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September 27 2009

14 Reasons Why TV And Superheroes Don't Mix. "Buffy" listed as one of the few Superhero TV Shows that did work.

They admit to it in their article, but yeah, not omitting the many successful animated TV adaptations of superhero material would've made tights-on-TV not sound like such an automatic fail of an idea.

I notice they don't mention whether Smallville and Heroes belong on the top or bottom list. Maybe they're simply waiting for both to conclude to pass fair judgement, but going by their comments in the paragraph about Buffy, their opinions so far seem to weigh in as "bad" for both. Although I wouldn't necessarily say those two are indicators that superheroes and TV don't mix--it's big budgets and poor writers that don't mix. Both Heroes and Smallville (I only saw up to Season 4 of the latter) showed potential at times, both within their premise and in a couple or maybe sometimes several episodes per season, but they never maintain(ed) it for very long. Based on comments Tim Kring has made/interviews he's given, I feel pretty confident in saying that he sucks as a writer-showrunner (hey, if his show prior to Heroes, Crossing Jordan, was of better consistency, maybe he's just having a slump in terms of projects he's run so far. Jump in, any Crossing Jordan viewers who watched it all the way or even just most of the way through, I'm curious).
I definitely think Electro Woman and Dyna Girl deserves a reboot. Probably right after episodes of Teletubbies. Wow.
I think consistency is a problem with both Heroes and Smallville. Kring had a fantastic formula and could have taken, surprisingly, a few tips from Smallville and visa versa. Heroes didn't need to be serialized like Lost is serialized. It could have had a episodic tone to it and made its characters real and yet still comic. It failed at that and just made characters real in a comic world, and that doesn't work.

I caught up with Smallville earlier this year and it has some mindnumbing episodes. Seriously, some of the writing wouldn't been out of place on a 1980s television show. Then, on the other hand, some utterly astounding things happen (Season 4's finale, for example) and I rather enjoyed season 8 and 9 looks promising. The original developers dug themselves into a hole and I think they didn't believe that their little Supes show would have lasted this long. That said, I like how the new crew are trying to tie themselves into the mytos again.

Also, obviously Buffy the best.

[ edited by Jayme on 2009-09-27 23:18 ]
What about MANTIS? That proves the premise of the article totally wrong! ;)

Birds of Prey should have been quite good, but sadly just didn't quite pull it out.
I wondered why Heroes wasn't mentioned, but I guess it makes sense that they're reserving judgement. I have to say, no single show has disappointed me more than Heroes, especially after showing such wonderful potential in its first season. It's not for a lack of talent or opportunities to shine. I think I have to agree with Kris above, and lay a good bit of blame at Tim Kring's feet for being a lousy showrunnner.
What about Dark Angel? Sure, Max is manufactured, but still.
And from Season 4 onwards, does Supernatural count? I think season 3/4 of SN have Buffy potential. It's so good.
Supernatural? Really? I'll have to give that a try again then. I remember watching it in the beginning, but the monster-of-the-week formula didn't quite do it for me and there didn't seem to be enough progression in the lore to keep me interested.
Ah, 'Mutant-X' - so bad I actually thought it was a parody when I first flicked over and caught a bit of it.

And yep, the DCAU stuff in particular is the best "flights 'n' tights" superhero TV made so far IMO. The writers and producers just understand superheroes better than the rest. Add some truly great voice actors and it's made of win.

(though I loved "The Amazing Spider-man" and "The Incredible Hulk" when I was a kid. And "The Flash" had its heart in the right place, it's just everything else that was all to cock ;)

The original developers dug themselves into a hole and I think they didn't believe that their little Supes show would have lasted this long.

Or maybe they just know it shouldn't have lasted this long ? 9 years is way too long IMO. Watching his powers develop was fun, watching the mythos starting to click into place was fun. Watching them muddle through 4 extra years of Clana mooning, manufactured/prematurely introduced enemies and Clark's character development taking one step forward and two back in order to let them continue milking The CoW is not fun IMO. At the start of season 5 he was stopping nuclear missiles from destroying Smallville by going into near-space, a few weeks later he was back to duffing up meteor freaks and other monsters of the week.

(and in 'Spell' and 'Thirst' it's had two of the very worst episodes in the last ten years of scripted TV)

Season 9 has started out interesting (after the incredibly anti-climactic season 8 finale) and the producers are new so i'm slightly hopeful. But just don't go for a season 10 guys, suck it up and finish the game.
kaiuno, SN has evolved a lot through the last two seasons. The monster-of-the-week-thingy turned me off a little at the beginning too, though it's always been staged extremely well. But the third and fourth season are grim and dark and pure adrenaline.
And at the beginning of the fourth season, there are episodes so funny that it's on par with Buffy. Wait for "Monster Movie". :)
I started watching Smallville after meeting one of the writers, Turi Meyer, on the picket line.

