Lois: See, your problem is you think there's a difference.
By 1993, DC Comics was doing quite well with both Batman Returns & Batman: The Animated Series. However, on the red & blue side of the coin, it had been six years since the last Superman film, a year since The Adventures of Superboy, and will be another three years before Superman: The Animated Series. It was also along this point that romantic comedies were taking a place of precedence amongst pop culture. Thusly it was decided to take the Superman mythos and inject the elements of a workplace romantic comedy, leading to Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, premiering on ABC September 12, 1993, one of the first superhero series aimed at women as much as men.
It hews a lot closer to the format of The Adventures of Superman TV show from the '50s; with several episodes, especially those in season 1, amounting to modernized re-creations of some of the best George Reeves episodes. Most episodes will start off with a strange happening, then Lois (Teri Hatcher) and Clark (Dean Cain) use their reporter know-how to investigate. Eventually, one or more members of The Daily Planet will get into trouble and Superman will swoop in at the last minute and save them. As mentioned, there's a lot of workplace/romantic comedy layered on top of this, and it's no coincidence that critics summed up the show as "Moonlighting with superpowers".
The production values and FX are hit-or-miss, but it hits all the right notes of the post-Byrne DC universe: Clark identifies as the "real" personality, with Superman being the role he puts on, and he has the support of his still-living foster parents (Eddie Jones and K. Callan). Superman's first mission interferes with the illegal dealings of Lex Luthor (John Shea), a Metropolis business giant, which fits the zeitgeist of the era.
The show suffered, to an extent, from the so-called "Moonlighting curse", as well as an Executive Veto by ABC and DC Comics. When Clark proposed to Lois, the writers gave them a whole arc devoted to their wedding. DC made them switch Lois out for a clone duplicate at the last minute. (The week Lois and Clark were to be married on TV, the couple broke off their engagement in Action Comics #720.) Then the execs cancelled it because it had "run its course." It might not have "run its course" if not for the fake-out wedding, after which they lost a large portion of their viewership. The last episode aired June 14, 1997, wrapping up four years and 87 episodes.
The show was simply known as The New Adventures of Superman (no direct relation to the older animated series The New Adventures of Superman) in some countries outside the US, due to executives believing non-American viewers wouldn't understand the pun on 19th-century American explorers Lewis and Clark.
This show provides examples of:
- Absent-Minded Professor: Generally, the only trustworthy doctors on this show are the forgetful ones. See: Dr. Samuel Platt from the Pilot, followed by Emil Hamilton in "That Old Gang of Mine".
- Superman's recurring sidekick, Dr. Klein has his moments, too. The only way to ever explain why Dr. Klein does not clue into the fact that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person is that he is a total absent minded professor.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Lex's preferred terrain (at least once he goes broke).
- Accidental Misnaming: Mr. Mxyzptlk, played by Howie Mandel. Lois mispronounces it as "Mazel Tov". He doesn't care for that one bit.
- Actor Allusion:
- Perry doing the peace sign, or a Watergate headline hanging behind his head, etc.. Lane Smith played the 37th President in the television movie The Final Days.
- At one point, he even compared Lane and Kent to Woodward and Bernstein.
- Additionally, the mayor of Metropolis, played by Sonny Bono, makes references to his lyrics in his speeches.
- Clark's favorite sports team is The Buffalo Bills because Dean Cain played for the Buffalo Bills until he got injured and had to quit.
- Adaptation Dye-Job:
- Frosty Lana Lang is blonde in this incarnation.
- Jimmy Olson, traditionally redheaded, has brown hair in the show.
- Lex Luthor, when he has hair, is also usually a redhead, but has dark brown hair here. At least it's still curly. He loses his hair as the result of dying and being cryogenically frozen until his scientists can discover a way to reanimate him.
- Dean Cain has brown eyes, as opposed to Superman's trademark blue. Lois even actively describes Superman's eyes' shade of brown to a sketch artist as being full of warmth and mystery, and nothing like Clark's "mud-brown" eyes.
- Adaptation Personality Change: At the time of airing most people's perception of the Clark Kent/Superman characters were from Christopher Reeve's portrayal in the film series: Clark being incredibly dorky and irritating and Superman being almost inhumanly masterful and charismatic. Perhaps mindful of just how grating a "dork" Clark would be over an entire series and wanting to make the romance elements more believable the TV series Clark is much more assertive, confident and charismatic. (This is another call back to the 1950s series, where George Reeves often played Clark this way.) At the same time Superman is far more down to earth making the two personalities much more similar than the film incarnations. Also the makers incorporated into the show:
- Adaptational Superpower Change : Superman's powers are toned down for the series compared to his film and comic book incarnations. He's still very powerful but more vulnerable to high-tech countermeasures, Kryptonite is more effective and it takes time for him to recover from its effects and generally it's easier for his opponents to provide a reasonable challenge without getting flattened in five seconds flat.
- Adventure Duo: Paradoxically (given his alien origins), Clark is actually The Scully, with Lois being the one leaping to wild conclusions and charging headfirst into danger.
- Adaptational Job Change: In the comics, Sam Lane is an Army General. Here, he's a cyberneticist.
- Affectionate Parody:
- Aliens Speaking English: The survivors of New Krypton. Yet one of Kal-El's crimes is not having learned Kryptonian sufficiently to have understood all the arcane instructions on his ship...?
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us:
- The Daily Planet is frequently under siege. Lex managed to put them out of business, then blew it up for good measure.
- In Season Three, Lex traces Superman/Clark back to his apartment and takes his parents hostage.
- Alphabet News Network: LNN (Luthor News Network). The logo uses the same typeface as CNN.
- Alternate Universe/Bizarro Universe:
- A dystopian world where Superman is a kept man forbidden from ever using his powers, and never took up the cape. Oddly, there is no Lex Luthor in this reality, as his role was gradually subsumed by Tempus (Lane Davies) after John Shea left the show.
- Charlton Heston is President, and Jimmy is the owner of the Daily Planet (with Perry as his Smithers). It also seems that Elvis Presley served for a time as President of the US and has survived well into the 1990s.
- Ambiguously Brown:
- Clark passes for this. Showrunner Deborah Joy Levine points out that Dean Cain, who is 1/4 Japanese, has an unplaceable look to him that made him stick out in a crowd. This does not apply to the vanilla-looking New Kryptonians.
- There is a running gag in the S2 show "Chi of Steel" where Chen Chow (Chinese-American, played by a Japanese-American actor) looks and dresses almost exactly like Clark (even to the wild ties) and when Lois points this out he says "we have the same optometrist".
- Amnesiac Lover: Lois, during a season three arc, goes through two versions of amnesia: one with fake memories and one that left her memories in a blank state. In both cases, she cannot recognize Clark/Superman as her fiance. But Asabi, a psychic with Telepathy capacities, is able to tell that Lois's heart is taken.
- Amoral Attorney: Several, although one of the worst apparently is a fake attorney. A few times, attorneys who appear corrupt turn out to not be.
- Analogy Backfire:
- Perry balks at Luthor's buyout of the Daily Planet, with the final straw being his appointment of a new Senior Editor-in-chief: an Ivy League douchebag named Chip. Lex irritatingly tells him to think of it as a "honeymoon period".
- In "Dead Lois Walking", Clark compares Lois' situation to that of Richard Kimble in the TV series, The Fugitive. All they have to do is find the real killer.Lois: How long did that take?
Clark: [considers] I think the show ran four years.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: The first season was one long, protracted plot by Lex Luthor to achieve this. When his dream wedding to Lois (intended to culminate with Superman's painful death) collapsed like a bad souffle, he resorted to kidnapping and brainwashing Lois instead. Later, his sons, Jaxon Xavier and Lex Luthor Jr., follow the same script.
- And Starring: John Shea as Lex Luthor. *lights up stogie*
- Arbitrary Skepticism: So you've got a super strong, super fast, flying guy who's probably an alien, but an invisible man? Naaaaaah!
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Unlike General Zod, who tried to rule Krypton by force, Lord Nor is a depraved nobleman angling to inherit control of his people through marriage and other underhanded means. He's the Sheriff of Nottingham, if he were Kryptonian.
- The Ark:
- Lex unveils a giant Fallout vault to survive a coming asteroid. One of the rooms is an exact replica of Lois' apartment, a ploy to convince her to rebuild the species (nudge nudge) with him.
- Larry Smiley insists that couples in his retreat adopt animal names, symbolic of the primal urge to mate and further the species." Larry wants two of every kind.
- Arrested for Heroism: Superman once saved the life of a musician, who then turned around and sued the Man of Steel for breaking his arm.
- Artistic License Physics: Nearly Once per Episode, sometimes more. Of course, you've got to expect that in a Superman show.
- Lois: Gravity is a sort of magnetism, right?
- Ascended Meme: Perry's Catchphrase "Great shades of Elvis!" and his general Elvis obsession were adapted into the comics in The '90s as a result of their being signature Perry traits on L&C.
- As You Know: Lane Smith's speeches as the editor-in-chief, Perry White.
- Badass Armfold: Dean Cain's Superman does this often, Clark Kent so rarely it might be part of his disguise (rather, Clark is likely to be seen with his hands in his pockets).
- Bald of Evil: Lex starts out with a full mop of curly hair, then is bald in Season 2. Explained by the reanimation process necessitated by his demise, so he can still blame Superman, albeit indirectly, for his hair loss. Actor John Shea (Lex) wryly justified it by saying that somebody as rich and brilliant as Lex would be able find a solution for hair loss. He regains his shock of hair in Season 3, either because it grows back, or because Lex is wearing a wig in these sequences.
- Bank Robbery: Cooked up by none less than the laboratory-grown clones of John Dillinger, Clyde Tolson, and Bonnie Parker. Only in Metropolis!
- Battle Butler: Nigel. "The Phoenix" reveals that he's a former British intelligence agent gone bad.
