt and theatrically sigh and when Dragon asked what was wrong they would be all like nothing, but he knew what it was about. And they knew he knew, and he knew they knew he knew. Until it just became too much and he got the fucking tattoo just so it would break the unspoken tension that followed him around like a cloud.


Terrible job. Just awful.

But he was still an outlaw biker and didn’t want to look like he could be pushed around either, so he got a real small one. It was like in “The Subway” when that lady invited George up to her hotel room, told him to get comfortable and went into the bathroom.That was a problem though, George didn’t know what comfortable was supposed to mean. He didn’t want to, like, get completely undressed and have the lady come out dressed and freak out, but he also didn’t want to stay the way he was in case she came out naked and was humiliated. So what he did was, he took his shoes off and laid down on top of the bed, reasoning she couldn’t accuse him of being uncomfortable. Maybe it was like that. They’d stop bugging him and still respect him. What were we talking about again? Oh right, the Superman show. Yeah, this one was okay enough too. I liked how they brought Weiner Clark from season 02(?) back and how he and Lois had a weird chemistry that made them both uncomfortable. At the end of the episode, after Classic Clark returns, Wells and Weiner Clark disappear back into the time stream to rescue Lois from whatever (savage, albino, super gorilla?) fate had sprung on her in the Congo. This seems like a thread that would have been picked up down the line in season 5 that never came to be.

I wish this kind of continuity nonsense had been used more frequently. You and I have both said this multiple times, but recurring characters can be an easy way to give your show a little weight. It makes the episodes feel more connected and the world livelier. I imagine that money is the issue that didn’t happen more often. I would think that the more times a performer appears on a show, the higher their salary is, but surely there was a little money they could have siphoned out of the FX to cover it? Of course I kid, at this point L&C effects budget seemed to have been comprised from whatever change the show’s producers found wedged in the cracks of the driver seats of their cars. The interdimensional limbo Classic Clark spends trapped in are just these glowing blue frames floating in blackness. It’s embarrassing. Seriously, they make the flying toasters from After Dark look like the dragon thingies from Avatar.

Ronnie: I guess now is as good a time as any to discuss Tempus and H.G. Wells overall, as they don’t make any more appearances for the rest of the series. I’m pretty okay with them. The time traveling sci-fi author and Stalin apologist is a classic Silver Age element in a program that typically draws from the then-contemporaneous Byrne Post-Crisis comics. Speaking of which, that must be why some Superman shit doesn’t appear on Lois & Clark. Like the lack of Supergirl is noticeable now, but Supergirl as Superman’s cousin wasn’t returned to the comics until 2004. During Lois & Clark’s tenure, Supergirl was an alien blob who was fucking Lex Luthor who was in a clone body posing as his Australian son. Brainiac is a significant absence too. Parasite is missing, as is Darkseid. Darkseid is understandable, but I admit I want to see Kirby’s New Gods on a 90s TV budget. Anyway, those are the big omissions. Everybody else got adapted for better or worse. Mostly worse.

Back to Wells. I like that he and Tempus both come from a utopian future inspired by Superman, because it hammers home how Superman is “The Man of Tomorrow” and suggests that his goodness will lead humanity into a new age unencumbered by bigotry and hatred. I like that it’s actually him and Lois that usher in humanity’s next step. If Superman is not about optimism and hope and that optimism and hope paying off what are we even doing here? That’s why I think Tempus’ characterization works. Like, he doesn’t need a complex motivation that audiences understand, he just has to be the antithesis of a utopian future. That allows Lane Davies to ham it up, and that’s entertaining even if the plots are, say, about Clark and Lois having sex destroying the world or whatever.


Nuke the world. Fuck it, I don’t care anymore. Would provide a fun new status quo for Superman.

Chris: Yeah, I’m inclined to think that Tempus is as close as you could get to a “perfect” Lois & Clark villain. He shows up often enough to be a palpable presence on the show, but never so often that he becomes tired. Except the honeymoon episode, but that had nothing to do with Tempus. The thing about Lex was they never figured out how to make him a series regular and also a consistent threat to Superman. A better show might have been able to make hay with the idea that Lex is so interwoven with the corrupt underbelly of that he would get a taste of everything from high level weapons smuggling to crooked middle-weight boxing; but L&C was never able to draw them together in an interesting way. He came off inconsistent and mildly schizophrenic as opposed to complex and multi-faceted. Many of the episodes that used him best were actually the ones where he was courting Lois and was forced to interact with Clark on a personal level, or when he was an outside element pointing L&C in the right direction. Remember when he was skeet shooting from the balcony of his penthouse?


