SUPERBOY RETURNS

Adventures of Superboy: The Complete First Season
Studio: Warner Home Video
WorkNameSort: Adventures of Superboy: The Complete First Season

Among the most highly anticipated films of the summer is the one about an illegal alien who comes to this country and sets about doing the sort of jobs that Americans will not or cannot. I'm talking, of course, about Superman Returns, set to hit theaters June 28.

In the meantime, you might want to check out Adventures of Superboy: The Complete First Season, a four-disc DVD set that's due out eight days earlier. Even if you're not into superheroes (and, by the way, why the hell not?), you might be interested in this TV series: As the older members of the class will recall, it was shot right here in Central Florida beginning in the late 1980s.

Unlike the current Smallville program, Adventures of Superboy is not set in Smallville. Most of the action takes place at Shuster University and involves the activities of Superboy's alter ego, Clark Kent (John Haymes Newton), for the school newspaper. Clark's Smallville sweetie, Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk), also attends Shuster, as does shutterbug T.J. White (Jim Calvert), who hails from Metropolis ' where Clark will one day work for T.J.'s father, Perry 'Great Caesar's ghost!â?� White, on the Daily Planet. Also on hand is Lex Luthor (Scott Wells), who has wavy hair until the season finale, when he permanently loses it in a lab fire and irrationally blames the loss on the Boy of Steel.

If Smallville is a sci-fi soap opera aimed at angst-ridden teens, Adventures of Superboy is a live-action version of a Saturday-morning cartoon, aimed at younger kids (who, whatever the show's failings, seem to have liked it). For Central Floridians, the series is a time capsule, offering glimpses of such vintage locations as Church Street Station, Boardwalk and Baseball and an earlier University of Central Florida. If you look close, you'll also catch vintage performances by Michael J. Pollard as the mischievous Mr. Mxyzptlk, Ray Walston as a peremptory professor, Abe Vigoda as a crazed Holocaust survivor and a very young Joaquin Phoenix (billed as Leaf) as a kid genius who, in a dream sequence, wears a Superboy costume.

Produced by those Super-obsessed Salkinds, Ilya and Alexander, Adventures of Superboy is, alas, no classic. Clunky staging, cheesy special effects, flat dialogue and amateurish acting (especially, but not exclusively, in supporting roles) make for a less-than-heroic result. To judge from his comments on an audio commentary, Newton himself (who was later replaced in the title role by Gerard Christopher) didn't think much of the experience of shooting the show.

'It's amazing how beautiful that skyline is,â?� he says sarcastically, referring to The City Beautiful. 'Look at that! It's almost like: Paris or Orlando? Y'know, take your pick. They're both beautiful.â?� Now John, is that sort of talk really necessary? If you were so hung up on Paris, why didn't you just get your buns of steel down to Epcot's France exhibit? It's got an Eiffel Tower and everything.

I mean, great Caesar's Ghost!

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