- Beard of Evil: Tempus (well, sometimes), Nigel, Lord Nor... the list goes on.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: It turns out that H. G. Wells really did have a time machine; he shows up in a few episodes, usually hot on the trail of Conqueror from the Future Tempus.
- Best Served Cold: The Prankster and Prof. Jefferson Cole both harbor ill will toward Lois for her role in imprisoning them. Baron Sunday holds a grudge against Clark Kent, though his excuse is definitely more valid.
- Beta Outfit: Clark goes through a similar set of trial costumes (with and without masks and hats), but the S-shield isn't added until the end. Ma Kent jokes that the underwear means that nobody will be looking at his face. At one point he even puts on what is obviously a Captain America costume (at least the bodysuit portion), but using a Superman color scheme.
- Betty and Veronica:
- District Attorney Mayson Drake and Lois Lane, star reporter.
- Linda King definitely qualifies as a Betty, despite only appearing in "The Rival" as a journalist for a rival newspaper.
- Cat Grant was a Veronica to Lois's Betty as a rival for Clark's affections in the first season.
- Big Damn Heroes: Needs no description.
- Jimmy got a chance to do this in "Virtually Destroyed", when he and Superman become Bash Brothers inside of a VR simulation.
- Big Eater:
- Bobby Bigmouth, the informant who accepts food as legal tender.
- Clark. Lois notes after spying in his fridge that he eats like an eight year old and looks like Mr Hardbody. This recurs at other points with Clark constantly snitching donuts, sometimes with superpowers. It seems he does not even have to eat. In a Season 4 episode, Martha Kent is shown carrying a huge bag full of junk food and candy to stock up the larder with, because she's missing her boy and wants to welcome him home just right, with all of his favourite foods. Another episode opens with Clark fixing breakfast in the morning with eggs (cooked with heat vision, of course), coffee, and a big jug of milk, and another episode confirms that even after all that he goes into work and starts snacking on doughnuts.
- This is apparently native to Kryptonians. At one point we meet a New Kryptonian princess who has even less culinary skill than Lois, but has overcome this by sharing Clark's taste in food. Either they metabolize sugar differently or they just happen to like it."Lois, we're out of high-sugar, high-fat, nutritionally-worthless snack items."
- Bland-Name Product: Bill Church's front organization, Cost Mart, is a portmanteau of Costco and Wal-Mart. And they're about as benevolent as you imagine.
- Boxing Lessons for Superman: In "Chi of Steel", when the villain acquires a mystic power object that makes him an invincible Kung Fu master, Superman takes a crash course in Kung Fu to fight him on equal terms.
- Brought Down to Normal: Kryptonite in this universe had a lingering effect on Superman, taking him some time to regain his strength even after being removed from the source. Red Krytonite can, if the plot calls for it, transfer all of Superman's power to another individual.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Clark allows that his partner is brilliant, but adds that "there is a fine line between genius and lunacy." She is easily the most tactless, suicidal character on the show, but Perry gives her free reign to do as she pleases — as long as she meets her deadlines. He comes down like a ton of bricks if she fails to deliver.
- Call-Back: Most of them involve the Villain of the Week picking up where a previous criminal left off, be it re-assembling their weapon or avenging their defeat.
- Canon Foreigner: A fair amount of villains, most notably Tempus.
- Lex has two valets, including a gun-toting Pam Grier lookalike (whom Lex was supposedly banging on the side) who fits the same bill as Mercy from the then-upcoming Superman: The Animated Series.
- General Zod was ruled off limits, apparently, which is why we instead get the more-lighthearted Lord Nor. Everyone onboard the ship from New Krypton falls under this category, too.
- Cardboard Prison: H.G. Wells repeatedly dumps Tempus in asylums so he wouldn't cause more trouble. It doesn't take. At times he is able to mess up Clark's life just by revealing his secret through writing in a journal, which of course will end up in the hands of some evil person at the most inconvenient time.
- Casting Gag:
- Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Parodied in an early episode, wherein Clark sprints into a bathroom stall to change into his costume only to smash his foot through the door as he struggles to put his boots on.
- The Chanteuse: Lois goes undercover as one in the first season, doing some beautiful Cole Porter songs. Her amnesia-induced personality, Wanda Detroit, is this full-time.
- Character Exaggeration: Cat's overriding personality trait seems to be her sex addiction. This was a prominent trait of the character in the comics, but here her promiscuity is amplified. In sharp contrast to the bland and modestly dressed Lois Lane, Cat Grant in the TV series looks like an escapee from Cirque du Soleil.Lois: "Couldn't you afford a whole dress?"
- Chick Magnet: Clark attracts an obscene amount of women throughout the show's run. (Superman more so, but even when he's just plain Clark.) Even the city's crooks are avowed fans of Superman: In the episode where Superman is arrested, the police take extra mugshots to give some streetwalkers a chance to pose with him!
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Mindy, the two-timing moll at the center of Intergang.
- Christmas Carolers: One Christmas Episode had the two of them sharing a quiet moment together when a troupe starts singing "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" outside Lois' window.
- Christmas Every Day: In "'Twas the Night Before Mxymas," Mr. Mxyzpltk traps Metropolis in a time loop over Christmas eve. Things get a bit worse each time, to eventually result in The End of the World as We Know It. World War III is looming by the time Lois and Clark fix things.
- Cigar Chomper:
- Lex Luthor is rich and badass, and therefore smokes cigars.
- After sending Bill Church and his son to the slammer, the new chairman of Intergang — Mindy — is seen smoking a stogie.
- Clark Kenting:
Lois: How can they not know? I work with them every day! How can they not look past a small mask and see what is so obvious...(sees Clark just smirking at her and rolls her eyes.)
- Lois, a decorated investigative journalist, is unable to realize that her partner, Clark Kent, is just Superman with glasses. This was not helped by Dean Cain not changing his voice, posture, or facial expression between the two personae as much as Christopher Reeve famously did.note Teri Hatcher's monologue on Saturday Night Live parodied this, demonstrating her general inability to recognize people with glasses.
- In the pilot we have this exchange:Lois: I think I've got you figured out.
Clark: Really. Didn't take you long.
Lois: It's my business looking beyond the external.
- Spectacular Lampshade Hanging in any episodes with Tempus, who is just outraged that no one else sees through the disguise.Tempus: Look (puts glasses on), I'm Clark Kent. (Takes glasses off) No, I'm Superman! (Puts glasses on) Mild-mannered reporter. (Takes glasses off) Superhero! Hello! Duh! Clark Kent is Superman! Ha, ha, ha! Well, that was worth the whole trip, to actually meet the most galactically stupid woman who ever lived.
- When a dose of Red Kryptonite gives Lois Clark's powers, she takes to a costume as Ultra Woman. She wears a domino mask that she thinks does little and so when Jimmy and Perry race up to her on her first rescue, she's terrified they'll recognize her but Clark says not to worry. To Lois' shock, the two do indeed fail to realize it's her.
- Clark's powers of deception extend even to himself. In "All Shook Up", when he gets amnesia and everyone is running around trying to find Superman — who has, for obvious reasons, gone missing — he somehow manages to avoid making the connection until his parents spell it out for him.
- Later episodes explain this by the fact that there are lookalikes for Superman, also played by Dean Cain, and things such as holograms and a Superman from another reality appearing at same time as Clark.
- Clear My Name: Dear GOD, nearly EVERYONE had to do this at some point or another. Just about the only regulars who didn't end up caught in this trope were Jonathan and Martha.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Lana Lang in the alt-universe.
- Coat, Hat, Mask:
- Anonymous, a Master of Disguise who is very protective of his real identity.
- Edward Hanson, the villain of "Shadow of a Doubt".
- Lex sports a fedora & sunglasses while on the run from the law.
- Similarly, Lois dons dark glasses and a long, red wig when on the run, after escaping from prison.
- Coconut Superpowers : To save on money they would often have Cain jump past the camera with a whoosh and cape effect, then cut to people gaping in awe at the sky.
- Competition Freak: Lois is sometimes upstaged by Clark's journalistic accomplishments and tries to hide her jealousy by dismissing his stories as trite.
- The Con:
- Lex is revealed to be bankrolling a gang of arsonists to drive down the value of Metropolis' port. Like the film version, he unveils a scale model of the Egopolis ("Lex Larbor") that he intends to erect in its place. ("I've Got a Crush On You")
- Lois' uncle runs afoul of Bill Church when he refuses to sell his café to Costmart.
- In "Ghosts" in season four, Lois and Clark are being subject to a very aggressive buyer involved in a real estate scam.
- Cool Old Guy: "Jimmy, I did not become Editor of a major newspaper because I can yodel."
- Cool Old Lady: According to K Callan, she snagged the role of Martha Kent by appearing at the audition in a pink tracksuit (in stark contrast to the other actresses, all of whom wore Victorian dresses and bonnets). In keeping with the feminist theme, Ma Kent is a sculptor whose postmodernist pieces are taking over the whole house, to Jonathan's bemusement. She also poses nude for art classes.
- Conqueror from the Future: Tempus. His name means "Time", after all."You see, Miss Lane, in a world with no Superman, there'll be no Utopia in the future. Just a lot of sex and violence and me."
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lex Luthor and Bill Church, among plenty others. CEOs are to the nineties what prohibition gangsters were to the fifties.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: Clark, all the time. It was basically a Running Gag of how he will find some way to justify mild uses of his power, from finding a weak link in his hand-cuffs to "the force of the explosion must have pushed us away".
- Crawl: A news ticker is added to the Daily Planet set in Season 2.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Veda Dooson in "Brutal Youth" has to resort to abducting pizza delivery men in order to test her Fountain of Youth machine, allegedly because she can't get a grant. There are countless other examples, including the eye doctor who invented a real-life, palm-sized Exposition Beam.
- Cutting the Knot: In one episode, Clark has amnesia and doesn't remember that he's Superman. When Jonathan and Martha's efforts to convince him fail, Jonathan proves it by breaking a baseball bat over him.
