Sunday, March 13, 2005

TV: Super Stripper or Super Chicken, we weigh in on Smallville

When people speak of the WB's Smallville, they tend to speak of Tom Welling, someone who had previously escaped our attention. And when they speak of Welling, they speak of his eyes or his body. We now grasp why they don't speak of his hair -- it resembles a Rave home perm at its worst.

You're cued that the bod is supposed to be really hot by the opening credits where you see Tom Welling in stages of undress not once, not twice, but three times. It's good that the WB realizes that men can be eye candy as well but that may be all that we can find good in Smallville.
For the record, we were told by people who brag about the show that Lois Lane (a young Lois Lane) is sometimes on the show now. If she was, she didn't even register. We did grow excited in the final scene when Margot Kidder, Lois Lane of the WB Superman movies, showed up playing what is presumably a villaness.

So let's track it. Eye candy starting in the beginning and Margot Kidder at the end. How do they fill out the rest of the episode?

Soap opera, kids, lots of soap opera. High school student, but apparently eighteen-year-old, Lana Lang is having an affair with the football coach. Near the end, she tells Clark Kent (Welling) that they're both adults and they aren't hurting anyone even if it is against the rules. While we tend to agree that it's not the end the world, we aren't the paragon of morality that Clark Kent is supposed to be. However, his easy acceptance isn't surprising when we've sat through an episode where ethics didn't seem to register in his universe.

And what a universe it is. Populated by the likes of John Schneider who's not a bad actor, not a good actor, just not an actor. He smiles. He scrunches his face up from time to time. And he never convinces us that we're meeting Pa Kent. He's also not all that bright.

Early on, it's time to work on the tractor and he has Clark (or Clark's body, Lex Luther's father is inside -- don't ask, we're trying to keep this as simple as possible) help him work on the tractor. How?

By lifting it. Now we might not have grown up on the back forty, but we're smart enough to notice that the underneath of the tractor is more than high enough to crawl under. And we're smart enough to know that outside your house, in full of view of anyone driving up, may not be the best place for your adopted son to demonstrate that he can lift a tractor over his head.

Apparently the simple fact that he's not donning blue tights and a cape means Clark can do pretty much anything and no one will catch on?

Poor Annette O'Toole (who played Lana in the WB movie Superman III). She's really trying to make sense out of her role as Martha Kent but the writers have no clue so she's left with this segmented acting that's really powerful in a scene here or a scene there but never adds up (and, quite frankly, makes Martha look like a real idiot).

Remember how Lex Luther's father ended up in Clark's body and how we're not going into details. Just know it happened. This gives Tom Welling the opportunity to strut around shirtless for a bit (which seems to be the main purpose of the show). He's wearing pants and nothing else. And he primps in the mirror. Then he pulls out his waistband and sneaks a peak inside the pants to see what's Clark's packing (remember Lex Luther's father is now in Clark's body). (Has been for hours and hours but apparently Clark didn't need to piss at any point so it's news to Lex Daddy what Clark's packing.)

Looking up, Welling does a self-satisified smirk. And we're left thinking, "We are watching a show about Clark Kent, right?" Size queens and shirtless scenes, oh my.

Then it's time to make a phone call to allow for more shirtless time. Lot of flexing of the arms. Then Annette O'Toole enters as Martha.

And the writers apparently didn't think that mother Martha would notice that it wasn't Clark.
Oh sure, he seems a little different. Martha even asks if he's going out since he's all dressed up.

At that point we fell to ground laughing, folks. Why? Well other than the slacks, Clark's not wearing anything. All dressed to go out? What is he, Super Stripper?

Clark (or "Clark") puts on a shirt and says no, he's staying in, he was just sick of plaid. (Referencing the drab way Clark dresses when he is actually wearing clothes.) He doesn't button the shirt just yet because there's still plenty of time to show a little skin.

And besides, clueless Martha thinks he's just depressed. And thinks he just needs the hug he asked for. And thinks that even when he's clutching her body to him like a lover and rubbing his face in her hair. He's all but grinding into her and Martha's chattering away like this is the way sons and mothers normally interact. Is Martha an idiot or has she been lusting after her own son?

