Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “The Source”/”The Prankster”

Ronnie: Welcome back to Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie, your #1 source for retrospective reviews of Lois & Clark, one of the many Superman adaptations and definitely one of them. We’re now into Season 2, a Season 2 without Lex, without Cat, with a new Jimmy. The writing staff all left/got shitcanned at the end of Season 1 so in several ways it’s like this is a new show. I have to say I prefer it to the old one, with its unwieldy tightrope act of being a soapy romance and an action show starring Superman. The latter is definitely more present in Season 2. Superman now shows up in multiple scenes and does stuff as opposed to appearing at the 38 minute mark to catch someone falling out a window or giving Lois a pep talk through her window.


Lois shoots Superman and gets off due to Castle Doctrine.

You know it’s a good episode when it’s about a malfunctioning ferris wheel. I know it’s used as a test case, but come on, you can’t find something a little more impactful than a ferris wheel? If shit goes wrong on that it’ll be the carnies taking it on the chin, not any normal folk. Peter Scolari has information proving it was an inside job and wants Lois to protect him as he provides her the information. She fucks it up and he ends up dead. Or does he? “The Source” is yet another journalism-heavy episode of Lois & Clark, which I again appreciate because if this show is to be about something, it may as well be about the inner workings of a metropolitan newspaper.

“”The Source” allows for a fairly sizable role for Pa and Ma Kent, as the former is left reeling after his best friend dies of a heart attack. Clark does everything he can think of to cheer dad up, from taking him to the fairgrounds to taking him to work. I guess meeting with Perry White and hearing his snake story isn’t enough to shake one from the inevitability and finality of death. I like these scenes just because they’re so odd. Your father’s buddy dies. How do you cheer him up? Take him to work, of course! Let him meet your co-workers.

Chris: Yeah man, “The Source” is another solid episode of Lois and Clark, making for three in a row. It focuses on Lois and her relationship to her work and forces her to confront how her desire to break a story and uncover malfeasance tends to push her towards reckless behavior that risks her life and the lives of others. It’s plotline that gives her some of the weight and gravitas that usually goes to Clark because she thinks her reporting led to a man being murdered. It turns out not to be true of course, but still, it’s a heavy burden to carry even for a few days. I said this in our last article, but season two’s renewed focus on the romantic relationship between Lois and Clark as well as their jobs at the Planet made me wonder what the hell season one’s focus was on. Like, what did they think they were doing? We watched a whole season of television over the last few months and wrote about every episode, but I’m already having trouble remembering most of it.

It’s weird, right? So far, Lois and Clark 2.0 is a decent, if unremarkable, show. You and I are pretty much on the same page in terms of the immortal creatives vs suits battle in that we tend to side with the artists over the money on general principle. But in the case of L&C the network booting the creator and the writers seems to have yielded a better product. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a small sample size and I’ll never forgive them for switching Jimmys out (think we can get #RestoreTheLandesverse trending?), but it’s remarkable how much more smoothly things are running so far. Even the best episodes from the first season had weird or questionable elements that made you wonder just what the deal with the show was. Obviously I’m thinking of Cat, but also remember when Lex stared down the venomous cobra in his living room? Or his assistant in the turban? Sometimes those choices were fun (Lex shooting skeet off the balcony of his penthouse for instance, or our beloved pet pig), sometimes they weren’t (again, see every scene with Cat), but every episode had a slightly arhythmic, off kilter feel that so far is missing from season two. For better or worse, L&C feels more professional now.

This isn’t to say that the show hasn’t lost all of its idiosyncrasy. I’m enjoying this odd trend of Clark using his super powers to court Lois/inconvenience others. Remember in “Madame Ex” how he used his super breath to, well, suck a cab that had ignored Lois back to her so she could get a ride? This week he uses that same super breath to help her win in a carnival game. Lois and this snotty little girl are doing one of those races where they go down a bumpy slide on little mats and whoever gets to the bottom first wins. Clark provides a little extra wind support to his partner and gets to bask in the knowledge that he used his fantastic gifts to help a grown woman beat a child at a game. Jor-El would be proud. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son. And if you have any spare time, find a shitty kid and just kind of fuck with them. Nothing too serious, just make it weird for a second, that’s all. Ruin their afternoon. That would be hilarious.


