Fans Are Finally Getting Another Superman TV Series
Considering Superman has stood for truth, justice and the American way for 80 years, there’s an awful lot of talk about how hard it is to get Superman “right.” Now, a new Superman TV show stands poised to meet that challenge.
The show Superman & Lois will debut later this year as part of the Arrowverse of TV shows. As Arrow goes out, Superman & Lois flies in. Can this show succeed where other movies and TV shows have failed?
A brief history of Superman on screen
Back in the day, Superman was much more ubiquitous. His first big-screen appearances came with the striking and inventive Fleischer animated shorts in the ’40s. The Adventures of Superman TV series with George Reeves was a major hit from 1952 to 1958. And it was fitting that Superman would star in the first superhero blockbuster. That 1978 film with Christopher Reeve is still hailed by many as the gold standard of superhero movies.
The Christopher Reeve movies were the dominant presentation of Superman in the 1980s, but the films gradually declined in quality and at the box office. The producers of those movies made the TV show Superboy, which ran from 1988 to 1992, but its revolving-door cast didn’t help it stick in the memory.
Then there was Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. That show tried to deemphasize the “faster than a speeding bullet” material in favor of a Moonlighting-like spin on Lois and Clark. The new approach gained traction for a while but gradually declined just like the movies did. Having debuted in 1993, it was completed in 1997.
Then came Smallville with Tom Welling. That show focused on Superman’s younger years, but it eschewed the classic Superman costume and even his signature power: his ability to fly. The first Christopher Reeve movie said, “You will believe a man can fly.” Smallville said “You won’t believe this man doesn’t fly” – and the show was rewarded for being relatable and down to earth, running for 10 years.
Is the character too good to be true?
No one disputes that Superman is an iconic comic book hero. He was the one who set the template for every hero who followed. In more recent years, however, the character has struggled to maintain its foothold in the culture. A common complaint against the caped hero is that he’s a boy scout to whom people can’t relate. When Superman Returns came out in 2006, it did decent business, but few people seemed to love it.
The darker, more morally ambiguous Batman came to the fore in the late ’80s and has dominated the conversation among DC heroes ever since, with the four movies in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and the later Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan. Now it was hip for heroes to be dark and brooding, and Zack Snyder tried to take Superman in that direction with Man of Steel, which boasted a story by co-written by Nolan.
Snyder’s take proved divisive, however, with many people believing the tone was too dour. The pushback only intensified when Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice pleased pretty much no one. When a more classic version of Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) made an appearance on Supergirl, many fans applauded, thinking he’s a return to the fun, upbeat tone of old.
‘Superman & Lois’ could succeed on the heels of ‘Supergirl’
Superman does not appear often in Supergirl, the idea being that Superman is off-world and/or prefers to let Kara fight her own battles. Her show, starring Melissa Benoist, has largely succeeded, having just been renewed for a fifth season. She and Hoechlin have continued to work together – most recently in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. Now, the character will take center stage again, and fans are pleased.
One fan on Reddit wrote, “I am really looking forward to seeing Superman in a show where he can shine and not have to play second fiddle to other leads.” Another said, “If done right, this has the chance to be a future classic”
TV Line reported that the new show “follows the world’s most famous superhero and comic books’ most famous journalist as they deal with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society.” If this new series takes off, it could be the one that gets Superman to be more powerful than a locomotive again.