Worst to First: Ranking the DC Superhero TV Shows

6. Smallville

Ran from: October 16, 2001 – May 13, 2011

Channels: The WB which later became the CW

Heroes: “The Red-Blue Blur”, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Aquaman, the Flash, Cyborg and Hawkman

Villains: Lex Luthor, Lionel Luthor, “freaks of the week” Brainiac, Zod, Metallo and Doomsday

Notable Guest Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Teri Hatcher, Dean Cain, Helen Slater, Lynda Carter, James Marsters, Carrie Fisher, Pam Grier, Tom Wopat in a Dukes of Hazard reunion, Amy Adams, Brian Austin Green and Tori Spelling

What’s Good: I give Smallville a lot of crap.  Most of it is deserved.  Over the course of ten years, the show did a lot of things very badly.  But credit where it’s due, the show also got some things right.  Unlike the Zach Snyder movies which somehow found a way to screw up Pa Kent, John Schneider was right at home playing an all-American farmer and father figure.  Annette O’Toole (who played Lana Lang in Superman III) was equally good as Martha Kent.  (Hey, Batman’s mom is named Martha too!  I wonder if anyone ever noticed that?)

Michael Rosenbaum stole many scenes during his time on the show playing Clark’s frenemy, Lex Luthor.  He was only outdone by John Glover who played his Machiavellian father, Lionel.  Allison Mack shone in a supporting role and Erica Durance made a terrific Lois Lane relatively late in the show’s run.  Gradually, Smallville evolved from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer clone into a prototype for today’s superhero shows with episodes featuring a variety of characters from DC Comics.

What’s Bad: When singling out members of the cast for praise, I left out leads Tom Welling and Kristin Kreuk.  While easy on the eyes, neither Welling nor Kreuk brought much to the material beyond their good looks.

In the early days, Smallville followed a “freak of the week” formula that quickly grew tiresome.  As the show dragged on, storylines became insanely complicated.  Writers worked overtime to find ways to keep Clark and Lana apart before finally giving up and replacing her with Lois.  Once Rosenbaum left the show, writers struggled to keep Lex working behind the scenes in case he ever decided to return.  As cool as it was to have Booster Gold on a live action TV show, it was a little weird that practically every C-List character in the Justice League became a superhero before Clark donned his cape.  In fact, the actual Justice League was formed during the show’s sixth season while Clark was still running around in a hoodie.

Verdict: Smallville is cheesy as hell, but it’s not boring.  Better shows have come along, but for a time it was the only way to get a superhero fix on television.  And yes, it hurts me a little that I am ranking it above the other two Superman TV shows.

Next: Batman


Posted on November 10, 2017, in Super Heroes, TV, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. My preferences are the two oldest, as I loved them so much as a child and still enjoy them. I have both complete series. I rated all 4 current DC CW shows as “Good”, because I enjoy them. I do have the occasional problems with their season-long storylines which drag on and on and on sometimes. The romance stuff gets a bit old after a while as well. Too “Will they/Won’t they?” and all of that. Plus, Seasons 2 and 3 of The Flash were uncharacteristically dark and relied WAAAAAY too much on the speed-villains and time travel and the speed force…Thank goodness season 4 has arrived with more fun, Silver Age-level comic book-type fun. Arrow can be a a little too grim at times, but it’s good over all. Legends of Tomorrow has gotten into a fun groove and is currently the most fun. Supergirl is good, but I get kind of tired of Supergirl having to be constantly rescued by her non-powered but oh-so-competent and able sister. I’d love them to dump Alex and the DEO altogether. The whole Team Arrow/Team Flash/Team Supergirl bit is a bit repetitive, so I’d like to see Supergirl change that up. Smallville was terrible and I won’t discuss that garbage show anymore. Gotham is pointless. “Here is a Batman show without Batman.” No thanks.


    • This was really hard to rank because the shows are so different. Personal preference plays a huge factor. I decided to embrace the fact that at the end of the day, I’d rather watch one of the modern CW shows (with all of their flaws) than classic series like Adventures of Superman. But I totally get where you’re coming from. For its time, Adventures was epic.

      I struggled with shows like Smallville and Lois and Clark. I don’t disagree that Smallville was “garbage”, but I still enjoyed watching it from time to time. Especially episodes that were loaded up with superhero guest stars. I can’t be too mad at the show that gave us the first-ever and to date only live-action version of Booster Gold.

