- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Even Superman had some teen-age angst. Or so goes the premise of "Smallville," which makes its debut at 9 p.m. Tuesday on the WB. The hourlong drama re-envisions Clark Kent's boyhood in a "Dawson's Creek" meets "Roswell" kind of way. That means say goodbye to the cape, the red-and-blue spandex and high-powered costumed baddies and say hello to young Supes trying to get his swerve on with the girl across the way. Let's just say comic book readers probably will be none too pleased with the changes for the world's strongest Boy Scout.
For instance, Kent (Tom Welling, late of "Judging Amy") doesn't wear glasses. (The show's producers, "Shanghai Noon" writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, say Superboy isn't in the plans at the moment and probably won't ever be.) He won't be the goofy Everyman of the movies' Christopher Reeve or have the charming confidence Dean Cain gave the character on "Lois & Clark." Instead, Mr. Welling plays his Clark Kent as the dark, silent type, brooding over his inability to fit in with the other teen-agers while he pines for the girl he cannot have, Lana Lang (newcomer Kristen Kreuk).
It only gets worse for the die-hard fans. Unlike Superman's comic origin, his arrival from Krypton to Smallville, Kan., doesn't come unnoticed or without consequences. He comes to Earth amid a meteor shower that nearly destroys the town, killing Lana's parents and leaving Lex Luthor bald. (Michael Rosenbaum, formerly of the awful WB sitcom "Zoe," actually shaved his head for the part when the bald cap looked bad.) Yes, Luthor somehow winds up in Smallville and get this becomes friends with his future nemesis. The shower causes all sorts of craziness and warps some of the townspeople into mutated freaks, leaving plenty of no-name supervillains to fight.
Unlike past incarnations, Kent isn't aware of his extraterrestrial nature as he enters high school. He doesn't get clued in until Luthor runs him over with a car and he walks away unharmed. His father, played by former "Dukes of Hazzard" star John Schneider, then explains that the reason that Kent is becoming stronger, faster and tougher than anybody else is he's an alien. (Well, duh. It's not puberty.)
Of course, the WB isn't trying to please the comic book crowd. The departure of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Roswell" to UPN left a big hole in the teen/young adult demographic. Let's face it. Unlike the dark, brooding Batman (notice a similarity?), the Superman of yore just isn't cool. The network even considered a similar show using Bruce Wayne before settling on its most powerful asset, another guy from space who kicks plenty of butt.
Now the WB only can hope the show does the same.

* * 1/2
WHAT: "Smallville"
WHERE: The WB
WHEN: 9 p.m. Tuesday
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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