Yeah, eat shit, little kid!

Ronnie: “The Source” is yet another episode of Lois & Clark that deals with the ethics of journalism. Good thing gaming journalism existed only in the pages of Nintendo Power or else we’d likely have to deal with a show about that. “The Source” tells us that getting a source killed is a journalistic faux pas. (Teri Hatcher’s line delivery, almost sobbing while saying “I wrote an article that got a man killed” is pretty funny.) Not only is it wrong, it can get you suspended! Lois also gets sued for libel by Viologic, the boogeyman company du jour. “Well, shield laws are great in theory,” Perry says when Lois balks at bringing in Peter Scolari to combat the libel charges. Never has the phrase “in theory” led anywhere good. Also Perry: “Lawyers run this world.” I bet he’s in favor of tort reform and bitches about the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit. Luckily, Lois realizes her source isn’t dead and goes to the point of printing up a fake newspaper to ensnare the co-conspirator in the death faking plot. That must’ve been an interesting 3 AM jaunt to Kinko’s.

I want to go back to the Pa Kent “storyline”. I feel like the parents aren’t utilized well enough on Lois & Clark. Would I watch a show that’s about the elderly Smallville couple puttering around and answering the occasional phone call from their beleaguered superpowered boy? Obviously I would. But regardless of that, they sort of abandon Pa’s melancholy halfway through when it comes time to ramp up the Peter Scolari plotline. In fact, you could argue that the characters are squeezed into a narrative they don’t need to be in, thereby inadvertently fulfilling my request of “more Ma and Pa Kent”. Well, if I’m going to be the “terrible food and in such small portions” guy with this, so be it. If you’re going to use them, have them do something and not just be there. They deserve better than being on a speeding train Superman needs to stop. In the end, Pa’s brush with death is brushed aside as he befriends a guy who fainted on the runaway train. He’s originally from Kansas even! “Looks like there’s one more reason for us to visit Metropolis now”, Martha gushes. So that’s it? Pa just needed a substitute friend? It’s that fucking Simpsons joke about going to the pound and getting a new jazzman all over again!

So this was competent but kinda boring. It has what I’m coming to expect from Lois & Clark: a journalistic A-plot that justifies Superman’s intrusion in the third act as things escalate. Or earlier, in this specific case, when he has to save Lois and Peter Scolari from being drowned. Lois goes undercover just as she does in “Wall of Sound”, although in this case her costume is substantially less slutty than there. (Why she needs a suit and tie for impersonating copier repair is beyond me.) The overall plot is pretty anodyne in that it’s about a company kicking money back to a gubernatorial candidate in exchange for defense contracts. Like a third of these shows have had that sort of intrigue and it never gets less uninteresting. I’m still watching a Superman show, you know? Put somebody in a garish costume, don’t expect me to care about political corruption. I can barely bring myself to care about real world political corruption, much less “guy installs puppet so he can get fat stacks in defense contracts”. It’s so needlessly complicated. Are you telling me he couldn’t just buy the current president?


This is definitely somebody’s fetish.

Chris: I think the Kents plot was shaky too, I assume they’re going to play a larger role this season than they did in seasons past, and this was a way to sort of justify their increased presence in Metropolis moving forward? Maybe? But I thought there was going to be some kind of hay made of Lois and Cat’s disparate perspectives on life, work, and romance too. So what do I know. I did enjoy seeing Clark actively looking for shit for his parents to do while they were in town, it was fun and humanizing in a way that was novel for him. And the frustration and helplessness that even an adult child can feel when they see their parent unhappy was nicely played. But it was super awkward how it was also used to put them in danger. Clark: I bought you guys tickets for the inaugural ride on our new subway! Martha: That sounds like fun! Me: Does it Martha? Does it sound like fun? I guess when you get to that age any activity that involves sitting down for an extended period of time qualifies as fun.

