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original title: Adventures of Superman
tags: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!
keywords: supernaturalpower, superhero, reporter, cubreporter, samerolemorethenoneactor, metropolisthecity, characternameinseriestitle, 1950s, manwithglasses, basedoncomicbook, kryptonite, alien, secretidentity
It must be understood that this was much more than just another filmed television series. It was a catalyst to a whole other imaginary world. It opened our imagination to this other level of noble heroes doing super feats for the greater good of mankind.
There were 5 of us Ryan kids in our household and save for our older sister, the Late Joanne Ryan (1942-1990), none of us had any experience with Superman. Joanne had read some of the comic books (though never a regular reader) and was old enough to have followed the SUPERMAN Radio Progran over the Mutual Radio Network. The rest of us-one sister and three brothers-all got our original Super-contact with the television episodes.* And what a great relationship it was. Although we all knew we were watching a filmed, fictional story, just as we knew that HOWDY DOODY was make believe, puppetry & scenery, the Superman series provided something that was, and still is, much more.
Using our ability to own copies of the whole series, we can view and compare episode to episode, even season to season. If we were to rely on our memories, we would probably come out with a sort of somewhat blurred montage of overlapping shows and plots, all equaling an overview of our imaginations.
When viewed today in a relatively short span of time, we can readily see the differences between episodes of different seasons. We can say that one of the obvious changes to take place is the incidental music, or the musical ques that set the mood, underline the action. There is a steady evolution of themes, quite different from season to season.** There was seemingly a whole different set of themes for each succeeding year. But that would only constitute a most obvious and superficial set of differences.
Most people will tell you that they prefer the first two seasons, this writer would concur, making the second season my personal favourite. But recently, my admittedly slow moving gray matter came up with this observation and hypothesis.
Okay, we'll concede that seasons one and two are better made, have a lot more outdoor scenes and generally aimed at the whole family, and not just the juvenile trade. Season one in particular seems to be much more violent, with more killings, more sinister occurrences, and an almost Film Noir tone to much of the out put. Even Superman's behaviour is less restrained as he really throws punches, where in later episodes/seasons, a little tap would do.*** But one great difference, which we couldn't have noticed by hardly any body viewing the episodes in the one at a time, season after season. That is although seasons 1 & 2 are, generally better stories,made in a more overall family friendly, yet in such a manner as to invite viewing by all, not just the kiddies.
The 3rd and successive seasons saw some cutbacks in budgetary matters and some of the stories,while no more or less fantastic, were filmed in less different sets and with less outdoor scenes. Even so, they have a certain friendly feeling to them. This is so because, in the opinion of this writer, of a collective build-up of strong feelings for the characters of the series.
We boys all had recognized a deep seeded attraction for Lois (both of 'em!),just as the girls recognized Kent/Superman as a true gentleman, a latter day Sir Galahad. (more about Reeves later). We found that John Hamilton's characterization of Perry White as short tempered, blustery and so autocratic-whereas underneath it all, we knew Perry was a sweet tempered, old softie.
I guess, in short what it all comes down to the following premise. Whereas the 1st and 2nd seasons were a little more expensive budgetary, the subsequent seasons portrayed more empathy to and from the audience, mainly because of the depth of characterizations, built over the whole life of the series.
That certainly goes especially for Mr. Reeves, whose character was at once good, strong, decent, intelligent and kind to the nth degree. I guess that is why we all had that numb, hurt and empty feeling on that fateful day of June 16, 1959.
* At this time we did have comic books in the house, but no super hero types. They were generally the likes of DENNIS THE MENACE, LITTLE LULU and like all good little Catholic School Kids, TREASURE CHEST (remember?)!
** The music varied quite a bit from season to season. Of course other than the heroic opening/closing theme, the incidental music changed drastically over the years. This was subject of a detailed, well documented article in one of those comic journal type magazines several years ago.
*** It seemed that there weren't too many restrictions put on the Man of Steel in the first season. He really threw some hard punches at so many of those thugs! There were quite a few brutal killings (not by Superman) In what would be a completely unacceptable and totally politically incorrect moves, in the episode THE MISSING COSTUME, Superman kidnaps Gangster (Dan Seymour) and his Moll (Veda Ann Borg), confining up at the top of a snowy mountain because they've discovered his identity as Clark Kent! I hadn't seen this show in years, then....I was fortunate enough to catch it on a regular basis on T.V. Land about 3 years ago. It was always on early in the morning as I was getting up for work. I taped every episode, in which I am now in the process of transferring them all onto DVD. I was fortunate enough to get every episode but 1 (Test of a Warrior from Season 3). "Anybody out there by chance have this episode???". I think the first 2 seasons were great (the black and white ones), but then it started to get a little bit on the cheezy side once it went color. Once it went color, it became more aimed at children. Especially the episode "Mr. Zero". As great as an episode it is, it was way too far fetched, and moral value teaching. The fact that a Martian who's a total loser on Mars and gets ousted from his people, comes to Earth and helps Superman catch some bad guys, and then is realized by his people that he's OK after all if he can help Superman, is just way too out to lunch for me. But hey, what can you do. Even though I have almost every episode, I'd still love to see this come back to TV on a regular basis. They just don't make them like that anymore. In the first season Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane. She left to concentrate on her movie career. Noel Neill who took over the role in the second season had experience since she played Lois Lane in the two Superman movie serials. Both actresses were recruited to play Lois Lane's mother: Noel Neill in the movie Superman (1978) and Phyllis Coates in the television series Lois and Clark.
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