On October 16, 2001, Smallville premiered on The WB. The show examined Clark Kent’s origin story, his relationship with his adoptive parents, his rivalry with Lex Luthor, and the many adventures he and his friends had.
It’s been 20 years since the Kents first found Clark in the fields, and we couldn’t let this memorable anniversary pass without paying tribute to this iconic series.
TV Fanatic staff writers, Laura Nowak, Paul Dailly, and Leora Waltuch discussed what they loved about the series, how Alison Mack’s scandal affected their feelings toward Chloe, and what they thought of Clark and Lois’s appearance in the post-Smallville story.
What enticed you to watch Smallville in 2001?
Leora: My father got me into Smallville and Superman. Now Superman is my go-to superhero and a large part of that comes down to growing up with Smallville. Also, as an aspiring journalist, I really admired Chloe.
Paul: I wasn’t as into superhero shows as I am now, so I didn’t start watching until the premiere of Season 5. I went back and watched the first four seasons quickly and the rest is history.
Laura: It was a show my husband (then boyfriend) and I watched together. I think I started around Season 3, and then went back to watch the previous seasons.
What made it different from other teen dramas of this era?
Leora: I think the Superhero genre was a big part of it. It was a way to blend the two that were relatively new, and it was retelling a story we already knew in a new way. Also, it was an origin story, which is something I’ve always been drawn to. I enjoy knowing how it is all going to end and exploring how we got there.
Paul: It was promoted relentlessly here in the U.K. on a channel that aired predominantly teen dramas, and I think the storylines back then were more deeply rooted in family storylines. Nowadays, everything seems to be about social media (which I hate, by the way).
Laura: I think you’re both right. It was largely about Superman’s origin, which hadn’t been done yet. It was also deeply rooted in the Kent family. While it was about teen drama, it was very wholesome compared to what airs in teen dramas today.
Who were your favorite relationships on the show?
Leora: Smallville is the show that taught me how to multi-ship. I shipped Clark with at least four different people (Lana, Chloe, Alicia, Lois) and I shipped Chloe with Jimmy and Oliver, and Oliver with Tess and Tess with Emil, etc. I wanted a lot of clones walking around so everybody could have their happily ever after.
That being said, I also enjoyed a lot of the non-romantic relationships. The Kents had a great sense of home and family. I wanted them to adopt me.
Chloe and Clark’s friendship was iconic, and while a romance could have been interesting, their friendship was part of what made the show so strong. The complicated dynamic between Lex and Clark was also fascinating.
Paul: I didn’t know I was interested in Clark and Lois until they put them together. That’s not to say Clark’s relationships in the past were bad, but he and Lois were just great. Tom Welling and Erica Durance had so much chemistry.
Laura: To me, Clark and Chloe’s relationship was the essence of Smallville. He was the superhero, and she was the sidekick's best friend. I loved watching their relationship evolve and change over 10 years. I shipped them but their friendship was so important.
I also adored the Kents family relationship, Lana and Chloe’s sisterly friendship, and the complicated relationship between Clark and Lex.
I shipped Lex and Lana and Chloe and Clark through Season 6 and then I switched to Chloe and Oliver and Clark and Lois in the later seasons.
Your least favorite relationships?
Leora: I didn’t care for Lois with Arthur Curry. He was too surfer-dude for my taste. I didn’t like Martha and Perry White, because it felt unnecessary and out of left field. I didn’t really like Clark and Kyla together. Finally, and most importantly, I did not like Chloe and Davis.
Davis is the fictional character that I hate the most of all the fictional characters who ever existed. May he burn in Hades.
Paul: Chloe and Davis get my vote here. There was no connection between them and their relationship felt hastily cobbled together to increase the stakes. Had they actually bothered to develop them, I would have been more engaged by it.
Laura: I don’t think anyone liked Chloe and Davis. In the beginning, I didn’t like Clark and Lana, though after I re-watched the show, I tolerated them more. I liked them better when they were older than when Lana knew Clark was hiding something from her.
What were some of your all-time favorite episodes and why?