I enjoyed it, despite never being into comics or Superman, but they did suffer from having to at least try and stay true to the established Superman mythology. From the start you knew Lex was going to become his enemy, you knew what powers he was going to get. You knew he would end up with Lois etc.

They did an episode a couple of seasons ago where Lana got the same powers as Clark (Hit by lightning while near Kryptonite. What are the odds) and they suddenly realised they could have sex and then she went power crazy and by the end of the episode Clark managed to get her powers taken away and everything was back to normal.
I watched that and though that would have made a great seasonal arc. She gets the same powers. He now has an equal. He doesn't have to worry about protecting her and rescuing her. They can be together, happy.
Then she starts saying he should do more. Helping people, fighting crime. They disagree. She starts doing stuff behind his back. Power goes to her head. They fight. He wins, but only by taking her power.
It could have been a great storyline for a season and could have ended on a Becoming Part I and II kind of ending.

Instead they blew it on a single episode, with everything back to normal at the end and never mentioned again.

(There was even an episode in an earlier season where he falls in love with a girl with superpowers. She is The One, his true love. Then she gets killed.
But the next episode opens with him happy about getting a football scholarship to college! WTF?)
Hey, the guy loves football. Yeah, that sort of thing is the most annoying aspect of 'Smallville'. She was an interesting character, well played, the love of his life, had a lasting effect on his arc (it's her that shows Chloe who he is). And then she was murdered and that was that. Press reset, may as well never have existed.

... but they did suffer from having to at least try and stay true to the established Superman mythology. From the start you knew Lex was going to become his enemy, you knew what powers he was going to get. You knew he would end up with Lois etc.

Y'know earlier seasons actually made that into a strength and it worked quite well. For instance, we knew Lex was destined to be a villain but he didn't and watching him struggle with his nature, watching Clark (representing Lex's best side) vie with Lionel (Lex's worst side) for what you might call Lex's soul was pretty compelling because we knew how it ended, it lent those scenes a tragic resonance they wouldn't have had otherwise (like with the early 'Warrior Angel' storyline). Lex wanted so badly to be good but the shadow of his father combined with Clark's inability to trust him with his secret were his ultimate undoing. Pretty classical stuff really.

And it's the same with his powers - the first time we see him run "faster than a speeding bullet" I couldn't resist a little cheer, the scene carried us with it so we knew what was coming up and could still enjoy it. Likewise "more powerful than a locomotive" or "able to leap tall buildings" or the first time we see the 'S' shield and so on. When done well the fact that we know it's coming makes it feels like destiny. When done badly it feels like it's cheapening the legend.

They've also taken a few liberties with the continuity (which is fine, i've no problems with it) so you don't know exactly what's going to happen, just the bigger junctions in his life (as with Jimmy Olsen last season - vague to avoid spoilers. A lot of folks didn't like it but I thought it was a pretty decent idea, certainly surprised me anyway because I was expecting a reset that didn't come). Also, Chloe is non-original continuity and she's one of the few reasons i'm still watching ;).
No one else has dear childhood memories of Zorro?

Atleast we all share Buffy as our favourite.

I watched S1-3 of Smallville, maybe bits of S4 and while she couldn't retain me as a viewer, Chloe also was my favourite part of the show, good to hear she is still in it (ETA: or bad, that the actress is still stuck in a less than brilliant show, if you choose look at the not so bright side). One of the things I liked most about Smallville (and Voyager) is the strange way in which it is quite inspiring, because it's so easy to think of ways how the show could be better. zz9 gives an excellent example of that.

Heroes started of great, but already went downhill for me during the second part of the first season. I didn't make it to the season 2 finale.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-09-28 14:44 ]
Yeah, 'Heroes' really started to lose me with the season one finale which was one long exercise in wasted potential IMO (I had issues with it up to then but was giving it the benefit of the doubt largely because of truly excellent episodes like "Company Man"). Stuck with it through the truncated season 2 then stopped watching at the start of season 3. May go back, dunno. I'm not really in any rush to do so.

And yep, I liked Zorro as a kid (assuming you mean the 50s black and white TV series the Groosalugg), the BBC used to repeat those during the summer holidays along with the old RKO serials ('Buck Rogers', 'Flash Gordon', 'King of the Rocketmen' etc.). Great stuff. If Zorro counts can we have Tarzan ? The Ron Ely 70s series was a favourite too, not watched it since though so i've no idea how it stands up today.
I definately mean the 50's series Saje, though I'm not sure it was black and white. But your right, Zorro might not have been a full-blown super-hero; he has the secret identity thing going but neither super powers or gadgets.

