Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Return of the Prankster”/”Lucky Leon”

Ronnie: Well, it’s not quite Lex Luthor’s return, but this week on Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie we have the resurgence of another comics based foe, the Prankster as portrayed by Bronson Pinchot. Chris likes this Prankster more than I do, but I have to admit that I found myself warming to him in his second episode. Maybe Stockholm Syndrome has set in. So we open with Lois entering her apartment, upon which she’s enraptured by a yellow light that freezes her in her tracks. Prankster and his sidekick, The Drake from Seinfeld, have a camera that can freeze time, something I’m pretty sure only exists in the pages of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps but whatever. In case you’re wondering: no, they don’t rape her. Drake suggests taking her clothes off, to which Prankster rolls his eyes and says “grow up”. Prankster does kiss her before he leaves, making sure to sexually violate our lead heroine in some manner. Later on in the episode Prankster acquiesces, saying “I’ll let you have her” to his sidekick. Given The Drake plays this guy as Lenny, we can expect him to accidentally crush her to death if not for the timely intervention of Superman.


So much of their job is just giving this guy food.

Most of the comedy comes from The Drake being an idiot and Prankster responding to such idiocy in the most sarcastic, smarmy means possible. There’s a whole scene in which they quibble over the presence of a rat and Prankster says something to the effect of not having time for The Drake’s childhood in the daycare basement. The interplay is appreciated, as is the return of Prankster’s dad; I seem to recall writing on that one that his involvement with his son was a bullshit loose end. No longer! Dad Prankster treats Prankster Jr. like Prankster Jr. treats The Drake. All they needed was for someone lower on the totem pole than The Drake.

The personal storyline for this week is that Lois’ life is in danger and it’s suggested maybe she stay over at somebody else’s house. They nix the idea of Clark right away because they’re dating and it’d be awkward. Who knows, they might be adults who have sex? Alternately, Clark offers up Jimmy, despite him having a “hole in the wall bachelor pad”. I don’t know, but when I was Jimmy’s age, my place was barely livable for me, much less a professional woman who’s my professional and social superior. First Lois is annoyed that Jimmy leaves the TV on all night so he can listen to 976 commercials, then she’s annoyed by him having friends over for all hours of the night. Unfortunately, the subplot doesn’t culminate in a murder-suicide but rather Lois apologizing for being ungrateful and Jimmy trying to abort his silly string-related “revenge” plot. It’s all cold soup in my opinion.


I choose not to provide a context for this.

Chris: I’m glad you enjoyed this Prankster appearance more than the last one. I did too. It’s not a huge surprise just because having a character return gives the creatives a chance to hone them down. You enhance what worked, ditch what didn’t, and maybe add a little to make the character a bit richer. For Prankster that meant repurposing his dad as a disapproving asshole who is incapable of recognizing anything good about his son, which of course only causes Prankster to try harder to please his dad and be meaner to Otis, I mean Drake, I mean whatever his name is. That sort of shit runs downhill sentiment is particularly useful in L&C as a counterpoint to Clark’s solid relationship with his parents. L&C, and lots of superhero stories for that matter, are often really stories about community. The hero can only be a hero because they’re supported and inspired by the people in their lives. Clark is a hero because he was raised right, and because he surrounds himself with decent people. Prankster is a piece of shit because his dad was a piece of shit and because he pals around with a feeble minded sex-criminal.

Speaking of community, this episode also has a fair number of recurring characters and callbacks to previous episodes as well. Dr, Hamilton shows up to help reverse engineer Pranksters tech, and that one guy who eats a lot shows up to do something I can’t remember at the moment. But I was happy to see them. Like we keep saying, if you want Metropolis to feel like a real place, you gotta fill it with people. Plus it illustrates both sides of Clark’s life, the reporter and the super hero. Although I confess the fact that Prankster was ultimately undone by Hamilton’s tech is slightly disappointing; you want Superman stories to have Superman solutions. Like that time he out-flew the internet to stop a computer virus from spreading. Anyone could have put those contacts in and saved the president. Oh yeah, the president came to town, that was why Prankster was developing his freeze gizmo. He wanted to freeze everyone and kidnap the president so he could ransom the president.