Who knows? Her son parades around shirtless and she thinks he's all dressed up for a night out on the town so maybe she felt a standing lap dance was par for the course when you're raising a Super Stripper?

Martha visits the prison where Lex Luther's father is. (Really Clark.) She can't believe it's Clark. Then she doesn't want to believe it. After he starts telling her things only Clark could know, she finally believes that he's her son. O'Toole plays that transformation brilliantly but with no connection to anything that's come before so we're left to wonder if the slow delay in believing the truth was because maybe she just didn't want to give up those standing lap dances?

In the end, the real Clark tricks the fake Clark into visiting the prison so that they can switch back. This occurs in the middle of a prison riot.


So they do the body switch.

And then what does "truth, justice and the American way" do? Hightails it out of the prison in the blink of an eye.

Now wait just one damn minute. This is Clark Kent/Superman. And we're in the midst of a prison riot. And people are getting hurt left and right (prisoners, guards) and Super Chicken beats a hasty exit? (We warned you ethics weren't all that important to this Clark Kent.)

The show's soap opera plots are unbelievable but so are scenes like that. For a moment, we even forgot about Martha enjoying the heavy petting session with "Clark." Superman as Super Chicken?

The show makes no sense at all. No wonder O'Toole can't get a handle on her character from scene to scene. (Though she tries and she looks wonderful.) The show exists for one reason and one reason only, to see how much skin Tom Welling will show this episode. We're told that there was once a near nudie scene of Welling walking into a fire that may or may not have shown a little butt crack. And that another scene exists of Welling skinny dipping that also may or may not have shown a little Superbutt. Not the way we ever pictured Superboy, but hey . . .

Near as we can figure out, Tom Welling's own reason for existance in the universe is two fold:
to show off his body in various stages of undress and to make Ashton Kutcher look smart. He works hard to achieve both goals.

The Luther-"Clark" was the one who found out about Lana and the Coach (who, come to think of it, also looks like a male stripper -- that seems to be the "in look" in Smallville -- who knew?). When, near the end of episode, Lana explains the affair to the real Clark (which we discussed above), Clark's learning of it for the first time. And we must say Welling either made a wonderful acting choice to not have Clark reveal that the person who caught Lana and the Coach wasn't really Clark, or else he only has that one bland look to offer. (For deep surprise, Welling makes a point to raise his eyebrows.)

Looking like a reject from My So Called Life, a character named Chloe shows up for one scene.
She's a high school student trying really hard to work a Claire Danes vibe but not pulling it off.
Which made us feel for her because standing next to the actress Kristin Kreuk (who plays Lana), Allison Mack (Chloe) must feel like Peppermint Patty standing next to the Archie's Veronica.
Kreuk looks like a vintage forties-era movie star. Who knew that Smallville was home to hot oil treatments and spa visits?

We couldn't figure out if Kruek's a bad actress or if it was the writing? Since the writing was hideous throughout, we'll pin it mostly on the writing. But it strikes us as strange that when you're worried your ex-boyfriend might out your affair with the Coach (thereby getting him fired), you elect to take an annoyed tone with Clark. If you're asking him not to tell, wouldn't most people plead? Even before she gets to the line "you owe me that much," Lana's a nasty thing little to Clark. Maybe all that intense beauty grooming leaves a scar on the soul?

People who are watching this show, and a lot of people are, swear Kreuk is an incredible actress. When we asked for a great scene or two, they tended to focus on her hair. And one person even felt the need to note, "What I like best is that she's never done a Felecity. She's comfortable having a real great head of hair." Well good for her. And may it take her the heady heights of Pantene commercials some day (barring any follicle challenges), but we're still not convinced that she can act.

After the show, we were still trying to figure out the title. They'd already had Lois & Clark, so Lana & Clark couldn't be used? No to Superboy because he doesn't wear tights? Then it hit us.
This is Smallville Creek. It's a soap opera, it's the WB, hence naming the show after a location
in the grand traditon of Dawson's Creek and other non-WB teen-soaps like Beverly Hills


Us, we would have gone with Super Stripper.

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