‘Lois & Clark’ and How to Avoid Jumping the Shark in Sixty-Seven Simple Steps

I’ve been rewatching Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman on and off for the past few years. The first two seasons are a lot of fun. It’s a cheesy show, absolutely, but during those first two years, it was satisfying cheese that hit the spot and got the characters exactly right—certainly far better than any recent movies have.

Then, in the third season, the cheese spoiled.

I can only assume the writers were afraid the show might jump the shark if Lois and Clark got married too early, so they contrived all sorts of ways to delay the nuptials. It started with typical TV shenanigans—he wants to get married, but she doesn’t, and then she wants to get married, but he doesn’t, like they mistook themselves for Ross and Rachel.

Such antics, alas, did not buy enough time to let the shark pass un-jumped. The prospect of marriage loomed. Unable to conceive of a marriage with dramatic tension, the writers got creative.

Right before the wedding, Lois gets replaced by a frog-eating clone, and then, thanks to a bump on the head, she loses her memory and develops an alternate personality. Now, you might expect that the amnesia would be reversed by a second bump on the head, but you’d be mistaken, because, in a stunning subversion of the trope, a second bump on the head gives her more amnesia.

But the season’s not over yet! These were the Before Streaming days of 22 episodes a season, so even as Lois’s memory returned, the dreaded shark still swam within leaping distance, and the writing staff cowered in fear of this series-devouring predator. They had to dig deep, all the way down to the bottom of the barrel.

From there, they pulled out the Krypton card. Decades earlier, Superman writers discovered that if they were ever running low on ideas, they could simply un–blow up some part of Krypton and throw that at Superman. Thus, television viewers got a bunch of inexplicably telepathic Kryptonians and the revelation that Clark is a hereditary Kryptonian lord who’s needed to help the surviving Kryptonians avoid civil war.

If there was one thing that Lois & Clark was lacking, it was Kryptonian politics, so this did fill that void, in case anyone was looking to have it filled, and it pried our title characters apart long enough to carry them into the fourth season unwed.

Then, following a couple episodes of the obligatory evil Kryptonians trying to conquer the world, the writers finally gave in and allowed Lois and Clark to get married. Superman can’t be married by just any minister, of course. Perry White attempted two failed ceremonies, but even he didn’t suffice in the end.

No, in a stroke of whimsy, the series decided that Lois and Clark should be married by their guardian angel, an actual guardian angel who’s been watching over them their whole lives.

(We’re left to infer that guardian angels do not assist in matters of frog-eating clones. The More You Know.)

Post-wedding jitters immediately afflicted the writing staff. The fourth season was still young. There might still be too many episodes of marital bliss ahead. Fortunately, there remained one last milestone to delay: the honeymoon.So, as Lois and Clark are moments away from shattering the Cherry of Steel, someone knocks on their door.

I’ll give you three guesses who shows up.

Oh, who am I kidding? Like you need more than one.

Yeah, you guessed exactly right: H.G. Wells shows up to prevent Superman and Lois Lane from sleeping together. And yes, that’s the explicit, in-story motivation.

The author of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, moonlighting as a time-traveling honeymoon crasher, warns Lois and Clark of a centuries-old curse, in the writing staff’s last-ditch effort to save the show from jumping the shark too soon.

But those first two seasons are a fun time.

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