ETA: apparently there is a colorized version, I must have seen bits of both, so now I get why I remembered both the black and whiteness of it and the colors.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2009-09-28 15:43 ]
I've been watching Smallville since day one and haven't missed an episode yet. I think its great fun.

And Saje, Thirst was awesome!! James Marsters explains that there are no such thing as vampires. Yes the story was awful but that line was fun. (Can you believe that's almost 4 years ago already?)

I agree with the article; Joss did everything right and all other superhero shows should strive to be like Buffy. All of those other shows should be forced to wear bracelets that say, "WWBD?".
I think someone with good editing skills (and thousands of hours of free time) could cut & paste Smallville into a couple of seasons of excellent TV. If anyone decides to do this, let me know:) Some things about that show (of the sort mentioned by Saje)were so charming to me that I kept watching for something like 4 seasons. But when your bitching at the TV is getting on your own nerves, it's time to stop.

Heroes I was completely involved in for the first season, and I didn't think I hated the finale as much as a lot of people did, but I've never gotten around to watching Season 2. This tells me that my interest was plot-driven--I enjoyed some of the characters, but I guess I never really fell in love with any of them, so when the plot didn't pay off that well, I gave up.
But when your bitching at the TV is getting on your own nerves, it's time to stop.

Yeah, i'm close to that point (i'm sure anyone reading most of my 'Smallville' comments must wonder why the hell i'm still watching it). I just feel like i've put so many hours into it that I can't leave before the flapping cape at the end (or however they do it). And every now and then they'll do something brilliant, some director/writer/whatever will come along that really gets the Big Blue Boy Scout and i'll get sucked back in.

And Saje, Thirst was awesome!! James Marsters explains that there are no such thing as vampires. Yes the story was awful but that line was fun.

OK, i'll give you that one line alexreager ;). Apart from that it was like a masterclass in how not to do a funny episode. In that respect it was sort of the anti-'Window of Opportunity' (from SG-1).
jcs, I've said the same thing about Lost with the editing. Lost could lose, probably, around 10 - 15 hours and be utter perfection because of it. As it stands, I love the show but occasionally an episode really drags it down because of how random it seems to be in the big picture. That hasn't happened for years though, I'm talking S2 - 3 stuff.
Heh, that was DeKnight's first episode, "Spell", wasn't it ? I didn't hate it. It was cheese, but I thought it was sorta fun (possessed-Lana/Isobel making Lex play the piano until finger-bleeding exhaustion, messing with Clark, etc). Not a big fan of magic in my superhero stories, prefer 'em to be sci-fi, but it generally tends to feel more at home in DC stories than Marvel at least. I think I was a little "wtf" when it aired(especially since it was DeKnight), but having just skimmed the Season 4 DVDs a friend gave me over the past couple weeks, I enjoyed "Spell" a bit more now since I know from the DCAU and talking to fanboys online that magic is one of Superman's rare other weaknesses besides Kryptonite and red suns.

Yikes, DeKnight stayed with the show until the end of Season 6, three seasons ? Wonder if during that time he was attempting to get on other shows like Lost or something on HBO maybe. I see from his credits that he was a Consulting Producer on Dollhouse and now he's got Spartacus coming up.

Does the Lana's-unique-family-tree thing ever come up again after Season 4 though, even if only in conversation ? I'm about to start on Season 5, but I don't mind a spoiler regarding that (happy I'll get to see Marsters finally--he, Chloe, and maybe sometimes a couple of the other actors were the only reasons I regretted not tuning in for Season 5 after I missed its premiere).

Man, the Alicia [teleporting girl played by quality actor who Clark actually seemed to have chemistry with once you got past the stalker backstory] death still sucked the second time around (and a football ep right after--I have to pretend that a month or two have passed and he's dealt with and put away his grief for now or some stupid fanwankery).

[ edited by Kris on 2009-09-28 17:36 ]
Saje, good point about rewarding seeing things appear on screen that you knew about, maybe not being a Superman fan I missed lots of them and only got the big ones that are common knowledge.

But I suspect that in real life Lana would actually, after about three weeks, say either "Clark, it's bloody obvious you have superpowers. Admit it." or "Clark you weirdo, leave me alone and never, ever, talk to me again." That she spent five years hovering in the narrow gap between the two is amazing. That Kristin Kreuk managed to make that believable is amazing.

And the fact that a (albeit young) senior executive would spend so much time with some high school kids is another matter that's better glossed over...
If you ever want to torture someone have them watch the back seven of "Dollhouse Season One" interspersed with "Smallville." Okay, I've only made it through Seasons 1 and 2 of Smallville, but I'm wondering why or if I should continue to slog onward through seasons 3-9.

It's just... It's the fact that nothing ever happens. It's the endless reams of exposition. It's the heavy hitting over the head with "pay attention now, this is important!" It's the fact that they don't seem to know that action is character. Do they even realize that t.v. is a visual medium?