- Damsel in Distress: Once per Episode (at least) with Lois. She does put up some good fights, and at times breaks out of bonds without the help of Clark.
- Dartboard of Hate:
- In ""Sex, Lies, and Videotape", Clark is unknowingly photographed while making out with Lois in the Superman costume, causing the public to think he's an adulterer. Later, Clark remarks that his disenchanted female co-workers are using Superman's image as a dartboard. Of course Clark has a desk full of goodies from people expressing solidarity with him in his time of crisis.
- "Requiem for a Superhero" has Lex calmly talking on a phone as he throws darts. After he hangs up it's revealed that he was throwing the darts at a grinning, life-size cardboard cutout of Superman, and Lex is positively fuming.
- A Day in Her Apron: Clark's parents do this in one episode, concluding in An Aesop about sexism.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Clark, in one of his most enjoyable incarnations ever.
- Several other characters as well - at one point one recurring villain, Rollie Vale, manages to do this brazenly to Lex Luthor's face, even as Luthor threatens to kill him if he doesn't show some respect.
- Death by Secret Identity:
- Lex in Season 3.
- Mayson Drake. The last thing she saw was the "S" on Clark's chest. (Though she was dying anyway.)
- Decomposite Character:
- Toyman. One character in the episode "Seasons Greedings" has comic!Toyman's real name of Winslow Schott, but a later episode features a character calling himself Toyman with a different real name, Harold Kripstly.
- In the comics, Lex Luthor the First and his Australian "son" Lex Luthor the Second are the same person with the second Lex being an artificially created body that Luthor took over to cheat death. In this series, Lex Junior is real.
- The Prankster. In his debut episode, Lois investigated a character named Loomis (the Prankster's surname in the comics) but Loomis turned out to be a Red Herring. This series' prankster's name is Kyle Griffin.
- Defector from Decadence: "Hank West" — the pseudonym for one of Those Wacky Nazis — has grown fond of American culture and is reluctant to give up his country music stardom. His compatriot accuses West of getting soft, and you can guess what happened next.
- Death Trap: Enough to make Wile E. Coyote green with envy.
- Denser and Wackier: Season Three, and especially Four.
- Diabolical Mastermind: Bill Church fills this role once Lex's empire is toppled.
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: One particular episode has Clark whistling the theme tune.
- Disappeared Dad:
- Jack Olsen.
- In Season 4, we learn that Perry was an absentee father to his sons, which likely led one of them (Jerry) to a life of crime.
- Distressed Dude: Perry and Jimmy, to add variety.
- Clark gets in on this too. Mostly because he was hanging around with Lois when she got them captured. This also means that he has to figure out a way of escaping that does not involve her figuring out what his true identity is, at least until she figures out his true identity.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Clark is generally very careful, but a few times you see him underestimating the durability of items. Once when antsy, he crushed a pencil to dust. In another episode exposure to a Red Kryptonite beam causes him to lose control of his powers, thus when using Super Speed to catch a criminal half a block away he ended up "in the next county". In that condition he accidentally injured Lois just giving her a hug. And then the time he gave Perry's hand a shake, and accidentally crushed his interviewer's fingers. Whoops.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set:
- The "Smart Kids" take over the airwaves to gloat about their mayhem.
- The Nazis in "Super Mann" take over the nation's airwaves to announce the birth of a new Reich.
- Mr. Gadget in "Lethal Weapon" gives his ultimatum to Metropolis via this method.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Clark can definitely take what Lois dishes out but she does boss him around and take advantage of his nice guy behavior to the point where this trope is noticeable.
- Domestic Appliance Disaster: A B-plot once involved Ma and Pa Kent swapping roles. Jonathan tried to do the house chores, but among others disasters such as turning his son's white shirts pink after washing them with his Superman cape, he also burned a hole in the cape with a hot iron.note
- Domino Mask:
- "Resplendent Man", and later Ultrawoman.
- While traveling through time, Clark wears one as part of his Robin Hood/Lone Ranger ensembles. Tempus is unamused."I can't believe I was fooled by a little mask over the eyes."
- Dramatic Thunder: Used shamelessly. In his first scene, Lex's entrance into the party he is hosting is accompanied by ominous thunder and flashes of lighting, as though his schemes tempt the wrath of God via a lightning bolt.
- Empathic Environment: A variation occurs in Lex's subway haunt, when Clois spills Superman's identity. Cue the flickering electricity and rumbling trains. An identical scene happens between Mr. Smith and Leslie Luckabee in Season Four.
- Dramatic Irony: Since the series was centered around Clark's regular life as much as if not more his superhero one, the show had a lot of fun with the whole "everyone around knows Clark and Superman, but the only one besides the audience who knows they're the same can't say anything about it" concept. It was used for tension, of course, but was just as often used for humor - such as in Running Gags where someone would make a Superman-related comment to Clark without realizing who they were talking to. This was especially common in the first few seasons, where Lois didn't know and Superman came up so often whenever she was talking.Clark: (trying to convince Lois an accused murderer was dangerous) The man was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers!Lois: (dismissively) Oh, leave the truth and justice stuff to Superman, would you?Clark: (aggravated sigh)
- Drop-In Character: Lois' downstairs neighbor, Star.
- The Kents should qualify, since the cost of all that airline travel is conspicuously swept under the rug. On at least one occasion Clark does offer to personally fly them into town the next time they need to come.
- Dysfunctional Family/Parental Abandonment: The Lane family.
- Earthquake Machine: The villains of "Wall of Sound" and "Lethal Weapon" hatch plots that are essentially the same: Use a sonic device to level entire buildings as part of blackmail.
- Easy Amnesia: Poor Lois.
- Elvis Lives: Spinning headlines detailing Luthor's death, with the last being a "photograph" of him alongside Elvis in Hawaii.
- The ending of "Tempus, Anyone" has Perry inviting former US President Elvis Presley (not facing the camera, but still sporting his trademark cape) to a podium.
- EMP: "Operation Blackout" and "The Dad Who Came in From the Cold".
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Several later villains were couples or relatives whose main redeeming quality was that they truly cared about each other. The first version of Toyman may have been a bitter Jerkass bent on poisoning Metropolis with mind altering drugs, but he legitimately cared about his compassionate assistant so much that when she eventually had enough all he wanted to do was see her before he went to jail (in stark contrast to the second version of Toyman, who immediately killed his compassionate assistant when she started questioning his plans too much). The show's version of Deathstroke - though in a case of Unholy Matrimony - did seem to care about his wife and vice versa. There was the couple that wanted to acquire Superman for their collection, etc..
- This even becomes Lex's primary motivation- he ends up a Crazy Jealous Guy when it comes to Lois Lane, whom he genuinely cares about (whether that's genuine love or something much more creepy is another matter). This is either an extension of his envy of Superman or an exacerbating factor, as he is fully aware that the two of them are in a Love Triangle for who gets her hand; he doesn't hide the fact that he especially hates Superman for trying to keep him and Lois apart. Gets to the point that in his final appearance, he ends up dying after a failed plot to fake his and Lois's deaths so they can disappear together.
- Everything Is Online
- Everything's Better with Spinning: As the series progresses, Clark no longer needs to duck into a room to change clothes, instead spinning furiously and coming to a stop in his Superman outfit.
- Evil Brit: Lenny Stoke, Lord Nor, and Nigel St. John.
- Evil Duo: Villains typically came in pairs, usually "mastermind/planner and sidekick/leg work". Usually, the sidekick characters would be much kinder or at least more sympathetic than their boss, and Mistreatment-Induced Betrayals were common as a result.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: "You are dirt! You are filth! You are pocket lint! You are pocket lint in the pockets of lawyers!"
- When Lex dangles his lawyer over a pit of rodents ("The Phoenix"), Dr. Kelly muses over whether the rats will "eat their own."
- Evil Is Petty: Randy Goode, a world-famous philanthropist, does not take it well when the Nobel Peace Prize committee snubs him in favor of Superman.
- Garret Grady settles on West Virginia as a warm-up target for his Kill Sat, his reasoning being that the state should have picked "a more creative name".
- Lord Nor is an obvious one, although he doesn't share much in common with Zod beyond the external similarities: a beard, an aristo accent, and a pair of ever-present henchmen.
- Rachel Harris, the Smallville sheriff who was good "friends" (or so she wanted Lois to think) with Clark growing up, is one for Lana Lang, as they couldn't get the rights to use her name at the time. An alternate universe Lana showed up later on.
- Peter Boyle as Bill Church, filling in for our old friend Morgan Edge. His son and heir, Bill Church Jr. (Bruce Campbell), may well be a substitute for Bruno Manheim.
- On the subject of Intergang, Mindy shares more than a little in common with Lorelai (Pamela Stephenson), a Machiavellian sex bunny in Superman III.
- Jack Klugman showed up in an early episode, playing a huckster who's very similar to a Marvel Comics character, Funky Flashman.
- Sorry, but Funky is a DC character, first introduced in Mister Miracle. The Marvel connection is that he is said to be a caricature of Stan Lee.
- John Spencer's character in "Lethal Weapon"—in addition to spoofing kid's show hosts like Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye— shares similarities with The Prankster, a super-criminal who once enjoyed celebrity in The Uncle Oswald Show. Like Toyman, the Prankster was apparently split into two people for this series: Bronson Pinchot previously played an ex-con who sought revenge on Lois for putting him away, using weaponized "pranks" to ruin her life in various ways.
- Kara Zor-El alias Supergirl doesn't exist in this continuity, but Kal-El did have a pre-arranged marriage to Zara, one of the survivors of Krypton.
- Fake Defector: Clark pretends to resign from the floundering Daily Planet and join a rival paper, The Metropolis Star, in "The Rival".
- In "Church of Metropolis", Mayson Drake goes along with an Intergang's lawyer who offers her a bribe, unaware that she's taping the whole thing.
- Fake Guest Star: Kenneth Kimmins as Dr. Bernard Klein. He becomes ubiquitous in Seasons Three & Four, but he never got a credit promotion.