In an ideal world, Dragon would be played but somebody, but it’s not so he’s played by nobody.

No, Tempus is the villain L&C deserved, even if it wasn’t the one it needed. He embodied the broad, hammy, low budget aesthetic that seemed to fit the show best. If more of the show had managed to capture the goofy, tongue-in-cheek tone that those episodes had, maybe it would have lasted longer than it did. We’re almost done so I feel confident in saying that season two’s “Phoenix” featuring the return of Lex Luthor was the show’s high point. They actually infused that episode with palpable menace and Shea sold the hell out of Lex’s desperation to escape Metropolis with Lois and his genuine heartbreak at the realization that she really didn’t love him. That was a level that L&C just wasn’t capable of maintaining. But the episode where Lois gets sucked into the alternate reality with the inexplicably hateful Lana Lang and introduces the Nu Clark who returns in this episode? They should have been able to consistently deliver that level of engaging cheese. Minus the Lana character assassination. Actually, you know what? Never mind. I just reread our recap of that episode and we hated that one too. So fuck me, I guess.

Odds & Ends

-Jimmy is surprised when Alternate Clark treats him like a human being and not a gofer. He also talks about dating a woman who just got out of prison. I’m not sure if Lois & Clark ever knew what to do with Jimmy, but they sure as hell are flailing now.
-You know what would have been kind of neat? If they’d just cast a different actor for Wells every time he appeared. I mean, once you recast him once using the explanation that it’s from a different point in his life, why not just roll with it? You could do all sorts of fun shit with all the variations of Welles and how comfortable they are with the time travel shit.

Ronnie: Man. “…aka Superman” is one for the books. Okay, so the Lady Terminator from T3: Rise of the Machines is in love with Superman and uses a criminology computer program to deduce his secret identity, because she believes he has a secret identity. Computer spits out a 97% match: Jimmy Olsen. Look, it’s tough to do a secret identity story for a character whose difference in identity lies in a pair of glasses. It’s a string you don’t want to pull on too tightly because it’ll inevitably reveal this is stupid bullshit for idiots. So I’m pretty wary of these types of stories. Meanwhile, Lady Terminator’s boss, Howling Mad Murdock, thinks the US needs a missile defense system and kills an astronaut he annoyingly refers to as “Steve-O” for refusing to participate in his scheme.


She’s practically got a crazy board for Superman! Don’t trust her with anything.

So you’ve also got Lois horny for cock and irritated that Superman has shit to do. Apparently Clark has two day planners, one for himself and one for Superman. For a show terrified of intimacy in the vast majority of the episodes it seems they’re overcompensating at this point. There’s a whole discussion of the last time they “made love” and Clark knows how long it’s been to the second. While I don’t really care about whether or not Jimmy gets laid, it does make sense a girl would only fuck him or express any interest in him if she were under the assumption he was Superman. It’s Saul Goodman pretending to be Kevin Costner. The Howling Mad Murdock plotline is tidily and shittily resolved and Kristanna Loken learns that Jimmy isn’t Superman, but since he did do something vaguely heroic it doesn’t matter and she’ll still suck his dick. At long last, Clark and Lois finally have time to fuck but it so happens they try to have sex in the very location housing Clark’s surprise birthday party. So all his colleagues get to see them make out on the floor like the plane’s about to crash into the mountain. Lotta meat on this bone, Chris, but I’m not sure any of it is good.

Chris: So in 2001 I went with my dad to see Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as was the style at the time, and when we were walking out of the theater he mentioned that he thought Shannon Elizabeth was a pretty good actress. And I turned to him, I’ll never forget this, I turned to him, said what are you, out of your fucking mind, and immediately started checking his his head for signs of blunt force trauma. But once he’d struggled out of my grip he explained that only a talented actress could look charmed by and attracted to Jason Mewes, and I had to concede that he had a point. I bring this up, as you might imagine, because I had a similar thought regarding Kristanna “Bloodrayne” Loken and Justin Whalen. Any female character who could be in the same room as Whalin’s Jimmy and look like she wanted to be there, deserves some kind of award. I think this might actually be the character’s low-point: this is a grown man who’s reduced to a stuttering mess simply by being in the same room as a pretty woman. You know the stereotype of the giggling Japanese schoolgirls? That’s the kind of behavior I’m talking about. It’s revolting, but I believed that Lokken found it adorable. So that’s something.


“I’m the moderator of two Farscape fan forums!”

