Regular cast (L to R): Perry White, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Inspector Henderson. Not pictured: Superman.
Oh, there he is.
"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound! ("Look! Up in the sky!" "It's a bird!" "It's a plane!" "It's Superman!") Yes, it's Superman! Strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman! Who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!"
The first Superman TV series, running from 1952 to 1958 and starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel. The supporting cast included Phyllis Coates and later Noel Neill as Lois Lane, Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen, John Hamilton as Perry White, and Robert Shayne as Inspector Henderson. Those actors that are still alive often have cameos in more modern Superman projects. This show is the way most children in the 1950s were introduced to Superman, and also the main reason that Jimmy Olsen got his own comic book.The show was produced during the Mort Weisinger era of Superman comics, and he and Whitney Ellisworth were even on the staff. As a result, a lot of the plots are carbon copies of comic book stories from the time (for example, the story "The Phantom Superman" became the episode "Superman in Exile".) As a result, the series is probably the purest adaptation of late golden/early silver-age comic books out there.The later TV series Lois and Clark is also known as "The New Adventures of Superman", following this show's title.Sadly, the series is now mostly remembered for George Reeves' mysterious deathnote Fans are still arguing about whether it was murder or suicide, which formed the basis of its own movie: Hollywoodland, where he was portrayed by Ben Affleck.The show also has a Recap page which could use attention.
In addition to all the Superman tropes, this series provides examples of:
After Show: After George Reeves' tragic death, the producers shot a pilot on the same sets for The Adventures of Superpup - using little people in giant dog head masks portraying such characters as "Bark Bent" and "Puppy White". Jimmy Olsen, meanwhile, became a smart mouthed mouse (a hand puppet) that lived in Bark Bent's drawer as well as narrated the story.
Also, Professor Twiddle from "Through the Time Barrier".
Canon Immigrant: Inspector Henderson was brought over from the radio show; he actually showed up in the comics from time to time after this series. Twenty years later, so did Professor Pepperwinkle.
Catchphrase: Perry White had "Great Caesar's Ghost!" and "Don't call me Chief!" to his credit. One memorable episode had him accidentally summoning Caesar's Ghost after shouting it too many times. ("Caesar" turned out to be a con artist.)
The Professor Pepperwinkle episodes depend on this. Any time Pepperwinkle invented something, a gang of crooks would somehow learn of the invention and gain the Professor's trust so they could use it to commit crimes.
"Through the Time Barrier" uses this as well; Clark and company are transporting a gangster when Professor Twiddle, who is sharing the elevator with them, chooses that moment to demonstrate his Time Machine.
Don't Call Me Sir: Perry White hates it when Jimmy calls him "Chief", but can never get him to stop doing it.
Electrified Bathtub: A gullible rich person is told by a phony psychic (hired by the rich guy's heirs) that he would chase away the evil spirits around him if he stepped into a bathtub while holding a live electrical cable. Superman saved him (of course).
Everyone Knows Morse: Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are trapped in a room with a flue with a closable hatch. Jimmy realizes that he knows how to signal SOS with smoke, but the only thing to burn is a large amount of cash a rich person gave him. With much regret, Olsen agrees it is the only way and burns the money to do the smoke signaling. Fortunately, at least Superman sees the distress signal and rescues them.
Evil Cripple: In "The Evil Three", one of the titular three is a wheelchair-bound woman. Subverted in that she protests the other two's plans to murder Perry and Jimmy, if only because she "don't want no more [blood] on [her] conscience" after what one of the others did to his uncle.
Fair Cop: Sgt. Helen O'Hara, the titular character in "Superman's Wife".
Flowers of Romance: In the episode "The Wedding of Superman", Lois Lane awakes after dozing off to a delivery of flowers from Superman, and events quickly lead up to a marriage proposal from the Man of Steel.
Gentle Giant: Atlas, the kind-hearted but naive circus strongman from "Three in One". Unfortunately, he becomes part of a Terrible Trio when two other circus performers who have gone bad (an Escape Artist and a human fly) take advantage of his trusting nature to trick him into helping them commit crimes.
Go Through Me: Jimmy puts himself between Lois and the innkeeper and a trio of gangsters in "Night of Terror."
Hanging by the Fingers: Jimmy ends up hanging from the ledge by his fingers in "The Human Bomb." The Villain of the Week steps on his hand to speed up the process. Then a cop tries to grab him, but he falls and has to be caught by Superman.
Intrepid Reporter: Lois Lane. Perry at times blows his top at the trips she takes to get a story, but she tends to be following solid leads. On at least one occasion Lois was scheduled to be a key witness of a senatorial committee investigating organized crime.
Laser-Guided Karma: In "The Defeat of Superman", a Terrible Trio (a gangster, his henchman and a Mad Scientist) discover that kryptonite can harm Superman, and use a tiny sample of the real substance to create synthetic kryptonite. They lure Supes into a trap, using Lois and Jimmy as hostages, then leave all three of them to die. Lois and Jimmy save Superman by wrapping the kryptonite in lead, and the Man of Tomorrow throws it into space—which is where the karma comes in. The three villains see this as they're driving back to Metropolis, and they're distracted enough that their car goes over a cliff, killing them all. To make it even more karmic, they tumble down the cliff they planned to throw Lois and Jimmy's car over.
In-Universe use. A large, naive country bumpkin by the unlikely name of Sylvester J. Superman comes to town and happens to see a classified ad asking for Superman's help. Since he's Superman, he goes to help - delivering a lemon meringue pie to a remote Naval weather base in Alaska.
And interestingly, the visuals accompanying them resemble those of the theatrical cartoons, complete with static shot of Superman transforming between Superman and Clark Kent.
Phrase Catcher: Jimmy Olsen. Who did you think kept calling Perry White chief?
Pocket Protector: Inverted. The bad guys are holding Clark, Lois, and Jimmy hostage, and their boss insists Clark is Superman. The boss shoots Clark, who in turn reacts with surprise, and Lois and Jimmy are both convinced. Clark, however, reaches into his jacket and feels around thoughtfully. After the situation is resolved Clark reaches into his jacket, finds a silver dollar and dents it with his superstrength before pulling it out and claiming the bullet deflected off the coin.
The Precarious Ledge: In "The Human Bomb", the titular character handcuffs himself to Lois and drags her out onto the Planet building's ledge.
Protectorate: Superman will never let anyone hurt the Daily Planet staff.
Rescue Reversal: In "The Defeat of Superman", Superman gets locked in a room with Kryptonite while trying to rescue Lois and Jimmy. Jimmy neutralizes the radiation by shoving the Kryptonite into a lead pipe and stomping its ends closed.
Jimmy: For once, we had to save him.
Revenge by Proxy: Lampshaded. The Villain of the Week comments that while he can't hurt Superman physically, he can "strike at him through his friends." To this end, he ties Perry to a log in a sawmill (and Lois to the train tracks), uses acid on Jimmy's brakes so that he'll crash when he has to take a twisting road, and lowers Clark into an acid bath.
Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: The first season was dramatically different from the rest of the series. The villains were more intense, there were several on-screen deaths, Superman fought with his fists, and Phyllis Coates played Lois as a tough, serious Action Girl type. Subsequent seasons dialed the zaniness way Up to Eleven, the villains never died anymore, and Superman almost never laid a finger on anyone—instead, the villains would obligingly knock themselves unconscious by barreling headlong into walls, doors, and each other's heads. The new Lois, Noel Neille, was much Lighter and Softer too.
Secret Keeper: "The Defeat of Superman" ends with Lois and Jimmy promising not to reveal the existence of kryptonite.
Series Continuity Error: In one episode, Jimmy gives his middle name as "Bartholomew". In another, his name plate reads "James J. Olsen."
Shadow Discretion Shot: In "The Evil Three", Jimmy struggling with one of the bad guys and the other knocking him out with a blow to the head is shown in the shadows thrown on the wall.
"The Mind Machine" in particular features an infamous scene where Superman actually ducks a gun thrown at him after all of its bullets were used up.
Skewed Priorities: In "The Bully of Dry Gulch", Lois calls Clark for help after Jimmy gets in trouble with the local gunslinger. Clark appears unconcerned. Then Lois mentions that the villain has also been "making eyes" at her.
Telephone Teleport: In "The Phony Alibi", Professor Pepperwinkle invents a system for transporting people through telephone wires. As usual with Pepperwinkle, a gang of crooks befriends the naive professor, then uses his invention for evil; they commit crimes in Metropolis, then phone themselves to distant cities and make sure plenty of people see them to set themselves up with a (seemingly) perfect alibi.
That Poor Plant: Superman gets exposed to Radiation and goes into self-imposed exile. He's lonely and wants to be around others, so he put his hand out over a potted plant. But he's so radioactive and deadly, the plant dies on the spot.
There Was a Door: Superman bursts through a wall to rescue Lois and Jimmy, and Jimmy comments that he "could have come in through the door."
Superman, Lois & Jimmy are trapped in a concrete bunker, with Supes out of commission due to a Kryptonite ray. Then the walls start closing in. Luckily there happened to be a discussion of hypnotism earlier in the episode. Superman hypnotises Lois, which somehow makes him able to levitate her (horizontally, as in the classic magician's "levitating woman" illusion). Somehow, this makes her body rigid and strong enough to stop the walls (her head stopping one wall, her feet the other). This allows Jimmy to climb up to the top and redirect the Kryptonite ray.
In the episode "Drums of Death", the Villain of the Week tries to use a wine press to dispose of Perry, Perry's sister, and Jimmy. Superman arrived and tore apart the bars, allowing them to escape.
When I Was Your Age: Perry tells Jimmy that "when I was your age, a few mosquitoes didn't bother me."
Unique Protagonist Asset: Superman is the only person with superpowers we ever see (and by implication the only one on the entire planet).