Leora: I started watching the show when it was in its third season, so a lot of the season three episodes hold a special place in my heart because they were the first ones I saw, such as Crisis and Truth. Relic was also really cool. I liked episodes that focused on Lex, such as Memoria and Bound.
I loved the Alicia trilogy, but especially Pariah because it marks when Chloe learns the truth about Clark, which was a turning point in the series. I liked Thirst because of all the Buffy references, plus it was a huge Chloe episode, and it had great guest stars.
Hydro, Reckoning, Labyrinth, Crimson, Promise, I could go on and on. It would be quicker to say which episodes II didn’t love, though I suppose there were some that were more or, less forgettable, but overall the show was awesome.
Promise had a really interesting storytelling style that I enjoyed. I liked episodes where Chloe, Jimmy, or Lana got to shine. I liked a lot of episodes.
Paul: Many shows fall away by the end, but the show experienced a resurgence in creativity when we got to the final seasons. However, I’m going to go with Supergirl’s arrival. I’ll always remember that storyline and how perfect her introduction was.
Laura: I like several of the ones Leora listed. I always enjoyed seeing Clark and Chloe work on a case, especially to help Lex. My all-time favorite episode was Lexmas since, in my perfect world, Chloe and Clark would be together, and so would Lex and Lana with their baby.
I also loved Static since Jimmy and Chloe helped Lana bring back Lex. Other favorites included Blank and Rosetta since they explored deep friendship bonds.
What did you think of Lex Luthor? Did you think his dislike of Clark was justified over time? Why or why not?
Leora: I LOVED Lex. It was so sad because you knew he had to become evil, but you could see how much he was fighting it and how much he wanted to be good. I really felt for him, and in the beginning, I really rooted for him, but some things he did, later on, were more or less unforgivable.
That being said, his dynamics with Clark, Lionel, and Lana were fascinating. I don’t know if it was justified or not. I could make an argument in either direction, so I’m going to plead the fifth.
Paul: Michael Rosenbaum was perfect as this iteration of Lex. He’s my favorite. I believe his dislike of Clark was over the top, but overall, the show did a good job of balancing it out.
Laura: As Paul said, Michael Rosenbaum was my favorite version of Lex. My husband and I recently discussed Lex and his dislike of Clark. I’m not sure it was justified, but I can understand his point of view. He wanted Clark to trust him with his secret because he thought they were friends. Michael did such a fabulous job with the layers.
Did you watch all 10 seasons? If so, what made you stick with it?
Leora: I watched all ten seasons. I like to stick shows through to the end, and while I took some issue with the last couple of seasons, I don’t think I could have abandoned the show if I tried. That being said, If I could go back and change seasons 9 and 10, I very much would.
Paul: I think because of where I started, it didn’t seem that long. 20+ episodes back then were the norm and having the first four seasons to binge got me super invested.
There were points I wanted to stop — Season 8 fell flat for me. I stopped for a while and caught back up and Season 9 was great, so it was worth it for me.
Laura: I watched all 10 seasons. I stopped for a while near the end, but I caught back up in time for the series finale.
Did the Allison Mack sex cult scandal affect how you view Chloe or Smallville in general?
Leora: At first I was disappointed because Chloe was my hero, but here’s the thing, the character is not the actress.
Chloe is still my hero, and I hope at some point we see her show up in other Superman-lore played by other actresses who can capture what made that character so great without the association because she is iconic and should be immortalized, real-life be damned.
Paul: It didn’t change how I view the character. It’s important to separate the art from the person, and in this case, Chloe is still one of the best parts of the show.
Laura: Like Leora, I was disappointed, but the actress isn’t the character. Chloe will always be one of my favorite characters and one of the best parts of the show.
Have you followed any of the actors to other shows? What do you think of their success?
Leora: I followed Kristin Kreuk to Beauty and the Beast and Burden of Truth (Plus, I checked out her earlier work on Edgemont). I think she is incredibly talented and I love her in anything. That being said, I’ll always probably love Lana most, and Beauty and the Beast was not my favorite thing. I’ve really enjoyed Burden of Truth though.