      I could rearrange the order of the CW shows pretty easily although for me the darker tone of Arrow will probably always keep it near the bottom. I agree that Legends of Tomorrow is hitting its goofy stride. It’s been a lot of fun to watch. I wouldn’t mind seeing Supergirl ditch the DEO but I understand why the ensemble is used on all the shows. It’s part of the CW formula.

      I gave up on Gotham after the first season, but I have heard it has gotten better. My personal preference would have been for a show based on the GCPD comic book. The focus is on the police officers of Gotham City with Batman out there but rarely ever seen in person. As it stands, I’m willing to sit Gotham out and let those who enjoy it continue to do so. There are so many superhero TV shows to choose from these days.


      • Agreed. There are many superhero shows from which to choose, and I don’t watch the Marvel ones, despite being a lifelong Marvel fan. I mean, I watch the Netflix shows, despite not being in love with any of them. I think they’re too dark and dour, but I watch them anyway. Agents of SHIELD, Inhumans, and The Gifted all get a pass from me. Oh! But Legion! Okay. I watched that. Legion was great. I will also give the upcoming Runaways and Cloak and Dagger shows a look-see. I doubt they will be light-hearted and fun though.


        • Of course I am considering a follow-up based around Marvel shows. The Netflix shows are roughly equivalent to DC’s Arowverse. The Incredible Hulk and Amazing Spider-Man are Marvels “classic” shows. Agents of SHIELD has been hit and miss. The first half of of the first season was barely watchable, but it got better. The last couple of seasons have been as good as any other shows of this type. One wonders if anyone involved in Inhumans understands the medium of television at all. The Gifted is surprisingly competent but hardly essential. Legion was rad. That gives you some idea what my Marvel list will look like when it hits.


  2. While many of these shows had superior production values to Batman, it’s hard to top that one for cultural impact. And Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman was one of the great visual icons of the 1970s.

    I caught a couple of episodes of Birds of Prey during its short lifetime and was very unimpressed. Since I am not a comics reader, I come at film and television adaptations primarily from a “does this work as film or TV?” perspective—and Birds of Prey did not work.

    Although I haven’t been watching any of the Arrowverse shows, they all seem to have pretty good reputations.


    • You bring up another point I struggled with. If I made my list based on cultural impact, the older shows would rise to the top. Batman, Adventures of Superman and Wonder Woman are clearly the most influential of these shows. As the flagship, Arrow would have to top the tie-in shows. I decided to make my list on the basis of which show I would most like to watch right now versus which show would be the most painful to endure. That benefited the modern shows, but other criteria would be just as valid.

      Although I was familiar with the source material – in fact, I was a big fan – I would have given Birds of Prey a pass if it had worked. I do think one of the reasons it didn’t work is that they missed what made the original comic book worth adapting in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve viewed a lot of “Wonder Woman”, 1960’s “Batman”, “Adventures of Superman”, “Birds of Prey” (I have it on DVD, but I mostly got it for the web series “Gotham Girls, and I know the actual live action series could’ve been a lot better), “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, and “Supergirl”, while other shows like “Arrow” and the current “The Flash” I’ve caught a few times.
    I was not really aware of “Superboy” (until a few years ago), “Shazam!”, or the 1990 “The Flash”, but they look okay. I never really bothered with “Smallville” or “Gotham” though, as they just didn’t/don’t interest me. I might check out “Legends of Tomorrow” though. interest me


  4. Great list.

    I’d personally dock Supergirl points for not even trying to get an Irish Silver Banshee. I really liked the New 52 version of Siobhan Smythe, but even if they thought a villainess version was better I just wish they’d kept her Irish – it’s so rare I get to hear an accent like mine on foreign television.

    However I’d give them bonus points for hiring Katie McGrath so it kind of evens out there.


  5. Okay, I tried to give “Birds of Prey” another shot, and all I came with was crushing on Dina Meyer and thinking Shemar Moore is sexy.


  6. Hey, did you know Dina Meyer does YouTube cooking? Wow, I want to make that Butternut Squash Soup she explained (I’ll leave out the mayo, but I had no idea Dina was such a kitchen wizard!).
    Huh, I just realized I have my nickname on, and not my actual wordpress name (my computer went on the blink, so I had to reinvent; maybe I need Dina Meyer, then I can cook up something good. Shemar Moore can come too, since someone else needs to eat our chow, and he seems like good company:-).


    • My goodness, all of that takes be back (I’m the same person who had DVD’s of mostly anything Batman and Superman. You busted me here though:-)


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