Hey, why are we just calling the president “The President”? What’s that about? Why not just say President Clinton? It’s not like he actually appears in the episode or anyone says anything supportive or critical about him, so no one could possibly be alienated by his name being mentioned. I thought the whole point of the show was to put Superman in a modern, real world setting. There are references to Pearl Jam for heaven’s sake. Clinton was even in the Superman comic around this time. It was when Superman was dead and there were all the Replacement Supermen running around. Clark was missing and presumed dead too and his friend and coworker Ron Troupe is badgering browbeating Perry to give him Clark’s old job. Perry says Ron has to earn it and he writes an article about how Cyborg Superman saved Clinton from terrorists and gets the gig. The whole issue is Ron’s article and it’s just terrible. Remember in season one when they would occasionally pepper in some of Lois or Clark’s actual prose? Man, I don’t miss that at all.


The 90sness is overwhelming.

Ronnie: The show has a very different view of journalism than we do; when pressed for what her question to the President was, Lois says it was what baseball position would he play were he a baseball player. The others murmur that it’s a good question and not a waste of everyone’s time. I’m glad there isn’t much emphasis anymore on the nuts and bolts of reporting because the writers are clearly not up for the job. The whole President subplot to me was cute, in that it feels like it’s of a more innocent time. (I suppose you can argue the 90s WERE a more innocent time…) Like, it’s treated as though The Boss is coming to dinner and somebody overcooked the roast, though in this case it’s “Metropolis getting a reputation for being a crime ridden slum because the Prankster is loose”. I do think we should’ve seen the President, and it should’ve been dumbass stunt casting and we would’ve loved it. Andy Griffith. Get him in the mix. He was still alive, right?

The most baffling part of the episode, and that’s saying a lot for a show in which the Prankster gains access to stopping time technology, is that for some reason there’s a Secret Service character that is a parody of Clint Eastwood’s character in In The Line of Fire. They look similar, sound similar and even their names are similar; this one’s Carrigan whereas in the movie he’s called Horrigan. The timelines match up, this is about 2 years after In the Line of Fire. My question is why would you do this. Lois & Clark isn’t Saturday Night Live. The number of parodies this show has done I can name on one hand. The equivalent would be if one week Clark had to contend with a troublemaking kid in his apartment complex named Bert Sampson. Again, the real question is “why”? In the Line of Fire was a hit movie, but it wasn’t a watershed moment of cinema like, say, Pulp Fiction. That’s why in 2022 a cut and paste of one of its characters is bewildering instead of a cromulent example of pastiche. It’s such a weird choice because the “subplot”, such as it is, requires you to not only know the film but also Clint Eastwood’s particular issues (he rues not being able to save JFK) in that film and also that Jimmy Carter was once attacked by a giant rabbit. I’d ask “who is this for” but I know the answer is no one. Give Lois & Clark this: no other show would make a man in his 30s puzzle over mid-tier Clint Eastwood movie references that aren’t particularly funny or satirical. You don’t see Seaquest DSV doing that shit.


This is like when your dad dresses up as Clint Eastwood for Halloween, only more embarrassing.

Chris: Lois’s question about What Position Would The President Play is a perfect example of how the show would be better if they made the president Clinton. Our younger readers (I imagine Lois and Clark and Chris and Ronnie has many fans who were born after the year 2000) probably just think of Bill Clinton as a sexual predator and mass incarceration booster, but what they may not know is he was also a big fat hillbilly who talked funny and whose sweat was twenty percent McDonald’s French Fry Grease. I’m not saying he wouldn’t fit in on a baseball team, I’m saying there would never be a question that he would have played any position other than first base. Hell, I’d bet money that Clinton probably had a poster of John Kruk tacked to the wall of the Oval Office. For those same younger readers, John Kruk was a beloved member of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies and he looked exactly like Bill Clinton if Clinton dyed his hair brown, grew it out into a mullet and was allowed to chew tobacco at work. This episode came out in spring 1995, about a year before Bill Pullman played a president in Independence Day. That’s how we wanted presidents to be; Clinton is what presidents were. The point is, if you leave Americans to imagine what a president looks like, we’re more likely to envision the square jawed hero of an action movie than a sweaty meatball. The baseball position question is much more entertaining if you’re forced to consider the latter as opposed to imagining the former.