- Faking the Dead: In "That Old Gang of Mine", Clark is left with no recourse but to play dead after being shot in public.
- In the episodes "The Ides of Metropolis" and "Operation Blackout", the villain fake his death as part of a master plan.
- Fan of the Past:
- Specifically, the wild west. Tempus is obsessed with dragging society back to an era of vigilante justice and lawlessness, and is more likely to Squee in the presence of the James brothers than a paragon of virtue like Superman. As poetic justice, he ends up trapped in 19th century Kansas (at least for a season or so).
- One of his ancestors goes by the name of Tempus Tex, so Tempus is merely following in his footsteps.
- Fanservice: And plenty to go around for both sides. Generally for every shot of Lois in a revealing outfit, you'd get Clark with no shirt on.
- Faux Affably Evil: Just guess.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Lois is a Type 2.Lois: I only know three recipes, and this is the only one that doesn't involve chocolate.
- There are multiple remarks about how bad her cooking is.
- In Season 3 while Clark is cooking and Lois is fawning over him, he suggests that her not cooking is due to lack of time. She tells him flat out it is due to lack of talent. Subverted at the end of "Ghosts", in which she inherits cookery talent from the spirit of a housewife who possessed her.
- Fictional Counterpart: The NIA (a combination of every scare story about the CIA and NSA) and EPRAD (a stand-in for NASA).
- Fictional Country: The "Boroslov Republic".
- "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" is centered around the feuding Presidents of Ladislam and Podansk, who are probably stand-ins for Anwar Sadat and Ariel Sharon.
- Foil: Cat Grant to Lois.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1":Lois: You getting anywhere?
Clark: No, but now I know all five verses to "Windy".
- Forgotten Friend, New Foe: Patrick Sullivan, with regard to Lois.
- Perry's realization that his longtime friend, Sen. Black, is a Neo-Nazi. Lane Smith plays it deadly serious, though.
- For Want of a Nail: The alt-universe Clark has it rough. In his world, the Kents were killed in a car crash when he was still a child, and Lois Lane is presumed dead after disappearing while on assignment in the Congo. (At the end of "Lois and Clarks", though, H.G. Wells hints that he can bring her back).
- It is implied that H.G. Wells was going to go back to where Lois-A disappeared and then "rescue" her from going missing. Neat trick, except when you realize that is what causes her to go missing in the first place!! (temporal cause and effect)
- Frameup/Miscarriage of Justice: Lex blows up the Daily Planet, then pins the crime on Jack, the orphan whom Clark befriended and recently made a copy boy.
- A lowly software developer gets blamed for his boss' murder in "The Ides of Metropolis".
- In a Season 4 two-parter episode, Lois is made to seem to shoot her own informant. The Villain Of The Week uses a Hologram of Perry White, while using another hologram to make sure Superman is half-a-world away and not able to see through the disguise, to testify in court against Lois, and she is given the death penalty.
- Hendrix, aka Baron Sunday.
- This is Mindy Church's M.O., to nefarious acts, manipulate events, and then pin it all on some patsy. Nearly every episode she's in ends with some poor sap going to jail while she reaps all the benefits.
- Freudian Slip: Lois in the pilot episode, when she arrives at Clark's apartment to give him a ride to work. He answers the door wearing nothing but a Modesty Towel."It's nine! I thought you'd be naked. Uh, ready."
- In "When Irish Eyes are Killing", Clark is hounded around town by an over-sexed tour guide. She tellingly asks, "Got any meat?" when Clark offers her lunch. Eek.
- "Friends" Rent Control: Subverted - Clark does live in a spacious apartment on a reporter's salary, but it was a completely dilapidated industrial space when he signed the lease, after which he renovated it to its present state in about thirty seconds using his superpowers.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Many of the villains, notably The Prankster.
- Gayparee: Superman makes a few pit-stops here.
- Girl of the Week: Jimmy can't keep a girlfriend for more than a week or so, despite professing eternal love to any woman who crosses his path. It gets to the point where Lois actually lampshades it.
- Girls with Moustaches: Lois' first scene.
- Occurs again in "Chi of Steel", when Lois is barred from Perry's social club. This means war.
- A God Am I: Jaxon Xavier in his VR world. Also invoked by Lord Nor and Mr. Mxyzptlk.
- Going for the Big Scoop: Lois.
- Good Is Boring: Why Tempus can't stomach his utopian timeline.
- Good Ol' Boy: Perry White.
- Jonathan Kent, though he's mellower than his other incarnations.
- Graceful Loser: Of a sort. Lex has an uncanny ability to see the silver lining in defeat, and even when he can't he barely ever shows rage or pettiness or acts with anything but grace - perhaps because he believes that ultimately he will be victorious. For example, his reaction upon learning that an unstoppable virus is rampaging through is systems and may ruin him (and the world) is to have a cheerful discussion about philosophy and getting back to nature with his butler, and stays chipper even after he concludes that he would absolutely hate it. Whenever Superman beats him, he essentially shrugs, tips his hat and goes on to other schemes. But on the other hand, when all of his plans go horribly, horribly wrong, he has a quite more pronounced reaction.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Lois hits the ceiling after Clark beats her out for a journalism award... despite already winning the same award three times consecutively. Clark is gracious enough to escort her to the party, though not above rubbing it in.Lois: So how did I rate as a date?
Clark: Oh, A+.
Lois: I hung on your arm decoratively...
Clark: You did.
Lois: Fawned appropriately...
Lois: ...And just faded into the background during your big moment.
Clark: You were beautiful yet invisible.
Lois: (cooing) Mmm, make me go through another night like that, and I'll rip out your spleen.
- Anytime a woman shows interest in Clark/Superman, really.
- Lex admits to Superman that one of the reasons he hates him is simple envy after finally learning that he is Clark Kent.
- Green Rocks: In this show it was Red Kryptonite, which had a different effect on Clark with each appearance (which was actually accurate to how Red K worked in the comics, at least up until Byrne's reboot). It ranged from eliminating his inhibitions, permanently transferring his powers, causing him to lose control of his powers, and others.
- The Grinch: Lois hates hates, hates, hates, hates Christmas. With her family, you can't blame her.
- Toymaker Winslow Schott (known in the comics as Toyman), embittered by children rejecting his toys and being fired from his job, plots chemical warfare against Metropolis on Christmas Day."We're ruining Christmas, Ms. Duffy. It's a big job."
- Mr. Mxyzptlk traps the city in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in which Christmas gets progressively more miserable. However, he's doing it to blackmail Superman into leaving town, not out of malice toward a holiday he knows nothing about.
- Toymaker Winslow Schott (known in the comics as Toyman), embittered by children rejecting his toys and being fired from his job, plots chemical warfare against Metropolis on Christmas Day.
- Groin Attack: Lois delivers one to the Prankster, causing him to double over in agony.
- And again to Col. Ambrose Cash, as payback for spraying Superman with kryptonite gas.
- Grumpy Old Man: Perry, again.
- Guttural Growler: Tez and Mr. Smith.
- He Knows Too Much: The plastic surgeon responsible for the Lois Lane lookalike. Ariana Carlin compliments his brilliance by declaring that "The world will truly miss you.", then shoots him. Hard to believe it didn't work out with her and Luthor, they seem perfect for each other.
Hacker: Good luck with the kid. He was starting to give me a headache.
- "Anonymous" does this in "Chip Off the Old Clark", as soon as the hapless goon relieves himself of babysitting their hostage.
Anonymous: Really? Then by all means, take two of these. (BLAM BLAM)
- Heartbreak and Ice Cream: Lois is known to hit the fudge whenever bad news arises.
- Hero Insurance: Subverted a couple times: First, in "Man of Steel Bars", when Metropolis' citizens blame Superman's heroics for an abnormal heat wave. In the Season 2 premiere, we see the after-effects of Lex Luthor's suicide; apparently, killing the man who employed half the city's population is damaging to local interests.
Mayson Drake: (to Superman) Do you have a license to chase criminals? Do you read them their rights? If you injure someone, are you insured?
- D.A. Mayson Drake adores Clark, but views Superman as a vigilante menace.
Husband: You tore up my car!
- Also subverted and then played straight in Season 3's Ultra Woman, when Lois gets Clark's powers and takes on a costumed identity. When she saves a woman who was choking to death and trapped in her car, the woman's husband chews her out for the damage to his car, but the crowd sides with her response:
Lois: Because your wife was choking. And by the way, she's fine. I'm sure she appreciates your concern. (Crowd starts applauding, and the husband looks chagrined.)
- In Season 4's Lethal Weapon, Superman loses restraint over his powers and starts damaging city property. In the ensuing panic, the Mayor orders a sniper team put in place to plug Superman with a kryptonite bullet.
- Highly Visible Ninja: "Chi of Steel".
- History Repeats: In the pilot episode, Superman makes his debut by swallowing a time bomb ("*burp* Scuse me!") before it blows up a space shuttle. In Season 3 ("Tempus, Anyone?"), Lois convinces an Alternate Universe Clark to stop living in the shadows and embrace the Superman mantle. His first heroic act? Swallowing a time bomb before it blows up an auditorium.
- History's Crime Wave: In "That Old Gang of Mine", Mad Scientist Emil Hamilton creates clones of Al Capone, John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde to demonstrate that evil is not inherent. It doesn't work out that way. (There was a comic book storyline at around the same time that may have been the inspiration, but it used fictional gangsters.)
- Horrible Judge of Character: Lois Lane for the win. Played for laughs in the scene following Lex's public disgrace and suicide, when Lois opines that she's "always been such a good judge of character!" As we'll see in later seasons, this is not even close to being true.
- At one point Clark breaks up with Lois on the grounds that if they move forward this will just put her in more danger. She promptly gets drawn into a relationship with a man plotting to sacrifice her, causing Clark to realize that she attracts homicidal maniacs, and the only way to protect her is to have her close.
