Look! In the sky! Changed Man!


The first thing you should know about the new Superman is that he's a little, um, different from his predecessor, unless you don't mind a superhero who seems more like Potsie on the old "Happy Days" sitcom.

At least this is the impression created by the opening episode of ABC's "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," the new series which gives us something we might not need: a Man of Steel with feelings.

Whereas the old Superman was brave, stoic and humble, this Superman (played by someone named Dean Cain) is whiny, jumpy, bumbling, incredibly jealous and annoyingly introspective.

Oh, he can still stop a runaway bus with the flick of a well-muscled forearm. But now it feels as if the terror-stricken passengers on board have been rescued by a young Gilbert Gottfried.

Then there is this bit of sacrilege: This new Superman doesn't even have a costume!

At least he didn't for most of the first episode, when the man was actually flying around in a Hugo Boss sport coat and slacks, tie flapping in the wind, looking like a total geek.

And get this: When he finally did get a costume, it was his mom who designed and sewed it.

His mom!

I don't see how you get any credibility as a superhero when your mom is calling the shots in your career.

Given this sort of domineering relationship, I'm surprised she doesn't make him finish his milk and wear a sweater over his costume before he goes off to fight the bad guys.

(This is probably neither here nor there, but another thing that's different about the new Superman series is the music.

(Before each station break, the show launches into an annoying rap-like riff, as if Superman is preparing to do a set with Run-DMC.)

Thankfully, a lot about the new Superman series hasn't changed.

Perry White is still the dedicated, high-strung editor of the Daily .. Planet who appears destined for triple bypass surgery in the next five minutes.

Jimmy Olson is the same nerdy, sleeveless-sweater-wearing twit always was. And Clark Kent still has the hots for Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher), who's even more of a moody pain-in-the-neck than ever.

Not that this seems to matter to Clark. In the first episode, Lois off-handedly mentions a craving for Chinese food. But instead of snarling, "Forget it, Lois, there's a Wendy's right around the corner," Clark slips out of the office, takes to the sky and flies 12,000 miles to Shanghai for some Moo Goo Gai Pan.

(Clark, Clark, Clark . . . there's such a thing as seeming too eager to please, if you catch my drift.)

Finally, arch-villain Lex Luthor is still the personification of evil, a demented monster with the potential to make Pol Pot look like a wayward altar boy.

Played with wonderful enthusiasm by veteran actor John Shea, Luthor is the kind of psycho who gets his kicks by staring down a hooded cobra poised to strike and blowing up helicopters in midair.

He, too, is inexplicably smitten by crabby Lois Lane, which tends send Clark Kent into towering rages during which he -- I know this is the '90s version, but still -- levitates toward the ceiling!

Hoo, boy. Here's another thing that hasn't changed: The people of Metropolis are still as dumb as ever.

I mean, how can anyone not know that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person?

Are you telling me that a pair of $22 eyeglass frames from Pearle Vision or wherever changes a guy's appearance that radically?

What gets me is that these people don't even notice a slight

resemblance between Clark Kent and Superman!

In the opening episode, Superman saves Lois Lane from a huge petro-chemical explosion and flies her back to the Daily Planet in his arms, making goo-goo eyes at her the whole way.

And not once does she stare at him and say: 'Y'know, you sorta remind me of someone . . . can't put my finger on exactly who . . . might come to me later, though."

Then again, none of the other crack reporters on the Daily Planet ZTC makes the connection either.

Here Superman flies right into the middle of the newsroom, all eyes are on him, and no one whispers: "Is it me, or is that guy a dead ringer for Kent?"

All I know is, if I'm the health commissioner of Metropolis, I'm hustling down to the reservoir and checking the water supply to find out what's making the local citizenry so damn stupid.

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