I'm so tired of things like the "Lex is my best friend" shit. All they needed was one little shtick -- something that we could see Clark and Lex do together that was just theirs so that we could feel their friendship. Instead, they just periodically show up at each others' house after driving who knows how many miles to exchange a three minute conversation. This is friendship?

Chloe is definitely the best thing about the show. Well, that and the Christopher Reeve bit. (I felt the stirring.)

Sorry about the rant. There was more but I decided not to subject y'all to anymore. In my defense, I just re-watched "Vows." Again. Joss spoils us with the amount of story telling he gives us.
That she spent five years hovering in the narrow gap between the two is amazing. That Kristin Kreuk managed to make that believable is amazing.

Well, it was maybe believable but certainly annoying after a few years IMO. Another example of a storyline that should've only taken 4 or 5 years absolute max.

...maybe not being a Superman fan I missed lots of them and only got the big ones that are common knowledge.

I still think there's a fair bit there for casual fans. When Chris Reeve was on for instance (introducing Clark to his mythology) we had either the John Williams horns or a very close soundalike. IIRC since he died no-one has had the horns (why do Derek and Clive spring to mind ? ;). That's a nice touch. In general I think the mythology stuff has been fairly well handled, it's just so slooowww and that's not for story reasons IMO, it's purely commercial.

I love a lot of North American TV but that's one thing I like about the UK system - over here there's no shame in telling a story for 12, 18, 24 episodes and then moving on. A story isn't a story until it has an end, sometimes US networks seem to forget that.


ET move an apostrophe. That's not anal people, that's just attention to detail. Ahem.

[ edited by Saje on 2009-09-28 23:21 ]
Smallville to me is very annoying. Like others have stated i go through fits of wanting it to be over to looking forward to the next episode but it does just feel like a giant tease ultimately. Even when things start to get interesting (not Lana and Clark breaking up every week in the barn interesting) they find a way to make it a completely anticlimactic resolution and it feels like a 7 year old with ADD is telling me a story and can't execute proper narrative without ruining it constantly.
Even by TV convention standards some things in Smallville always make me laugh. Lex's "Mansion" for one. It might as well be a studio apartment, since we only ever see that one room. Lex working? He's in that room. Lex relaxing? Same room. Lex fencing? Same room. Romantic evening with a girl? Guess where? If the script called for him to be lion taming or changing the oil in his car it would be in that damn room. And doesn't he have a lock on his front door? Or a doorbell?
One of the reasons I'm enjoying Smallville now is that Lana is gone.

Heroes on the other hand... I stuck out until tonight, and then at some point I switched to House. And I'm not even that crazy about House. That Sylar/Parkman thing was just too annoying.
Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Smallville, The Greatest American hero, Batman (1966 version), Lois and Clark... all abysmal failures. I don't know what the networks were thinking when they greenlighted them ;)

And if I remember right, the problem with the live action Flash series wasn't that the ratings were bad, the network just felt it was to expensive to keep it going.

[ edited by crippledlion on 2009-09-29 04:56 ]
Umm, the article explicitly mentions 3 of those as successes, wavers on another ('Lois and Clark') and doesn't mention 'Smallville' at all (possibly because, as others have said, it hasn't finished yet) so not quite sure what your point is there. But yep, agreed, I looked at the very first comment and started nodding - "Greatest American Hero" was good and should be on there.

And doesn't he have a lock on his front door? Or a doorbell?

Well in fairness he probably has a butler or someone to answer his door. More to the point, doesn't Clark have any bloody manners ?

And yeah, good call on the room of a thousand uses ;).
Maybe his door is related to Giles' door.
I thought all doors were related and that's why they look so similar ?



... i'll get my coat.
Man, Power Rangers was an important part of my childhood. Watching that Youtube clip just put a huge grin on my face even though it does seem now to be quite awful (how was there a puddle in the desert?)
Never has my interest plummeted in a show like it did with Heroes. I LOVED the show the first season, really looked forward to it. Halfway through the second season I was done. Never looked back.

I started watching Smallville when James was on it. Yikes. It was a beautiful looking show, and I got excited whenever Clark used his superpowers, but it was so seldom and the constant resets drove me crazy. Way too many scenes of Lana and Clark "emoting" and when they reset her death I was so disappointed. Between her overracting and Clark's underacting their scenes together were painful.
When James finished his second tour, I happily gave it up.
Funny, Xane, I was exactly the same with regard to Heroes. Watched season 1, even enjoyed the finale. Halfway through season 2 I just stopped watching. The rest of the episodes were sitting on the Tivo, and I never felt like watching them, it had become a chore at that point, so I finally decided to just delete them if I wasn't enjoying it. And from what I hear about season 3, I made the right decision to quit.

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