- Hotter and Sexier: Not only are Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher exceptionally beautiful people but after they become an Official Couple, the show can definitely be called the steamiest incarnation of Superman mythology. Exhibit A.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: Back-from-the-dead Lex Luthor is stuck wearing army fatigues and pottering around in the sewers and subways for a while, afraid of getting caught by Superman. Later, he dons a comical hat and sunglasses while trying (and failing) to recapture a loose clone of Lois Lane in broad daylight. Clois has the mentality of a pre-teen girl, exploits Superman to get rich, and eventually tries to bump off the real Lois so she can't interfere. Oh yeah, she shoots Lex, too. You really start to feel for Lex after a while.
- Human Popsicle: Lex Luthor is a postmortem example; his remains are frozen throughout Season 2 as his physician works on a "cure" for death.
- In the Season 2 finale, Superman is blackmailed into killing Lois Lane. To achieve the effect (but not the result), he uses his super-breath to temporarily freeze Lois, causing her to appear dead.
- A Call-Back to this episode occurs in Season 4, when Lex Luthor Jr. threatens to kill Lois if Superman refuses to do his bidding. Superman opts to Take a Third Option and freeze Lois, thereby tricking Junior into believing his leverage is gone.
- Interestingly, Superman addresses the unrealistic nature of Harmless Freezing by warning of possible arterial ruptures, brain damage or even death. Fortunately (as if the audience would expect any differently), Lois survives unscathed.
- Larry Smiley plans to flood the Earth using his Weather-Control Machine, with those he chose (largely against their will) safety tucked away in cryo-pods.
- The Aryan 'supermen' in "Super Mann".
- Hurl It into the Sun: Once he realizes he will soon die from Clone Degeneration, Bizarro Superman asks the real Superman to destroy both him and the lock of hair from which he was cloned from. We see them flying toward the sun.
- In a variant of this trope, Superman's skin is contaminated with a mass of microscopic radioactive particles that forces him to be in radiation proof containment on Earth. Here, the solution is to fly towards the sun, not to enter it, but just to enter its gravitational field to allow it to pull all the particles at once.
- And then there was the time Superman tossed a deadly microwave oven into space.
- Hypocritical Humor: Literally any conversation with Lois.Lois Lane: Tell me the biggest secret you have.
Clark Kent: Wha?
Lois Lane: Tell me the biggest secret you have. Something you'd never reveal to anyone.
Clark Kent: Why?
Lois Lane: Because I'm about to tell you mine and I need blackmail material.
Perry: Son, this is the Daily Planet. We're the greatest newspaper in the whole world. We routinely handle events of international significance—
- Lois spends the bulk of "I'm Looking Through You" complaining that Superman has sold out and gone commercial, although even at this point it's clear Lois' main worry is that Superman will forget about her, having his attentions taken up by lots of other people making demands on him. When Clark later surprises Lois in her apartment, she's wearing a Superman t-shirt under her jammies. Groan.
- Clark receives a dressing-down by Perry White during their interview. Apparently he lacks battle-tested, solid reporter credentials.
Jimmy: Fixed the horn on your golf cart, Chief!
Joey Bermuda: No, Cheryl Marie, you can not stay up past 9:00. Yes honey, you can watch TV, just none of that gratuitous violence, okay? [shoots hole through a cut-out of Superman] I'll see you tonight.
- Professional Killer Joey Bermuda on the phone with his daughter:
Garret Grady: When the world sees what The Annihilator can do, nations will beat their swords into ploughshares, and mankind will live in perfect, blessed brotherhood... or I will blast the hell out of them!
- Garret Grady's plan for world peace ("AKA Superman"):
- I Am Very British: H.G. Wells.
- I Do Not Drink Wine: Superman once tells Lois that he doesn't need to eat, but he likes to. Which is fairly evident since his pantry is stocked with almost nothing but junk food. He also never misses the morning donuts at the office. This ties in to the OTHER DC comics TV adaptation on the air at the time, the much overlooked and quite excellent Flash which also portrayed Barry Allen this way.
- I Have Your Wife: This happens a LOT, actually. One time it even didn't happen to Clark.
- Garret Grady's henchman lampshades this practice, calling it "a time honored tradition".
- I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Lex hints that this is the case between him and Lois, though he later decides she's "a little too independent", then gloats to Superman that he'll soon fix that.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Invoked in almost every episode, with Clark giving increasingly-lame excuses for leaving so he can change into the Superman outfit. They do not improve much when Lois is in on the secret and is giving them, although it is more believable that they work because no one is less willing to accept statements at face value than Lois.
- Iconic Item: Clark dresses like an exotic tie salesman. This is never commented on.
- Identical Grandson:
- Clark's great-great-grandparents, Miss Martha and Marshall Kent(!). The latter is distinguished by his Rooseveltian mustache.
- Baron Tempos and Tempus Tex. Justified as it's a past versions of Tempus.
- If I Can't Have You : Lex professes this to Lois, getting worse each time she rejects him.
- Important Haircut: Lois changes her hair after discovering Clark's secret identity.
- And again after being struck by a car, hitting her head on a fire hydrant. She loses her memory of who she really is, and believes she is "Wanda Detroit", the lounge singer character from the crappy novel she began pounding out a few years ago.
- This is followed by yet another 'do in Season 4, after Lois clears her name. The Wanted Posters of her face spread all over town convinced her that it was time for a change.
- In-Series Nickname: Jimmy abbreviates Clark's name as "C.K."
- Insult Backfire: Tempus is remarkably thick-skinned, as the show proves.H.G. Wells: You are a fiend beyond comprehension!
Tempus: And a good dancer, but enough small talk.
Superman: Well, wouldn't your father be proud? His son turned out to be as sick and deranged as he was.
- From "Voice From the Past":
Lex Jr.: Heh heh. Thank you.
- Interspecies Romance: Lois and Clark, obviously. Handled somewhat realistically; Clark apparently has no real differences from a human man because they're able to have sex, but a later episode has Clark find out that Kryptonians and humans can't reproduce. He's disappointed, but Lois is devastated.
- Intrepid Reporter: Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Lois seems to have taken this to a new level. At one point Clark pulls out a multi-sheet, multi-column single-spaced printout of the people who Lois has been responsible for putting into jail through her reporting, and from what he says this is limited to only the scientists whose nefarious actions she has exposed. There is mention that 200 people have threatened to kill Lois because she has exposed their actions leading them to jail.
- Ironic Nickname: Little Tony.
- Also, Georgie Hairdo. We never actually saw him (he was murdered and thrown in the river offscreen), but he turned out to be bald.
- Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Diana Stride and her henchman in "Top Copy".Diana: I made [Superman] swallow a radioactive substance.Rolf: I'll just bet you did.
Clark: We were on assignment!
- Perry chastises Lois & Clark for coming into work late:
Perry: Oh, is that what they're calling it now?
- It Must Be Mine!: Lex and kryptonite (his pet name for it is "my Excalibur").
- It Runs in the Family: In "The Ides of Metroplis", Lex is shown creepily trimming a bonsai tree. In Season Four, Lex Jr. does the exact same thing, even though he never even met his father.
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: H. G. Wells' time machine is fueled by gold. He doesn't even have to smelt the stuff; he just tosses assorted coins/bling down a chute.
- In "Soul Mates", Wells has a hand-held "Soul Tracker" he picked up in the far future. The less said about that one, the better.
- Joker Immunity: Tempus.
- Karma Houdini: Mindy Church as the only real foe of Superman not caught or even suspected of wrongdoing, not even by Lois and Clark!
- This wasn't the case in an early draft of "Seconds", where she's punished for her crimes. Given that she never shows up again in the series proper, it can be assumed she was caught offscreen.
- Knight in Sour Armor: This is literally half of Lois' personality. Most of the jokes in the first two seasons surrounding her involve her being cynical or critical about something while partaking in it or something similar to it herself.
- Kill Sat: A new one every season. Quit building these!
- Lady Macbeth: Mindy, the trophy wife of Bill Church, juggles this with Ugly Guy, Hot Wife and The Starscream. She's later revealed to be more conniving than she looks, as she arranges for the downfall of both Church and Church Jr. before taking control of Intergang for herself. Feminism in action, even in the underworld.
- Lampshade Hanging: In "I'm Looking Through You" we have the following lovely exchange after Superman finds he's inadvertently become a franchise:
- Lois: The person who could really help, Superman, is probably off signing a deal to start his own television series by now.Clark: Superman on TV? I don't... think so.
- Latex Perfection: Lex's Body Double."The voice is fine, but I never felt he got the mannerisms down."
- He pulls this trick again while kidnapping Lois in Season Three.
- Laughably Evil: Tempus, The Prankster and (to a lesser extent) Lord Nor.
- Laughing Gas: In "The Prankster", Kyle pumps nitrous oxide through the vents after luring Lois into his trap, causing her and everyone in the building to laugh uncontrollably. He and his partner Victor then take her away.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After Lois and Clark begin dating, their informant Bobby Bigmouth non-subtly remarks: "I want you to know how happy I am for you, and that there are a lot of people out there that are really pulling for this to work out."
Tempus: Only thing that would ruin this would be a commercial.
- Perry White and Jimmy Olsen in the season 2 finale.Jimmy: ...Chief?
Jimmy: Instead of always standing around, watching Lois and Clark, wondering what they're doing... What if we, uh... Got lives of our own that were a little more interesting.
Perry: Now son, you've just hit the bulls-eye. It's like we're supporting characters in some TV show that's only about them.
Jimmy: Yeah, it's like all we do is advance their plots!
Perry: To tell you the truth I'm sick of it.
Jimmy: Yeah, me too.
And the scene promptly switches to Lois and Clark in the park.
- In "Tempus, Anyone":
[cut to commercial break]
- Perry White and Jimmy Olsen in the season 2 finale.
- Let Me Tell You a Story: Perry on the life of Elvis. Often apropos of nothing in particular.
- Letter Motif: Lois Lane and Lex Luthor once discussed name ideas for the children they might have had. All Lex's ideas included the letter "X" somewhere.
- Lie Detector: In "Strange Visitor",fake government agents hook up Clark to a lie detector as part of their investigations into Superman. Clark's 'baseline' questions are 'Is your name Clark Kent?' and 'Are you Superman?'; he's supposed to say yes to both and get a 'lie' response on the second. However, when he gets a no-lie flatline on both questions, Clark is forced to use his super-breath to push the needle.
- Amusingly, the agents think that Clark might just be that mild mannered that even the lie detector can't pick up his obvious "lies".
- Jack Olsen wears a wrist-mounted lie detector which is disguised to look like a watch. It glows blue whenever Clark and Lois tell the truth (i.e. not often), and red when they are lying. Later in the episode, Jack glances at the watch after Jimmy says he loves him (it turns blue).
- Like a Son to Me: Not in so many words (at least not to Jimmy himself, though he does say so to Lois and Clark and then orders them not to tell him), but Perry White has a out-of-focus but still close and subtly fatherly relationship with Jimmy Olsen, which becomes clearer when you note that Perry is estranged from his sons and Jimmy from his father. Perry is noticeably very incensed and disdainful when Jimmy's absentee father comes by.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Superman/Clark and Lois. Frequently commented on by supporting characters.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Locked in a Freezer: Happens often with Lois. In the "Ides of Metropolis", Lois and Inspector Reed are thrown into a trash compactor. That same season, Lois and her college rival Linda King are roped together inside a literal freezer. Lastly, "Operation Blackout" finds Lois and her ex-friend Molly trapped on a military base with a Kill Sat aimed directly at them.
- Lois Can Breathe In Space: There's a couple of scenes where Lois is either in space, or darn near enough where she would need oxygen.
- Even if you factor Superman's "protective aura", Lois could not have been enveloped in Superman's forcefield when falling so far from him. She should also have gotten severe frostbite, unless he was using his heat vision from far away to radiate warmth, and — nevermind.
- Lonely at the Top: In "The Night Before Mxymas", William B. Caldwell serves as The Scrooge archetype.
- In "Bob and Carol and Los and Clark", Grant Gendell is presented as a proxy of Howard Hughes, a hyper-paranoid billionaire who lives in a hermetically-sealed apartment. When confronted by Deathstroke — who seeks to Kill and Replace the old man — Gendell finds the notion of anyone wanting to be him unthinkable: "I live in a cube!"
- Love Floats: Lois and Superman floated several times together. Once while making love(!), and at least twice while in a vertical embrace.
- In the pilot, Clark is shown absent-mindedly floating a few inches off the floor while attending Lex's charity ball, when he spots Lois across the room in all her evening gown splendour.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Lois also starts off this way, not caring about Clark and loving Superman, but she gets over it as the series goes on. When Clark finally proposes at the end of season two, he deliberately waits to tell her his secret so that he knows she's marrying him for Clark, and not because he's Superman. Unfortunately she's already figured it out. Yet Clark had been ready to tell her the secret two days earlier, with no clear plan of proposing first.
- The reverse is true for Mayson Drake. She loves Clark and vehemently dislikes Superman. She gets killed in an explosion in "Lucky Leon", and the last thing she does is learn that Clark is Superman. We don't know whether or not it changes anything.
- Malevolent Mugshot: Tempus' election posters, and later a hilariously Hitleresque banner.
- Master of Delusion: Lampshaded by Lois in the episode where she was under the effects of a Love Potion. She takes off Clark's glasses and remarks how similar he looks to Superman. Fortunately (or unfortunately), she brushes it off as just seeing Clark as Superman after the drug wears off.
- Still the fact that none of his other co-workers are any closer to knowing the truth, so Lois Lane is not alone in being fooled. After Superman leaves Earth for New Krypton, it suddenly hits Jimmy that Clark's gone missing at the same time as Superman. But he can't... quite... connect... the dots.
- As far as we know Lois is the only person in Metropolis who has seen Clark half naked, so unlike everyone else she cannot be said to be fooled by how Clark's suits conceal his true build.
- Subverted and lampshaded in "Tempus, Anyone?" in which Lois has to convince an alternate universe Clark to take up a life of superheroics. Clark-A is very skeptical on whether just taking off the glasses will be an effective disguise, and she assures him it'll be fine. Everyone recognizes him immediately.
- Ultimately subverted when at the beginning of the third season: Lois countered Clark's marriage proposal by revealing she had deduced his identity (Clark and Superman gave her an identical cheek stroke in the previous episode).
- Clark's first reaction to her figuring out is "the new glasses do not work as good as the old ones" or something to that effect.
- Meet the New Boss: Lex Luthor's old slot is filled by Bill Church, who is himself an expy of Morgan Edge from DC Comics. Like Luthor, Church hides behind a sunny image and legitimate business to distract from his underworld dealings. He's even undone by his passion for a woman!
- Mega-Corp: Lexcorp. Everything from the air conditioners to the payphones bear his name. (In one episode, Nigel consoles Lex by mentioning that their man-made heat wave caused a 2000% spike in A/C profits, thereby rewarding him for an otherwise failed "Get Rid of Superman" scheme.)
- In the pilot, Lex sabotages the nation's space program to force the government to accept his private bid for "Space Station Luthor". This way, he can stake a claim on new patented medicines developed in the zero-grav environment. In a later episode, he's in cahoots with the local mob to cause civil unrest in Metropolis Harbor, thereby paving the way for his new development project: Lex Harbor, natch. With the help of the clueless mayor, he also engineered a fake heat wave to force Metropolitains to support his new nuclear power plant.
- Master of Disguise: A high percentage of Superman's foes are adept at this.
- Meta Guy: Tempus seems to exist somewhere outside the boundaries of the show itself, reacting to each scene like an easily-bored (and particularly bloodthirsty) viewer: From criticizing the writing ("God, Herb, who writes your dialogue?), to complaining about obvious twists ("I hate it when the hero saves the heroine. It's so cliche."), and sometimes munching popcorn between breaks.
- Mistaken for Cheating: In the episode Sex, Lies and Videotape, Lois and Clark kiss in an hotel room, without Clark took his costume off. A photo was taken and is published in tabloids the next day. Everyone believe Superman have an illicit relationship with a married woman. Clark only avoided to publicly have to admit he's Superman, because the paparazzi had lost the original photo. The published one was recreated through photoshop, then proved as fake.
- Mind-Control Conspiracy: Too many to count.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Real Life example: the show made quite a splash with a promotional photo of Teri Hatcher wearing Superman's cape — and nothing else. This has become something of a Superman staple; Margot Kidder originated the pose, followed by Hatcher and Erica Durance. In the case of Hatcher, the image almost broke the internet.
- Momma's Boy:
- Superman is an unrepentant momma's boy and proudly proclaims to anyone who asks (and some who don't) that his mother made his costume for him.
- When an enemy blows up his secret closet where he keeps his Superman suits and they're all ruined, the first thing he says is "Mom's gonna kill me."
- Larry Smiley loves his momma so much, he keeps her in (unwilling) suspended animation.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Let's save ourselves some time: Doctors are bad. Period. That extends to psychologists, as well, and even opthamologists.
- The Mothership: New Krypton's "Palace Ship".
- Mr. Exposition: Jimbo. Justin Whalen crowns himself the "Exposition King" in one of the DVD interviews.
- Mr. Fanservice: Dean Cain, hot damn.
- Ms. Fanservice: Teri Hatcher, arguably the hottest Lois Lane ever.
- Muggle Foster Parents: Ma and Pa Kent, the best parents a Kryptonian orphan turned superhero could have and always around on the phone when Clark needs some parental advice
- Mundane Utility: The series was in love with this trope. Super-speed was commonly used to remove trash or remodel the apartment, heat vision is for heating coffee (or shaving) and ice breath chills champagne. At one point he even plays Pingpong with himself where he smashes the ball through a window.
- My Beloved Smother: Ellen Lane.
- Mythology Gag: Lots of them. (e.g., Kal-El's rocket landing in Shuster's Field, named for Supeman creator Joe Shuster; also various references to the phrase "Faster than a speeding bullet", actors from the 1950s Superman television series appearing in various episodes, and at least one nod to the cliché of Superman changing in a phone booth).
- Clark doesn't have a second home in Antarctica in this continuity, but he did have a treehouse in his backyard as a kid that he called "The Fortress Of Solitude". As an adult, he occasionally keeps important things in there, as the last place anyone would think to look.
- Lois' first guess as to the Prankster's identity is a diminutive nerd with the surname "Loomis", like his comic counterpart. In the show, however, Loomis is revealed to be just a Red Herring.
- There's an early Shout-Out to the "Can You Read My Mind?" flight sequence from Superman: The Movie: When Superman flies with Lois early on, he responds to something she'd been quietly wondering, and she gasps "So you really CAN read minds!" to which Superman cheerfully replies "Nope. I've got really good hearing though!"
- Once a Season, the Villain Of The Week will inquire about the logistics of Superman's tights. "When I wear my very tightest ski pants, I always get a bit... chafed. Do you find this happens to you?"
- In "Double Jeopardy", Lois (under control of her split-personality, Wanda Detroit) works at a lounge singer at Bibbo's Ace of Clubs. Bibbo himself is played by Troy Evans.
- While serving as ruler of New Krypton, Clark trades in his costume for a black spandex suit. It's visually identical to Superman's attire at the end of The Death of Superman series, except that his "S" emblem is now a deep blue.
- Another possible shout out to Death and Return is "I've Got a Crush on You." The Toaster gang uses a type of super-flamethrower which Lex nicks for his own later use, though he died before he could carry out that plan. In the comics, one of the replacement Superman (John Henry Irons) resigned from his company in protest after it began selling his "Toastmaster" flamethrowers to criminals.
- In "Tempus Anyone," Tempus refers to Clark as a "mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper," the exact wording used in the intro to the Fleischer animated shorts.
- Leslie Luckabee (aka "Lex Luthor Jr.", well actually just a front man for such) claims he's been living in Australia since he was child, thus explaining his sudden reemergence. During the 90s, the comic book Lex Luthor had his brain transplanted into a younger-looking clone of himself. He then masqueraded as his own hitherto-unknown son, Lex Luthor II, complete with a false backstory about having been bred in Australia.
- "Pilot" has several, especially from Superman: The Movie. A spectator shouting "What the hell is that?", Superman answers "A friend", and claims that Superman is a hoax.
Spectator 1: Is it a bird?
- Also, Superman makes his debut by saving the space shuttle, much like in John Byrne's The Man of Steel mini-series, where he saves a "space-plane".
- This dialogue:
Spectator 2: A plane?
Spectator 3: Nah, just some guy in tights and a cape.
(everyone throws stuff at him in disbelief)
Cat Grant: I don't believe it.
- And this:
Co-worker: What? That a man can fly?
- In "We Have a Lot to Talk About", Clark mentions Gotham City.
- In "Church of Metropolis", an evil lawyer contacted Superman in the same way as Lex in the 1978 Superman movie. Only he mentions bats instead of dogs would hear the frequency. The bats may be a nod to Batman.
- In "Home Is Where the Hurt Is", Superman is infected with a rare virus from Krypton, similar to Virus X from Superman #156 "The Last Days of Superman" published in July/August 1950. Only in the comic, he was actually affected by a piece of kryptonite in Jimmy Olsen's camera.
- In Lois's Imagine Spot in "Faster Than a Speeding Vixen", one of Lois and Clark's babies is named Clark; Clark has a son named Clark Jr., who's mother is either Loisnote or Lananote . Another baby is named Jonathan; Clark and Lois have a son named Jonathan Elliot in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. Another baby is named Perry; in Superman & Batman: Generations one of his sons is named Joel Perry Kent.
- Name and Name
- Napoleon Delusion: An informant (played by Larry Linville) contacts Lois with "information" about Superman, claiming he's the first wave of an alien invasion. The man's credibility suffers a bit when he claims to be Grover Cleveland.
- A woman claming to be Mary Todd Lincoln witnesses Clark using his powers, but the situation is defused when she decides he must be General Grant reincarnated.note
- Tempus' cellmate in the asylum believes himself to be Superman, which is why Tempus makes no effort to disguise his manner of escape.
- New Neo City: New Krypton.
- After taking over Smallville, Lord Nor re-christens Earth "New New Krypton".
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Super-memory, super-sketch drawing (this would work from his microscopic vision), super-smell, super-fingerprint analysis, and super-teleportation.
- Jimmy becomes a Playful Hacker in Season 3, without any previous mentions of his computer wizardry.
- Newscaster Cameo: Lord Nor's sit-down interview with Leeza Gibbons.
- Dave Nemeth, then-reporter for Extra, turns up to report on Superman's alleged "love child".
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Preston Carpenter ("The Rival") is trying to bury the city's leading paper with his own reactionary tabloids. Nope, doesn't ring a bell.
- John Spencer (The West Wing's Leo) shows up to play a low-rent, psychopathic Mr. Wizard clone dubbed "Mr. Gadget." So it's basically this YouTube poop made reality.
- Bill Church Sr. could be regarded as a fictionalized version of Bill Walton, CEO of Wal-Mart (especially in his first appearance).
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Lois is engaged to marry Lex Luthor, but has just been told some hard facts about his involvement in the destruction of the Daily Planet building. As he talks about the nice dinner and the wonderful production of Shakespeare's Othello they've just enjoyed, she stares out the window and says "Mm-hmm..."Lex: Y'know, Shakespeare didn't write Othello.Lois: Hmmm.Lex: It was actually written by Dr. Seuss.Lois: Mm-hmm.
- Not What It Looks Like: Lois discovering Perry inside Clark's closet.
- Clark's landlady drops by his apartment just as he's grappling with Tez. When the door flings open, Tez has morphed into a blonde bombshell, and Clark is standing with his shirt torn open.
- Perry embracing Lois — who is disguised as a man — in the middle of a bustling street. Oops.
- Obligatory Joke: A captured Lois summons Superman by ringing church bells. Superman flies in with an obligatory, "You rang?"
Jonathan Kent: We don't do much bowing here in Kansas.
- Lord Nor sets the ground rules in Smallville:
Lord Nor: You know, I have a feeling we're Not in Kansas Anymore.
- Obviously Evil: Lex Luthor, which works against the character somewhat as he shows that he can be genuinely decent, or pretend to be, but the show went all out to paint him as a crook, gangster, psychopath, murderer and all of the above.
- Old Media Are Evil: Whether it be a Rupert Murdoch proxy, or a Professional Killer posing as a TV anchorwoman, they're usually evil and out to blacken the name of the Daily Planet. Also played with in "The House of Luthor", when Lex tries wooing Lois over to his eponymous TV network.
- Older Than They Look: Lex, since he somehow has adult children despite looking as old as (or somewhat older than) Superman. Hand Waved by Clark, who insists that Luthor is "a master of deception."
- Omnicidal Maniac: Professor Jefferson Cole develops a new strain of Kryptonite which is deadly to ordinary humans. He then tunes his Weather-Control Machine to rain the deadly substance on Metropolis.
- Tempus' Plan B is to provoke a nuclear war and jump safety into another dimension, leaving Superman stranded on a dead planet.
- One of the Kids: The interpretation of Clark is a tad childlike, as befits Superman, and he never talks down to them. Lois could benefit from such a lesson; she's so used to flashing her ID badge that she doesn't know how to handle an insolent brat.
- There's a bit in Season 3 where Clark finally realizes that Clois (Lois' clone) has the mental age of a preteen girl, if that, and figures out how to speak her language.
- Our Time Travel Is Different
- Paparazzi: Leo Nunk and his Camera Fiend sidekick. In pursuit of a scoop, he leaks the details of Lois & Clark's wedding to the villains, and gets Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
- In "Sex, Lies and Videotape", Lois gets swarmed by paparazzi after being accused of carrying on an affair with Superman.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Three guesses as to what Lois Lane's computer password is, and if you say Batman, ima smack you.
- Superman cracked a computer at least twice: once with Citizen Kane (the villain of the week's favorite film), and another time with a word he knew was related to Norse mythology.
- Lois also tries to use "swordfish" to get into the club in "The Old Gang of Mine." The bouncer scoffs her lack of imagination.
- Peace Conference: In "Chip Off the Old Clark", the Villain of the Week is hired to sabotage one of these.
- Randy Goode torpedoes a Middle Eastern peace talk by funding a smear campaign against its negotiator, Superman himself.
- Perpetual Poverty:Jimmy: Does this mean I should buy a tie?
(Perry gives him an perturbed look.)
- The Planet is frequently facing imminent ruin in the first season. This was alleviated when Franklin Stern (a character from the Post-Crisis comics, here played by a rotund James Earl Jones), a rich industrialist, purchases the paper as a gesture of civic responsibility. Also, because he didn't much care for the old owner, Mr. Luthor.
- Pheromones: The villain in the episode "Pheromone, My Lovely" created a pheromone perfume called Revenge that removed the sexual inhibitions of those who were sprayed with it for 48 hours. Unfortunately, she's in love with Lex Luthor, and when he snubs her, she attempts to use a crop duster to spray all of Metropolis with an undiluted version with permanent effects. Luckily, Superman is immune.
- Pink Means Feminine: Ultrawoman. Mindy is also fond of this color.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Jimmy.
- Possession Burnout
- Power Perversion Potential: Clark nearly uses his x-ray vision to cheat at poker, but Lois' admiration of Superman convinces him to do otherwise. Lois doesn't share his moral fibre; as Ultrawoman, she uses her x-ray vision to see Clark naked.
- In "Resplendent Man", a regular Joe is granted Superman's powers. When he tracks the guy down, he finds him sitting on a building using his x-ray vision to look through the building across the way... and into a women's locker room. Superman is not amused.
- Though it's at least implied a few times that Clark's "snuck a peek" at Lois with his own X-Ray vision. When he finds her in her negligee in "Barbarians at the Planet" and she wants to put on a robe, he says unless it's lead-lined it won't make any difference.
- Professional Killer: Superman meets both kinds.
- The Professor: Dr. Klein.
- Psychic Link: The survivors of New Krypton all share this ability.
- Punny Title: A play on "Lewis and Clark".
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: James Hong's corrupt student in "Chi of Steel".
- Put on a Bus:
- Lucy Lane. Her mistake was agreeing to date Jimmy for an episode; that's a ticket to Nowheresville.
- Cat Grant, who was first established as The Rival. Justified in that The Daily Planet was closed towards the end of the first season and then reopened under new ownership and a promised overhaul of content. This would explain the absence of Jack, the orphan whom Clark recruited as a copy boy.
- Quieting the Unquiet Dead: In a season 4 episode, a man attempts to drive Lois and Clark out of their home by waking up the ghost of a woman who was murdered there, and promising to put her to rest. In the end, he cannot deliver, and it's the heroes who must do the job.
- Race Lift:
- Winslow Schott (Toyman in the comics) is white in the comics, but he's played by Sherman Hemsley.
- In his early appearances, Inspector Henderson was played by Mel Winkler and Brent Jennings. However, much like Two-Face in Batman Forever, it got reversed in his latter appearances, where he's played by Richard Belzer.
- Rapid-Fire Typing: Clark's magic fingers can crack any password. By the time he's finished, the keyboard is usually smoking hot.
- Recorded Spliced Conversation: In "Don't Tug on Superman's Cape", this trick is used. The villains use a recording of Superman to fake a phone call from the Man of Steel, using it to lure Lois into a trap.
- Redemption Equals Death: Lois]] takes the bullet for Superman by jumping in front of Lex's Disintegrator Ray, zapping both herself and Lex.