Beyond that I agree with your general assessment of a bunch of not terrible ideas jammed all together into a bitter stew of an episode. “Aka Superman” has a Seinfeld level of plots, they all feel forced, and none of them cross over in interesting ways. Like, you’ve got Loken’s misguided attraction to Jimmy is tied into Lt. Barklay’s missile plan by virtue of her working for him, but that’s more lazy than interesting. Same as her making a move on Superman and Lois later finding lipstick on his costume. It seems at first like Clark is deliberately hiding the incident from Lois, so when she learns about it through residue as opposed to him telling her, you think this will maybe lead to some kind of interesting conversation. Maybe Lois will be suspicious that Clark is keeping other things from her, or they’ll have some discussion about how Superman isn’t entirely altruistic and there’s an ego boost that comes with every woman on Earth being in love with him. Or he could explain it and they could move onto the next thing. That’s a choice too.

Ronnie: I think we need to have a conversation about Jimmy, because this may very well be the final Jimmy “focus” episode of the series. I can see why the powers that be canned original Jimmy, but he really is a different and better character compared to Justin Whalin’s version. I know it’s no longer politically correct to say, but at the best of times Jimmy 2 seems borderline retarded. Look, there’s no better way to say it. It’s like what you said about Kristanna Loken feigning attraction to him–it’s jarring because an adult woman should not be attracted to him, because it’s the MRF storyline from Arrested Development all over again. Jimmy Olsen as constituted in the past three seasons is a manchild at best, “touched by the face of God” at worst. It’s a tough character to get right, because he’s as earnest as the Superman property should be, so if the property is less earnest he feels out of place. Sometimes adaptations straight up make him like Kramer when Mel Torme thought he was retarded. Lois & Clark trends toward the latter; the problem is also we never really see what Jimmy does, except be a son figure to Perry. He’s supposed to be a photographer. Where’s the fucking pics?


Dinner farce? Please no.

For better or for worse, Jimmy’s one of four characters that appear in pretty much every episode. Therefore, you’ve got to give him more utility than “idiot manchild”, although I guess this hour is the result of my ask. Part of it comes down to performance. Justin Whalin may be credible as a compulsive masturbator in Serial Mom, but he ranges from inoffensive to obnoxious on here. Original Jimmy evinced a sort of street smarts that gave him an angle compared to the boy scout Clark. Whalin Jimmy gives his wallet to the wallet inspector without asking for identification.

Chris: Here is a thing I wish the show had either done more of or dropped altogether: people trying to suss out Superman’s secret identity. The idea that Superman could fool people with a pair of glasses was something you could kind of get your mind around in the 30s and 40s simply by virtue of the fact that there weren’t cameras everywhere all the time and what camera’s there were, weren’t exactly shooting in 4K. And while 1997 hadn’t quite tipped over into our current dystopian nightmare just yet, it’s not like there weren’t plenty of ways to get a clear picture of someone’s face. So when Loken concludes that Jimmy is the Man of Steel despite the fact that they clearly look nothing alike, it’s hard to know how we’re supposed to feel. On the one hand, it’s not totally crazy to think a dude who can turn back time might be able to alter his appearance, but that’s never explored. No one looks at a picture of Jimmy and points out that he looks nothing like Superman for Loken to respond to. All we get is a woman who is convinced that two people who look nothing alike are actually the same person. They could have done something with that. But they don’t, so instead it just looks like this episode actually stars two MRFs.


Credit to Dean Cain: excellent reaction to Jimmy’s scam.

What I did like was Superman’s bewilderment slash borderline disgust by some algorithm concluding that he and Jimmy were somehow 96% identical or something. Cain did a great job playing Clark’s offended pride and Whalin did a great job being totally oblivious to said offended pride. It turns out they work well together as a comedy duo and it’s another too little too late bright spot that maybe could have been explored in lieu of all the nonsensical bullshit they shat out while they were pushing the wedding off. But it’s like the show was determined to keep Whalen or Lane Smith from actually doing anything too interesting. Remember when Perry compared everything to Elvis and was embroiled in an ugly divorce? And you’re dead on about the fuzziness of Jimmy’s job. The Jimmy of season one was able to chafe at the restrictions Perry put on him, he was scrapping and scamming and hustling to move up in the business and Perry was his mentor. Of course, he was also betting Cat Grant that they were related with her having to fuck him if they were (again, if they were related, she had to have sex with him). Suddenly him becoming a gibbering moron around pretty girls doesn’t seem quite as creepy.

Odds & Ends

-I like the stupid bullshit the program has Superman doing, like ribbon cutting a hospital in New Zealand or participating in a celebrity golf tournament. That the post office saves letters addressed to him and he tries to respond to all of them. It establishes him as a larger than life figure, like Elvis, as opposed to just another superhero.

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