Last time, I mentioned that the first fourteen episodes of Lois & Clark‘s third season were mostly terrible. They were I, Claudius compared to the unbelievable crap that followed. In February of 1996, the show indulged in a series of interlocking arcs that had Clark marry a clone of Lois, while the real heroine got amnesia and fell in love with her psychiatrist, and then General Zod showed up, only they called him Lord Nor instead and he took over that strategic epicenter of world trade, Smallville.
This went on for months. Fandom had long been split by some loudmouths who were tuning in to see Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher make goo-goo eyes at each other and some other loudmouths who were tuning in to see the Man of Steel do something super. The show wasn’t satisfying anybody. The romance fans were getting plots that wouldn’t pass on a bad parody of daytime soaps, and the superhero fans were getting… well, they were getting Lord Nor. By the time Lois and Clark finally got married in season four’s third episode – featuring sodding Delta Burke as the villain – the show had hemorrhaged a full third of its audience.
Why I stuck out – why anybody stuck out – was simple: Lois & Clark had started out wonderful and we badly wanted it to get good again. And then, when all hope was just about lost, we tuned in to see an unfamiliar name get the writing credit for “Brutal Youth” and marveled, because Tim Minear gave us the best installment – the only even remotely good installment – since the Baron Sunday adventure.
“Brutal Youth” didn’t just get the balance between Lois & Clark‘s three key plot strands (relationship drama, newspaper investigation, superhero stuff) in perfect sync for the first time in ages, it gave us a genuinely original and interesting roadblock in their happier-ever-after story: while investigating the strange case of a friend of Jimmy Olsen’s who has aged seventy years in just a few days, our heroes’ contact at STAR Labs mentions to Lois that Superman’s metabolism is so unlike that of Earthlings that he will still be in his prime long after everybody on Earth today is dead. Lois understandably is in a daze after that.
Their investigation brings them to this week’s villain, a discredited researcher played by Caroline McWilliams, but unfortunately, Jimmy got to her first and has been given the aging whammy himself. The older Jimmy is played by Jack Larson, who had been television’s original Jimmy on the syndicated Adventures of Superman in the 1950s. About the only complaint I can muster against “Brutal Youth” is that we don’t get a scene where we get to watch the aged Jimmy putting all the pieces of the puzzle together for his friends to find, but that’s just me wishing for a bigger part for Larson. As written, the construction of the sequence is actually superb, and I love the way that the audience follows Lois and Clark as they see the evidence that Jimmy left them, and then get shocked as they discover their friend, exhausted and older and collapsed under the conference room table.
But that’s my lone complaint. Our favorite eight year-old critic had all kinds of complaints about this story, mainly that it was far too kissy and too smoochy. I had forgotten that the episode opens the morning after our heroes’ long-delayed wedding night – not wishing to offend anybody in the audience, Lois and Clark had waited until their wedding to spend the night together – and they wake up on the ceiling in post-coital bliss and ready for more.
I introduced a distraction as soon as the camera started panning up from their vacant bed. “They’re SMOOCHING ON THE CEILING! Can you BELIEVE this?!” The kid promptly hid his face in his security blanket with an “ugggggh” and didn’t peek again until the story picked up two weeks later, and, back from their honeymoon, Lois and Clark are in the elevator up to the Planet’s newsroom and THEN THEY STARTED SMOOCHING AGAIN. Grownups! They’re so icky!