There’s a part of me that wants to push back on your complaints about the show’s reliance on political corruption by pointing out that originally Superman spent a lot of time going after crooked politicians and businessmen but we both know it’s about budget, not fidelity. None of these writers were immersing themselves in early Superman lore, they were just trying to figure out how to get Superman to do super feats that involved walking at a brisk pace and bending things. I think it’s like what you said in our previous entry, a good episode of L&C still requires qualification. It will never be The Wire or even Hawkeye, your mileage may vary regarding the MCU TV, but tebating that Disney and Marvel have more time, money and talent to devote to their shows than the L&C showrunners could have ever dreamed. So you work with what you’ve got, and what they’ve got is the newspaper setting and non-costumed villains.That’s just how it is.


Perry is just taking the movie 127 Hours and passing it off as his own life!

Or is it? Yes, yes it is. But as we wrap up our coverage of “The Source” and look ahead to what’s to come, one can’t help but notice that the next episode “The Prankster” promises to introduce the beloved, or at least dimly remembered, Superman antagonist of the same name into the Lois & Clark universe. And not only that, he’s played by late 80’s and AVClub interview legend Bronson Pinchot. Who said L&C couldn’t pull down Marvel level talent? That was me, and it was only a paragraph ago. I stand by it. Hawkeye had multiple Oscar nominees and L&C’s ceiling appears to be the co-lead from a TGIF anchor. Come on. But that doesn’t mean Pinchot can’t be a ton of fun. How will he fare against the Man of Steel? There’s only one way to find out

Odds & Ends
-I think this is the first time they’ve established that Smallville and Metropolis are in different states? I mean, you can assume Metropolis isn’t in Kansas, but other shows like Smallville put the two close together for narrative purposes. Hell, in Batman v. Superman apparently Metropolis and Gotham are in the same state…
-Clark’s vision seems less “super” and more “zoom, enhance, zoom, enhance” vision. What is this, Blade Runner?
-He also uses his powers to eat a sandwich quickly.
-The director, John T. Kretchmer, was assistant director on Jurassic Park. From small fish in a big pond to a big fish in a small pond.
-At a certain point we’ve got to talk about how Superman shows up floating at Lois’ window like he’s Sam on Clarissa Explains It All. I don’t think that behavior would pass muster in the 21st century.
-Peter Scolari has a “best friend” named Oliver that I believe is also a confirmed bachelor.
-The piano that crops up occasionally does little to separate Lois & Clark from Full House and I’d appreciate it if it ceased tout suite.
-There’s a moment when Lois gets sealed in a drum and tossed in the river and she calls out for Superman to help her. That made me wonder just how many calls for help he must ignore during the average day. How many people do you think Superman could have saved if he wasn’t constantly pulling Lois’s fat out of the fire? And it’s always because she’s behaving recklessly too. It’s like when the firemen had to let a lumber mill burn down because they had to unstick Homer from two separate vending machines.


If nothing else, Prankster creates terrifying jack in the boxes.

Ronnie: You know, when I asked for supervillains I meant actual supervillains. Superman doesn’t have the greatest rogues gallery because his powers make it a challenge for anyone to threaten him. That’s why he goes up against accidents and natural disasters so often–the purpose is to save people rather than defeat a foe. Once you get past Lex Luthor and Darkseid, the pickings are pretty slim. Enter: Prankster, also known as the shittier Toyman. Yes, Siegel and Shuster created him. But for every Superman they created there’s a, well, Prankster. Try thinking of a good Prankster story. You cannot, because they don’t exist. Lois & Clark follows in those footsteps. Here the Prankster pranks Lois by giving her fucked up gifts, such as a jack in the box that emits a piercing sound and a ring she can’t take off.

This is a pretty terrible episode, but Bronson Pinchot isn’t necessarily at fault. You can only do so much with the material presented. He’s got an electrical engineer buddy named Victor who looks like one of the doofus Michael Keatons from Multiplicity. They have some all right chemistry, some physical comedy between the two. The problem arises that the plot of the episode, well, consists of Lois being mildly inconvenienced multiple times by a shitty supervillain. You really have to stretch the definition of “prank” for most of Pinchot’s actions to qualify. Like in one instance he puts a message on the baseball stadium billboard saying “Lois Lane, let me be your designated hitter”. How the fuck is that a prank? That’s harassment. It’s like how “panty raids” aren’t pranks, they’re sexual assault.