I tried following some of the others, but other than Opposite Sex, which she actually did first, I haven’t seen Allison Mack in anything I really liked her in. Tom Welling hasn’t done much and Michael Rosenbaum mostly works in animation to my understanding. I watched Virgin River, and Annette O’Toole was definitely a factor, but she wasn’t the only reason.
I watched the show Tom Welling produced back when Smallville ended, Hellcats, and I actually thought it was great, but sadly, it was canceled after 1 season. John Schneider was on Secret Life of The American Teenager, which I watched, but I don’t remember if it was because of him. I watched Erica Durance in a few TV Movies, which were only okay, but I never ended up checking out Saving Hope, and I was already watching Supergirl when she guest-starred, so that wasn’t a factor, even if it was kind of cool.
Justin Hartley’s popped up in a few things I’ve watched (Hart of Dixie and Revenge) and I’m always excited to see him, but I never specifically watched something because he was in it. I haven’t seen This Is Us
I watched the short-lived V reboot because of Laura Vandervoort, and Sam Witwer has been popping up in a lot lately. I actually like the actor when he isn’t playing Davis. I think Ian Somerhalder’s arc as Adam was part of why I checked out Vampire Diaries.
So, it’s been here and there, but the only person I’d really say I follow purposefully and all the time is Kristin Kreuk. I love her. She’s one of my top five favorite actresses.
Paul: I followed Erica Durance to a Canadian Medical drama, and she continued to kill it. I didn’t really follow the other actors.
Laura: I still need to see Erica Durance in Saving Hope. It’s on my Hulu watch list when I get a few minutes.
I was excited when Justin Hartley popped up in Revenge and then I was super excited when he was cast as a lead in This is Us. I watched John Schneider play other TV dads on 90210 and Secret Life of an American Teenager. Recently, I saw him play a surgeon in an Indie film called Tulsa.
I love Kristin Kreuk in Burden of Truth. She’s grown up so much since her Lana Lang days, and I think her acting has improved too.
When you look at all the other Superhero shows made, where does Smallville rank on the list?
Leora: It is my favorite. It will probably always be my favorite. I can admit that is partially because of nostalgia, but I don’t care. It’s true. It was awesome. Sarah Little and I did an article a while back comparing it to Arrow, and there is no comparison. Smallville is everything.
Paul: It’s the gold standard for me. I liked it was one hour, and we didn’t need to watch a million different spinoffs to understand what was going on. It was one of the best, and although they attempted spinoffs, I’m glad they didn’t get any.
Laura: I agree with both of you. It’s one of the best superhero shows. We didn’t need to watch 10 million other shows first to understand it, and it was so centered on family ties and relationships. It’s still one of my favorite series ever.
Who else was super pissed about how Crisis handled the post-Smallville story?
Leora: Because I was! Clark only became Superman in 2011, and now he’s retired with daughters who have to be old enough for Lois to leave them alone in the house while she gets her husband, so he was probably only Superman for, what, five years?
And he knows Lex Luthor is still at large and President, but he’s just cool being retired. Let the others take care of it? More than that, Lois Lane, globetrotting journalist, is cool just living on a farm in a small town raising twin girls? No. Just no! She would get so bored!
And then alternate versions of them show up and tell them about a new crisis, and they’re just light, “eh, let them handle it.” What? What? When Clark gave up his powers in S5, he died super quick, because he couldn’t stop himself from trying to save people. He always tries to save people.
That’s his thing. He would not hang up his cape when there was still so much evil out there, especially Lex. And if he did, it would be after he’d been Superman for a couple of decades. No. Just no.
Paul: I was very excited about it, and then it fell flat. They should have had a bigger part in the story because; the way the marketing pre-crossover played out, it was like they would have more to do.
The reasons for quitting that superhero life was laughable. We need a revival to make up for it!
Laura: I guess I was so glad to see them on Crisis that I didn’t give it much thought. I know I didn’t enjoy Clark with the new Lex. It just wasn’t the magic Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum brought. it seemed stilted.
Overall, I was happy Lois and Clark were happy with the kids. At the time, I wished we could have seen it, but with Superman and Lois starting shortly after, I understand why we didn’t.
What were some of your favorite Smallville moments? How did you feel about Clark and Lois in the Arrowverse crossover?
Laura Nowak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.