Having already plumbed the depths of the Superman well for “Smallville,” which survived the demise of the WB network to run for a full decade, The CW’s gone back to its Kansan/Kryptonian roots for “Superman and Lois,” a strangely grim take on one of comics’ brightest heroes.
From Greg Berlanti and Todd Helbing (“The Flash”), “Superman and Lois” dispenses with the Superman story that’s been told a million times before in an efficient opening voiceover, as Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) explains his arrival on Earth in a mysterious pod, growing up in Smallville as Clark Kent, and falling in love with Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tullock) in about two minutes flat. But then the story continues as Clark and Lois get married, settle in Metropolis, and have twin boys.
“Superman and Lois” officially picks up with the family 14 years later, when Lois is “the most famous journalist in the world,” Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) has established himself as an emerging football star and Jordan (Alex Garfin) is struggling with his social anxiety disorder diagnosis. Even Smallville, once idyllic, has become something of a symbol of everything that’s gone awry in small rural towns across America, with a rampant meth problem no one really wants to talk about and a charismatic businessman (Adam Rayner) promising everyone jobs despite essentially gutting other towns for profit before.
It makes sense on paper for a new show about Superman to fast forward through the stuff that’s been done to death in order to find some new way into the man, the myth, the legend. Why not make him a harried dad juggling apocalyptic threats with teenage boys, one of whom might have the same kind of powers as he does? The CW’s dads are already supernaturally hot, so hey, might as well lean into the brand. (Hoechlin, like Tom Welling before him, does not at all have a Christopher Reeve level of charisma to bring to the role — but to be fair, who does?)
But for all the logical storylines and character journeys that “Superman and Lois” includes, it nonetheless lacks the spark to make any of it very interesting. Despite solid efforts from Tulloch, Garfin, and especially Elsass to bring life to their stiff scenes, these Kents feel more stuck than striking. It also probably says something that it took looking up the credits for me to realize that Emanuelle Chriqui is playing none other than Lana Lang; on “Superman and Lois,” she’s a stressed out loan officer whose determinedly macho fire chief husband (Erik Valdezchecks ) takes up most of their scenes’ oxygen.
It’s also notable, and unfortunate, that the equal footing Superman and Lois are granted in the title isn’t reflected in the show itself. Lois Lane is supposedly a fearsome reporter who won’t rest until she gets her scoop, but this iteration takes longer than it should to make her anything other than reactive to what’s going on with the men around her. For as much as Clark and Lois talk about being equal partners, “Superman and Lois” squarely belongs to Superman, who spends enough of his time blinking at his family in handsome concern and darting around the stratosphere that he can never fully anchor his family, let alone this show.
“Superman and Lois” premieres Tuesday, February 23 at 8 p.m. on The CW.