Most terrorism in the 90s came from Mypos.

Bronson Pinchot’s character, Kyle Griffin, it turns out was sent to prison on account of an article Lois wrote five years ago, hence his need for revenge on her. He was the designer for a weapons manufacturer that sold arms to “the third world”. Now to me that seems like not a crime and more Lois interfering with god given capitalism. His ultimate plan is to use some gizmo to blow up the Daily Planet or whatever but Lois foils the situation. That’s how much this episode sucks: Superman doesn’t even have to be around to stop the threat. Stinger scene where Clark buys Lois friendship roses and she pours coffee on them because she thinks Prankster sent them. Womp womp. What a dumb hour of television.

Chris: So I guess I liked this one more than you. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near my top five, but it was okay, mostly because of Pinchot. Bronson Pinchot, for those of you too young to remember, was briefly a pretty big deal and was famous enough to star in two movies (1989s Second Sight and 1992s Blame it on the Bellboy). They weren’t any good, but I’m saying that he wasn’t a Steve Urkel style one-trick-pony either. Dude held his own opposite Tom Cruise in Risky Business, Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop and is in (arguably) the second best scene in True Romance. He can do a lot, is what I’m saying, and he brings it to his stupid little part on Lois and Clark. Pinchot plays Prankster with sneering, lazy, contempt, as if it was beneath him to even bother to show up to the set, let alone try. It fits perfectly for a character who thinks he’s superior to everyone he comes in contact with and is constantly on the verge of exploding with rage that no one else seems to agree.

I think this season is supposed to lean more heavily on guest stars than the first one did, which basically means how good an episode is will live and die on how good that star is. Like all things L&C, “Prankster” manages to fill me with equal parts optimism and pessimism at the prospect. Because outside of Pinchot the rest of the episode is pretty dire. Lois claims that she’s not concerned that someone is out to get her, but it turns out she’s actually pretty scared. They’ve done this plot before, I think more than once. I did a whole thing last week about how I like how L&C lets it’s characters grow and change, repeating character beats runs contrary to all that. Putting aside the fact that we already know Lois is too stubborn to admit to being afraid, why do her coworkers keep leaving her alone while there’s a threat on her life is just stupid. It’s a given that Lois will usually end up in some kind of danger, that’s the nature of the show, but you have to at least try to come up with different variations on the theme.

Ronnie: So Prankster’s dad runs a toy shop and it seems like this is going to lead to something but other than confirming Griffin Sr. was helping Griffin out on the sly it comes to nothing. Why include it? Well, if you start second guessing shit like that you end up second guessing the entire episode. I thought they could’ve done more with the dad, like show how he helped with the Prankster’s pranks, because he’s the guy selling jacks in boxes and so forth. Perhaps my dislike of “The Prankster” comes down to me being in a lousy mood when watching it, but there’s little to recommend. You say Pinchot puts in an above it all performance but that just made me question why I was watching this in the first place, you know?


Mr. Magorium’s Doom Emporium

It’s been four episodes and I think it’s time to deem New Jimmy a failure and bring Michael Landes back. I wish. But really, the character of Jimmy went from a welcome presence (he worked well with Perry at least) to the most annoying whelp this side of Wil Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher. He offers nothing to the show and as the nominal photographer for the Daily Planet he still doesn’t figure into plots often enough. Was Michael Landes a bit too close to being Dean Cain? I guess. But he made up for it in an exaggerated stupidity that came from him trying to appear more streetwise and competent than he already is. I know “Fly Hard” was a last season low, but could you imagine this Jimmy doing the John McClane routine? I can’t. He doesn’t add anything; he’s just a twerp. True, we haven’t had a Jimmy “focus” yet, but I don’t think we need to in order to make an evaluation.

