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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Superboy from Smallville
Kristen Kreuk, Tom Welling (Superman) and Michael Rosenbaum
Superman (centre) before he discovered tights
By entertainment correspondent Peter Bowes in Hollywood

Smallville, a spin-off from the Superman series, has premiered on US TV.

The new show, broadcast on the Warner Brothers network last night, depicts the legendary comic-book hero as a teenage boy, initially unaware of his super talents.

Smallville opens in October 1989 with a meteor-shower which brings widespread destruction to a small Kansas town.

Superman first donned his tights in 1938
The more traditional image of Superman
Vehicles are crushed and cornfields flattened but in the aftermath of the disaster a local childless couple discover an orphaned toddler.

"Kids don't just fall out of the sky," proclaims the husband, played by John Schneider, who was Bo Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard.

But he and his wife, played by Annette O'Toole, decide to raise the boy as their own, all the same.

Energetic

The show then leapfrogs 12 years to the present time.

Clark Kent's adoptive parents are strict.

His dad won't even let the energetic boy play football.

"All I want to do is go through high school without being a total loser," protests Clark.

The young Kent, played by Tom Welling, is seen coping with the kind of adolescent problems that plague most teenagers - difficulties at school, girlfriend issues and dealing with his over-attentive parents.

But it soon becomes apparent that the young Kent is no ordinary youngster.

As well as going through the usual process of puberty, his body experiences the kind of super changes most teenage boys only dream of.

Super strength and X-ray vision soon become everyday bodily functions for the unpopular kid who is taunted by his friends.

Confused adolescent

The penny begins to drop that he isn't exactly an everyday boy, when Clark survives, unscathed, an horrific car crash.

Afterwards, he tells his dad, "I'd give anything to be normal."

His father reacts by revealing the truth about the boy's origins, "It's time son...for the truth."

The knowledge that his arrival on a spaceship caused chaos for the people of Kansas becomes a recurring nightmare for the confused adolescent.

"I suppose you stashed my spaceship in the attic," he exclaims.

"Actually it's in the cellar," says his dad.

The young Superman is the school hunk but he cannot get close to the opposite sex.

"So what are you? Man or superman?" asks one potential girlfriend.

Clark responds: "I haven't figured it out yet."


It is, in effect, another soap about pretty young people

Peter Bowes

This is a confused teenager with far too many problems.

Prequels and spin-offs are the order of the day - yet Smallville treads a fine line in the credibility stakes.

In making the young Clark Kent a sexually frustrated high school kid the show clearly panders to the teenage girl audience.

It is, in effect, another soap about pretty young people.

The story gets bogged down in a sentimental boy-girl storyline.

But die-hard fans of the Superman franchise will be intrigued by their hero's early days - albeit recently contrived.

The show's action sequences are well produced with some impressive special effects - although their outcome is somewhat predictable.

One of the writers has described Smallville as "puberty with superpowers."

It is true that the young Clark Kent can leap over buildings, but in this first instalment of his life, he is more victim than hero.

See also:

31 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Superman drops pants for TV show
11 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Dan Dare sets course for TV stardom
22 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Superman boost for Dome
06 Aug 99 | Europe
Superman to the rescue
06 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Batman's dark past
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