And I want to also say that I’m firmly in favor of more oblique In the Line of Fire style parodies.That whole sequence was tremendous because it required the audience to understand the backstory for the protagonist of a two year old film and remember a weird bit of trivia about a one term president from fifteen years earlier. Otherwise it’s just a strange digression that makes the show a little odder and more colorful. We get annoyed with all the audience winking elbow-nudging moments of modern pop-culture that basically stop the show or movie dead until everyone’s on the same page in terms of recognition, so it’s fun to see something that just kind of blows by and leaves no trace. It reminds me of Joel Hodgson’s explanation of how MST3Ks humor worked: “not everyone will get every joke, but the right people always will.” I also have to point out that our beloved Seinfeld did its own extended In the Line of Fire riff a whole year after “The Prankster Returns” when Kramer is chased by the cable guy in “The Cadillac”. That homage was so obscure that I didn’t pick up on it until YouTube pointed it out to me last year and I owned both the movie and the episode and watched them both many times. My point is, I like Lois and Clark best when it’s lighthearted and silly, and tying the Kennedy Assassination up with That Time Jimmy Carter Claimed He Was Attacked By A Giant Aquatic Rabbit absolutely qualifies as silly and lighthearted.

Odds & Ends

-Lois asks: “What is with me and people breaking into my apartment and flashing lights in my eyes?”
-In the time between the two Prankster episodes, Pranksters father managed to sell his toyshop and the warehouse where they were making their evil shit was turned into a Mosque. Real estate moves quickly in Metropolis.
-Professor Hamilton tells Lois he’d ask The President about the aliens at Area 51 and she looks at him like he’s insane. You’re in love with a fucking spaceman, Lois.
-How many nights did Jimmy and Lois spend together where Lois woke up in the middle of the night to find Jimmy sitting in a chair across the room just staring at her and mumbling to himself?

Ronnie: I believe that there’s more to the Lois & Clark/Seinfeld connection than just Chris and my obsession with the latter. See, “Lucky Leon” stars John Kapelos the Sniffing Accountant doing an ill-advised accent as the latest agent of Intergang our heroes become ensnared by. First, he frames Jimmy for murder as Jimmy’s the last guy to see somebody alive at his other package delivery job. My question is why does the Daily Planet not pay well enough to suit Jimmy’s needs? What the fuck is he spending money on that’s so cost prohibitive? Stickers and bubble solution can’t cost that much. Jimmy’s apprehension also fucks up the Lois/Clark date, which Jimmy protests because he doesn’t want a little thing like him going to prison fuck up his friends potentially doing it.


Jimmy’s going away for a long, long time.

Before we had Raquel Welch as a reporter cum assassin, and now we have an infomercial product hawker named Lucky Leon who is actually working for Intergang. I like this aspect of the crime syndicate, that everyone’s working some legitimate-ish hustle in between killing people for profit. We get to see a commercial for Leon’s products–the Desk Friend and the Bath Friend–and they’re suitably cheesy. Kapelos’ performance is pretty insane–he has this line about only trying a banana once he was 25 and then becoming an addict. What? The bad Russian accent helps to make the performance bewildering. Soon the plot spirals to involve Superman stealing nuclear weapons because he’s a simplistic fool and everybody’s favorite district attorney Mayson Drake dying via car bomb. What is this, Blown Away?

Killing off Mayson Drake so soon after her introduction seems like a mistake, though I’m not sure the writers would do more than squander her had she lived on. I will say her basically getting the Captain George Stacy from Spider-Man death made me laugh. If there’s another go-to “finds out secret identity of hero while dying” story I can’t think of it. Mayson was a character continually being given short shrift because her ideal role was as an obstacle for the Lois and Clark romantic relationship, but we never really see anything develop between her and Clark. No real temptation or anything. Part of that might stem from the fact that she only appeared in four episodes (including this one) before she was killed off. Appearing in less than 25% of the episodes is a surefire way to not be an adequate rival for Clark’s affections. I dunno. I liked Farrah Forke’s performance and I thought her liking Clark but not Superman was refreshing. She brought up questions of vigilantism that the show otherwise ignored because, hey, it’s Superman.

Chris: Yeah, the fact that Intergang members all seem to be required to have day jobs is tremendous, but what makes it better is that they’re all kind of low-rent. Peter Boyle leads a cadre of criminal assassins and he owns a chain of grocery stores! Raquel Welch isn’t only a mercenary ninja, she’s also a muckraker for a trashy syndicated news magazine! Whatsisbucket the Cokehead Accountant From Seinfeld isn’t just a weapons genius, he’s a regular guest on QVC too! I bet all their lawyers have signs on bus stop benches too. That said, the deliberate undercutting of the threat that Intergang poses is sort of odd when we’re also supposed to think they’re dangerous enough to threaten the safety of our main characters at the same time. As buffoonish as Lex’s underlings were and as silly as many of his plots were, the show also never lost focus on the fact that Lex himself was a dangerous man. I suppose the whole substitute quality of Intergang could be seen as some kind of postmodern comment on their status as B- level Superman threats, well below the likes of Luthor, Brainiac, and General Zod. But if that’s the case it begs the question why go out of your way to underline how non-threatening the villains you yourself write are? 


The Desk Friend is pure garbage. Never buy that for anyone you care about.

And again, I’m way more pro Intergang than con, I just also think they come up short when it’s time to have something serious happen. And Mayson Drake’s death should be serious. She was a little used character, but she managed to make a distinct impression in her relatively short screen life. While she was never a real threat to Lois, she was exactly the type of person that you could see Lois being threatened by. She was smart and capable and seemed genuinely interested in Clark in a way that Lois herself had trouble expressing. I think I’ve mentioned it before but I hate the trope of the Obvious Bad Choice who one of the characters is interested in despite having almost no redeeming features besides being attractive. It’s a thin narrative device that does nothing other than to artificially delay the main characters getting together and to give the audience someone to hate. Mayson was never that, even Lois had to admit that her dislike of Mayson was rooted in personal and professional competitive jealousy. As weird as it sounds, I’m glad she got to be killed instead of just getting dumped and shuffled into offscreen oblivion and forgotten. Now her absence means something.

It’s just kind of a shame that she had to die as a result of caper that’s difficult to describe without using an outdated term for severe mental impairment. Someone calls Lois and tells her that Intergang has stolen some nuclear bombs and are smuggling them out of Metropolis by posing as members of the military. Cut to Superman stopping a single van driving and demanding they turn the weapons over to him. They threaten to shoot him, to which he responds “Guys, come get serious it’s me… Superman,” which is pretty terrific, and they turn over the van. Guess what? Turns out they actually were soldiers and Superman just committed a very serious federal crime. Superman and Lois are that word I can’t use for just believing the story of some jerk on the phone, but we also have to ask, what the fuck was the military doing transporting nuclear material in that fashion?  You mean you “filled a van with nuclear warheads” (actual line from the episode), threw a couple jarheads behind the wheel and just hit the road? Where’s the fucking convoy? Transporting two nuclear missiles in Superman: The Movie involved multiple platoons, and now we’re cramming warheads into vans with like they’re loaves of bread and that’s it? Thanks a lot, The President!

Ronnie: Yeah, Intergang may be entertaining but they sure don’t pose a serious threat to Superman. I think it all stems from the tonal problem the series has. Is it supposed to be a frothy romantic comedy where the superhero action is on the periphery (think the comic book series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, in which Spider-Man only really showed up in relation to MJ) or is it a superhero adventure show? By firing all of Season 1’s writers, it looks as though Lois & Clark is going in the latter direction, but the execution suggests differently. It may be difficult to credibly show Superman in danger on Sunday family hour television, but it is possible I have to believe.



This brings us back to Mayson’s death. Whatever the reason the powers that be had for offing her, that pales in comparison to the absolutely shit job they did killing her. It’s juxtaposed with Lois and Clark having their first kiss. Mayson gets in her car, triggering a bomb countdown. Only as it reaches 5 does Clark realize anything is amiss, causing him to break off the kiss and try to save her. It’s too little, too late; she will perish in the shittiest looking car explosion ever. (High water mark for TV car explosions is of course The Shield. You know what I’m talking about.) She hangs on long enough to realize her love and her enemy are the same guy, and then she croaks upon whispering the word “resurrection”. I hope there’s a season long arc of Tasha Yar trying to bring Mayson Drake back to life. It looks cheap and feels cheap.

