The pilot for the TV show Smallville aired for the first time in America on this day, 15 years ago.
Smallville was one of the biggest shows of the Noughties, running for an excessive ten seasons, and partially inspiring and influencing the current boom of superhero TV shows we have today. The show was a re-imagining of the Superman story, focusing on a teenage Clark Kent coming to grips with his powers, identity and relationships (as well as other ordinary teenage problems).
The show blended Sci-Fi mystery (most famously through its ‘Kryptofreaks’), effective melodrama and special effects driven action to create a very exciting show, that both expanded on and paid respects to the established superman mythos (as well as the larger DC universe).
Show creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (whose interests in the property were catalyzed by the comic A Man for All Seasons) challenged conceptions that Superman was a difficult character to relate to by focusing on Clark before he becomes Superman, thus allowing them to humanise the character in a way that makes him really relatable (they also boldly gave Lex Luhtor the same treatment). The show’s thematic through lines revolve around nature vs nurture, choice and destiny, something pushed through a lot of the time by the contrasting of the Kent family and the Luthor family in the show.
Smallville at first was a massive critical and commercial success (even skeptical comic book fans were won over by it). The show premiered shortly after 9/11, and proved to be a re-assuring watch for the reeling American public. Smallville with its Americana setting/feel, heroism driven plots and broadly family friendly content understandably took off in this context (much like Rami’s first Spiderman movie did months later).
Looking back at Smallville as a cohesive whole, the show isn’t great, but the show does have so many great moments that make it worth watching and re-watching. The show can stick too tightly to its formula sometimes, however it always provides solid episodic escapist entertainment, and if you were growing up in the 2000’s you’ll certainly find a lot of nostalgic charm embedded in the show. Plus the opening never gets old. Smallville is definitely worth remembering.
Watch the intro to the first season below: