Monday, August 12, 2013

SUPERBOY - THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON

The fine folks at Warner Archive have recently released the third season of the 1989-1992 syndicated (THE ADVENTURES OF) SUPERBOY television series, as  3-disc manufactured-on-demand DVD set.

This third season was superior to the previous two, with a major change in the premise (and setting) as Shuster College students Clark Kent (Gerard Christopher) and Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk, SEAQUEST DSV) going to work as interns for a government agency known as the Bureau For Extranormal Matters, which investigated strange and unexplainable occurrences and creatures... including a certain caped Kryptonian.

The tone (and cinematography) of the series got a lot darker (probably influenced, like the prime-time FLASH series of the same vintage, by the success of Tim Burton's BATMAN the year before), and the stories were a lot more interesting, including a couple of imaginative two-parters where Superboy travels to alternate Earths and discovers different paths he could have taken - in one, he's killed Lex Luthor (Sherman Howard, DAY OF THE DEAD) and in another, he rules the Earth as the tyrannical "Sovereign." He also encounters an adult version of himself, played by Ron Ely (TV's Tarzan and the big screen's Doc Savage)!  Another memorable episode has a Kryptonite-weakened Superboy and Lex Luthor trapped together in a mine cave-in, forced to work together to survive. The episode was written by actor Sherman Howard, and is a surprisingly effective character piece.

I admit it - I'm a fan of the show. While not every episode is a gem, I dig it's Silver Age-styled stories (the writers understood the character a lot better than his current corporate and creative custodians, that's for sure) - honestly, I'd rather watch this show over SMALLVILLE any day. Several of the better episodes are directed by David Nutter, who would go on to be a regular director on THE X-FILES.

The Warner Archive 3-disc set includes all 26 episodes of the third season, presented in their original 4x3, 1.37.1 television aspect ratio. The picture quality is pretty good, but suffers from the late-80s production method of shooting on film, but then transferring the footage to video for editing and post-production special effects. This results in an unavoidably soft image overall. Audio is a satisfactory Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. There are no extras included.

SUPERBOY is a product of its time, written and produced for a presumed adolescent audience. The stories are unabashedly "comic booky," but I find that refreshing. It's also just great to be able see these shows again, since, due to a bunch of legal wranglings in the 90s, these shows never aired in U.S. after their original run. If you're a fan of the Superman/boy character, and especially if you're a fan of this series, this is the season you've been waiting for. Recommended.

BUYSuperboy: The Complete Third Season