I was 13 or so when I first saw an episode of Smallville on Channel 4, by chance, in 2001. I was enthralled – with the show towering over Lois & Clark with its high-end production values, I proceeded to go out of my way on every Sunday for the following four years to catch every last episode of the show, until around the seventh season, when Kara Zor-El managed to disintegrate my good feelings towards the Superman-branded TV show.
Smallville has rarely been artful or revolutionary television, but it was always dependable – striking a nice middle ground between relationship-based drama and villain-of-the-week DC mash-up, it’s perfect fodder for teenagers and anyone who doesn’t want to be challenged by television.
Like a lot of TV, it’s been ruined for me slightly by the quality of acclaimed series, like those made by HBO, FX or AMC, but its second and third seasons still make me a little nostalgic. This, I believe, is when the show hit its creative stride. Smallville experimented with smaller narrative arcs within the standalone storylines, exploring the fraying relationship between the two Luthors, while making baby steps towards Clark’s eventual rivalry with Lex.
Personally, I found Smallville much more interesting when none of the pieces were in place – no Fortress of Solitude, no Lois (though Erica Durance is rather good in the role), no Jimmy Olsen and no Daily Planet. I think being so far away from established Superman lore gave Smallville an unparalleled creative freedom, as if every trapping of the DC universe was so far away, only the characters in the immediate foreground mattered. It’s that side to the show that I prefer to remember.
Correction: Kara joined the show in the seventh season, not the sixth, as I originally stated.