Chris: Jimmy is kind of a weird character in general. I guess he started as a surrogate for all the boys who read Superman’s comics back in the 40s and wished that they could go on adventures with Superman. Kid sidekicks were the thing back then. But Superman couldn’t have a little apprentice like Cap had with Bucky, Flash had with Kid Flash, Batman had with Robin or Green Arrow had with Speedy, because Superman was the last of his kind. You can’t train another Superman but you can train another reporter, hence Jimmy. I say I guess because I’m assuming, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually read it anywhere, but it’s a pretty obvious connection. The problem is, the idea of a kid working in a newsroom went from relatable to isn’t this breaking some kind of law sometime in late 40s/early 50s and he had to be aged up.

How old is Jimmy supposed to be? He couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen in the beginning, right? These days I’d peg him in his mid to late 20’s. He used to have adventures with Robin back in the World’s Finest comics so it’s easy to see him as around Dick’s age, with the requisite experience. Like all those sidekicks that aged up, he’s young, but he’s been doing this a long time. But unlike all those other characters he never really grew or changed in any appreciable way. Robin broke with Batman and became Nightwing. Kid Flash eventually took over as Flash and killed a bunch of people because he tried to get therapy to deal with his PTSD. Bucky got brainwashed by the Soviets and turned into the Winter Soldier. Speedy got hooked on heroin and eventually died. Green Arrow was a terrible mentor. The point is, all those characters had some moment where they suffer some kind of difficult right of passage that causes them to separate from their mentor, mature, and begin to formulate their own independent identity. But not Jimmy. He turned into a turtle one time, but I don’t know that that counts. He’s still bumming around the Daily Planet in a sweater vest and bowtie, just palling around with Superman.

In a lot of ways Jimmy is essentially a man who’s developmentally still a child. How do you represent that without it coming off as anything other than sad? The Landes Jimmy I think represented the more “mature” version of the character insofar as being a little older and stunted and kind of trying to grow up? Clerks wouldn’t debut for another year but he’s got proto Kevin Smith grungy slacker energy, he’s a dude whose youthful promise is quickly segueing squarely into loser territory. I thought it worked more than it didn’t. Whalin is more the gee-wiz kid incarnation of Jimmy, but, again, because they can’t make him a literal child he comes off as someone with… you know…  impairments. A Simple Jack if you will. The part where he connects that maybe Prankster’s dad was on his side despite telling Lois and Clark that he wanted nothing to do with his criminal son, and everyone reacts as if he solved that equation from Good Will Hunting was just brutal.


Not great!

Ronnie: I think the defining element of the character is that he calls Clark “CK”, an appellation that never, ever works. In any event we’ve done all we can with these episodes so it’s time to move on to new pastures with “Church of Metropolis” and “Operation Blackout”. The former is about long running Superman antagonist Intergang and the other one is about a blackout and an evil Charles Rocket (is there any other kind). I do hope you continue to read this endeavor; every pair of eyeballs helps.

Odds & Ends

-Seinfeld alum tracker: 4. Prankster’s lackey played The Drake. His former cellmate was an attendant in “The Heart Attack”. Randall Loomis’ smoking hot wife was Man Hands in “The Bizarro Jerry”. The sports columnist was the fruit guy in “The Mango”. I think this might be a new record!
-The red herring, Randall Loomis, is named after Prankster’s comics civilian identity, Oswald Loomis. See, Lois & Clark can do bullshit low hanging references just like an Arrowverse show!
-”He’s beyond pathetic: he’s dead.”
-Lois and Clark watch a Lethal Weapon movie, apparently.
-Lois on Lethal Weapon 3: it starts stupid, but it gets better. Lois, the opening part of Lethal Weapon 3 is the only good part.
-”Even steel melts if it gets hot enough.”
-Clark has done the ripping his shirt off to reveal his Superman costume bit more than once this season, what do you think his button budget was?
– At one point a “prank” is pulled at a nuclear facility and Clark asks a tech if anyone took anything, and the tech responds that, in fact, some of their plutonium is missing. That exchange caused Desi to look up from her computer and say: “Some plutonium is missing? Oh well, I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.” Highpoint of the episode.

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