Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saying Goodbye to 10 Years of SMALLVILLE

This Friday night, it'll be 10 years and done ...just like that.  Inconceivable.

On October 16, 2001, a country that had spent just over a month reliving the tragic events of the September 11th attacks tuned in for the pilot episode of the WB network's Smallville, based on the Superman and Superboy stories from DC Comics.  8.4 million viewers tuned in, the highest-rated debut for the WB, to see the adventures of the teenager who would one day become Superman.  The country was desperate for heroes to inspire feelings of hope and safety and nobody personfied that better than Clark Kent.

With a somewhat ridiculous "no tights, no flights" rule put into effect by writer/producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, Smallville started out with Clark and his friends Lana Lang, Chloe Sullivan and Pete Ross facing typical "Freak of the Week" villains that would receive distinct superpowers from some form of exposure to Kryptonite radiation.  Some of the storylines were surprisingly impressive, some of them less so, and let's face it, a few were just downright painful to watch at times.

Fortunately, in addition to Clark's heroic journey, we also were able to see the beginnings of the person who would someday become his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor.  In a nod back to classic Superboy comics, Clark and Lex started off as friends, until each gradually went their separate ways into superheroism and supervillainy.  As Clark discovered more about his Kryptonian heritage and became romantically involved with Lana, Lex dealt with numerous issues surrounding his father, Lionel Luthor, and various suppressed memories. 

In 2004, Pete was written out at the end of Season 3 and the series introduced Clark's future wife Lois Lane at the start of Season 4.  Although initially just a recurring character, Lois became a series regular the following year and eventually replaced Lana as Clark's main love interest.  Jonathan Kent, Clark's father, was killed off in Smallville's 100th episode, "Reckoning."  Henry James "Jimmy" Olsen and Oliver Queen, alias Green Arrow, were added to the show's cast in 2006 as the series began to broaden more into the Superman and DC Universe mythos.  Clark's mother, Martha Kent, was written out at the end of Season 6, but appeared occasionally.  The show continued to undergo a number of changes, adding Clark's cousin Kara, the future Supergirl, for Season 7, writing out Lana and Lex by the season's end in 2008, killing off Lionel at Lex's own hands, and changing showrunners after Gough and Millar left the series with the actors.

With Season 8, Smallville shifted the central focus of the series to Metropolis and the Daily Planet newspaper.  The show began fully embracing its DC Universe origins, adding Tess Mercer as a version of the comics character Mercy Graves to replace Lex's role and Davis Bloome, who becomes the season's Big Bad nemesis, Doomsday.  Numerous DC characters began to populate episodes and these fresher storylines, including a younger cloned version of General Zod that was established as the Big Bad for Season 9.

So it's been a long and winding road to see that definitive scene when Clark dons his Superman uniform and finally, finally flies.  The show has been such an entertaining and often frustrating ride, but you can't deny its ability to endure.  Even when consigned to the Friday Death Slot in 2009, Smallville somehow found a way to persevere and earned itself a final tenth season.  It's become the longest live-action Superman series ever and even lasted long enough to become the longest-running science-fiction series in America.  (The world?  That title belongs to another show entirely...)

Smallville has been such a weekly ritual in my life for these past ten years.  It was there as my family and the nation coped with the tragedies of September 11th.  It gave my wife and I hour after hour of time together enjoying one another's company.  It cheered me up on evenings I was recovering from minor surgeries or simply wasn't feeling well.  It provided solid entertainment my parents could enjoy at their home and then share with me during our Saturday breakfasts together.  And recently, it even allowed me to have a writing opportunity I might never have had otherwise.

So thanks for ten years of wonderful memories, Smallville.  Some of your episodes may have been like Kryptonite, but you'll always be super in my book.

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