When I think of the character I think “wasted potential”, because while she could’ve been a good foil, she wasn’t, not really. Her job didn’t come into play nearly enough, nor did her distrust of Superman. Instead the focus was on her embarrassing efforts to cage Clark into a relationship he is ambivalent about. Like, there’s a scene where she in person asks him to lunch and says she did it because rejection is less common if you do it in person. She just has a lot of one sided feelings that make her appear oblivious to what’s going on around her. He’s Just Not That Into You, Mayson! Maybe they killed her because the writers realized the trajectory the character was going on meant only one outcome: Fatal Attraction. Superman has no bunnies to boil so they sought to change tracks.

Chris: My inclination is to agree with you in regards to Mayson ultimately being ill served by L&C. On the one hand, she was created solely as an impediment to the lead’s inevitable relationship, and on that level she served her purpose? I guess? I’m not actually sure because it wasn’t like the show ever suggested Clark was actually interested in her. He has that one scene where he’s like “I… care for you” but that’s about as weak sauce as that kind of admission can possibly get. It’s even a step below “I like you as a friend”. And Cain always played Clark like he was a good dude trying to figure out how to let her down as gently as possible. I think she worked better as a foil for Lois than any kind of temptation for Clark. Her interest in Clark spurred Lois into finally acknowledging her own feelings and the professional rivalry between authority and the press was better expressed between the two women as well. There were times when Lois forced Clark to leverage Mayson’s affection for him into getting information and softening blowback from journalistic overreach.

A better show would know what to do about this. Cheers, for instance, introduced Frasier in the third season purely as an impediment to Sam and Diane’s reunion too. He was supposed to be the person Diane always said she wanted, only for her to realize he wasn’t. He was there just for that and then he was supposed to be written out. But that obviously wasn’t what happened. The Cheers creatives realized that Frasier had a lot of potential as a character and that Kelsey Grammer was a rare talent. Eventually of course Dianne was the one to leave the show and Frasier didn’t just stick around, he and Sam became the best of friends and when Cheers ended he spun off into his own legendary show. I’m not saying that in an alternate universe we’d be talking about the Multi-Emmy Award winning Lois & Clark spin-off Mayson, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing what happened if L&C abandoned the love triangle sub-plot and followed the rivalry turned friendship of the two women.

But they didn’t, and now we’re firmly in the Relationship Era of Lois and Clark, a coupling from which there is apparently no escape. There are people who are still bothered by Pete and MJ’s marriage being erased, but no one gets too worked up when a movie or comic shows what would have happened if Gwen had lived or him and Felicia had figured it out. And while Reed and Sue are forever, we also know she gets one long weekend a year where she takes an aquatic pogo plane down to Atlantis and whatever happens, happens. But man, DC tried to fuck with Lois and Clark with that New 52 reboot and it was a disaster. Oh sure, Nu Superman got to make out with Wonder Woman a few times, and Lois had whatever flings she had, but they paid a price. Did you see what happened to those two iterations of the character? They didn’t just disappear or bond with their older counterparts or whatever, they died horrible, excruciating deaths. The whole Rebirth Era of DC was really mostly about restoring the Kent marriage and performatively torturing their single counterparts out of existence. I still get shaky when I think about it.


Her last words: “Somehow, Palpatine returned”.

Anyway, that wraps up another edition of Lois and Clark and Chris and Ronnie. We’re down to our last handful of episodes before season two comes to an end and we reach the halfway point of this entire series. The whole show to this point has been about the build-up to where we now find ourselves, the romantic coupling of Lois and Clark. Of course, there are still more roadblocks ahead and secrets to be revealed. See you next week to find out what happens next.

Odds & Ends

-As Lois and Clark have trouble picking a date for their date, Jimmy asks “Am I sensing a problem?” Clark: “No, nothing Jimmy Carter couldn’t negotiate”. That’s two Carter references in as many episodes. What’s the deal?
-Perry’s Elvis references return! It felt like he had forgotten about The King.
-Apparently Jimmy still thinks Clark should wear an earring. Jimmy is an idiot.

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