- Retool: After the lowish ratings of the first season, the show was overhauled; this included dropping gossip columnist Cat Grant (considered too scantily-clad and flirtatious for a family show) and a recasting of Jimmy Olsen with a younger-looking actor (the reason given was that Michael Landes resembled Cain too much).
- Reincarnation Romance: Lois and Clark turn out to be this in "Soul Mates". It means that Clark, much to his surprise, had earthlings as previous incarnations.
- Reluctant Retiree: Invoked twice with Perry; First, when faced with the closure of the paper, and later when promoted to an executive. Both times, Perry is despondent at having nothing to do.
- Remake Cameo: Nods to previous Superman continuity include casting Phyllis Coates as Lois's mother in "The House of Luthor", and Jack Larson as an old Jimmy Olsen in the episode "Brutal Youth". Coates played Lois Lane for the first season of The Adventures of Superman, while Larson played Jimmy throughout the series' run.
- Leslie Luckabee is played by Patrick Cassidy. His father, Jack Cassidy, played the sleazy Max Menken in the 1966 Broadway musical, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman!. (In the 2010 revival, Patrick played his father's old role.)
- Required Secondary Powers: Superman's Nigh-Invulnerability extending to his clothing was described in one episode using the centimeter high "invulnerability field" from the comics. His powers were actually well explained because he voluntarily had Star Labs examine him.
- Resigned in Disgrace: In the two-part arc "The People vs. Lois Lane" and "Dead Lois Walking", Lois is framed for murder and eventually found guilty, because the district attorney prosecuting her conceals exculpatory evidence to ensure he'd win the case (and then starts pushing for the death penalty). At the end of the arc, that DA is forced to resign after his actions come to light and Lois is cleared.
- Ret-Canon: During the time when Lois and Clark ran on television, the comic-book Perry White shared his TV counterpart's passion for Elvis Presley, even quoting his catchphrase.
- Retro Universe: Metropolis is intentionally designed with this is mind. There is a '40s-style Art Deco feel to the city, particularly at The Daily Planet; but every single time someone turns on a computer or picks up a phone, it is so painfully '90s, and it contrasts sharply with how retro everything else is. This makes it look more like Chicago than New York.
- "I've Got a Crush On You" goes particularly nutty with this trope. The Metro Club is swarming with mobsters and molls, all of whom speak in forties lingo, and showgirls singing WWI-era tunes.
- Ripple Effect Indicator: When Tempus goes back in time to kill Clark's infant self with kryptonite, the adult Clark begins to fade away.
- After Superman is trapped inside Tempus' time portal, the utopian future ceases to be. This causes Andrus to vanish from existence.
- Robot Girl: Vixen.
- Also, Baby Guntersen.
- Samus Is a Girl:
- The masked ninja in "Chi Of Steel" is revealed as Lin Chow, the granddaughter who's been fetching tea for James Hong.
- Also Lois in the very first scene of the pilot.
- Seduction-Proof Marriage: One episode had a beautiful blonde Femme Fatale working with a bomber who's Happily Married. She makes several advances on him, but, despite being an unrepentant murderer, he declines them all. She doesn't take it very well, and when their plan unravels, she arranges for all the blame to fall on him.
- She's Got Legs: Lois, boy howdy. This became an ironic echo when Lois karate kicked a goon who previously complimented them. For the first two seasons (that is, the seasons that got the most mileage out of the Will They or Won't They? dynamic) the image of Lois seductively propping her leg on Clark's desk was everywhere.
- Shirtless Scene: Plenty peppered throughout the series but who the hell wouldn't want to see that?
- Shout-Out: Quite a few, especially to Batman.
- When thinking of a secret identity to help people, Clark was trying different outfits, with each looking similar to Kraven, The Green Hornet, The Flash and Captain America.
- Clark is often seen drinking from a Royal Flush mug, it's even the clubs suit.
- Lex trained his manservant to attack him at random intervals (this time with a poisonous snake), similar to Cato.
- Perry meets with a shadowy informant twice, spoofing All the President's Men both times.
- In a reference to The Mask, Clark simply spins at superspeed to change into them to Cuban music and once satisfied, he notes "Smokin'!" before he darts off.
- In "Metallo", John Corben compares himself to The Six Million Dollar Man. And with Kryptonite, he'll never run out of power "like the Bunny".
- H. G. Wells references the time machine having a flux capacitor.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Lex can quote Shakespeare with the best of them. According to John Shea, he based his performance on Richard III and (who else?) Donald Trump.
- Lex quotes the iconic verse from Richard III ("If I cannot play the lover in these fair well-spoken days) in "The Phoenix" after he's forced to travel incognito as an elderly man. This marks his turning point from a wannabe do-gooder to card-carrying terrorist.
- "To thine own self be true", as said by Leslie during a press conference. The crowd chuckles back, totally assured that this Bard-quoting Luthor is on the level.
- Show Within a Show: Assorted talk/news programs throughout the series, which are semi-frequently shown.
- Raquel Welch guest stars as the corrupt host of Top Copy, itself a swipe at tabloid shows.
- Shut Up, Kirk!: It's pretty much impossible not to laugh at Tempus and H.G. Wells' repartee.Tempus: Herb, did your books actually sell? Because you're kind of a bore.
- Shutting Up Now: Jimmy has an unnerving simpatico for the city's villains.Jimmy: I think it's kinda cool the way he tied in the baseball theme. You know, the whole designated hitter... (Lois gives him an annoyed look) Oh, I sure wish someone would yell out 'copyboy' right about now.
Jimmy: Don't worry, I totally believe you that the picture is fake. But whoever made it did a pretty good job if I do say so myself I mean you can't see the lining and...(Lois glares) Sorry. 100% on your team here.
- Similar Squad: Chen Chou, a reporter at the Chinatown press who looks identical to Clark. They even wear similarly tacky ties.
- Deathstroke and his wife Carol manage to befriend Lois & Clark by posing as a suburban couple that looks, dresses, and acts exactly like them. In reality, they are more like Evil Counterparts, but the gag is repeated throughout the episode: Deathstroke lampshades the absurdity of nobody recognizing him when he wears glasses, and the couple have a revolving bookcase in their apartment which conceals their lair.
- Sinister Silhouettes: Lex in "The Foundling".
- Roweena Johnson (Bad Brain's mother) makes her first terrifying entrance as this.
- Sinister Subway: Lex's hideaway in Season 3 (possibly a Shout-Out to the 1978 Superman film). In Season 4, his son has an abandoned subway lair of his own, and is busy excavating Lex's collapsed hideout.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Lois and Clark frequently trade verbal barbs at one another. A popular running gag was to have Lois believe she won a particular contest only for Clark to top her at the last minute.
- Something Else Also Rises: "The Phoenix" has a Sexy Silhouette of Lois, causing Clark to pop his cork... of champagne, and then he got a Sexy Silhouette, causing her to wet the carpet... with spilled champagne. Subtle.
- In the pilot, Clark sees Lois cleans up nicely, making a big entrance at formal dress society do, and floats six or seven inches off the ground as he gazes at her in awe. In the commentary track the show's creator says it means exactly what you think it means.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Jonathan Kent. The show allowed him to live while other previous television shows and movies allowed him to die.
- Special Guest: Among those who made guest appearances were Richard Belzer, Sonny Bono, Peter Boyle, Delta Burke, Bruce Campbell, Drew Carey, Robert Carradine, Denise Crosby, Robert Culp, Tony Curtis, Roger Daltrey, David Doyle, Morgan Fairchild, Jonathan Frakes, Frank Gorshin, Jasmine Guy, Sherman Hemsley, Penn Jillette, James Earl Jones, Shelley Long, Howie Mandel, Rick Overton, Bronson Pinchot, Isabel Sanford, Dwight Schultz, Dean Stockwell, David Warner, Fred Willard, Raquel Welch, and Adam West.
- Spy Catsuit: Diana Stride briefly sports one.
- Sweet Tart, Jack Olsen's treacherous sidekick.
- Stage Magician: Of the evil variety. Penn Jillette plays a suspected terrorist (which would have been awesome), but he turns out to be a Red Herring.
- Baron Sunday pretends to be this, but is actually a Hollywood Voodoo sorcerer.
- Status Quo Is God: While it starts out looking this way, big changes do occur over the course of the series - Lois learns Clark's secret, they marry, Lex Luthor dies, other Kryptonians arrive on Earth and start a minor war, etc.. If the show had continued past Season 4, we would've gotten to see Lois and Clark raise a child as well.
- Straw Vulcans: The entire New Kryptonian population.
- Stock Footage: "Chip Off the Old Clark" has footage of a missile launch.
- Stock Subtitle: "The New" when the series had the subtitle "The New Adventures of Superman" for the first few seasons.
- Stuffed into a Trashcan: Clark (disguised as a barkeep) ejected Lois from a mob-controlled club, carefully using his X-ray vision to toss her into the dumpster full of spoiled vegetables — and not the one full of harmless paper shreddings. Superdickery, indeed."You will pay for this, Kent, I swear to God."
- "Long Legs Lulu", we hardly knew ye. Her nickname is apt, since all Lois finds is a pair of stiletto-clad legs sticking out of a trashbin.
- Sugar Bowl: In the future, Superman's legacy ensured that humanity renounced violence and established a utopian society based on his principles. Unfortunately, there are still Lex Luthors running around, but they can be neutralized — unless you're Tempus, and manage to snag a time machine from a clueless H.G. Wells.Tempus: A world of peace. A world with no greed or crime. A world so boring you'd blow your brains out, but there are no guns!
- Superdickery: Superman getting dosed with Red Kryptonite in "Individual Responsibility." He stops seeing the point in nabbing criminals, ignores kidnappers, chats up attractive ladies, and eats all the office donuts."So, is that Katy with a y' or an 'i'?"
- Supervillain Lair: Both Lex Luthor and Intergang have these.
- Swiss Cheese Security: STAR Labs on a regular basis.
- The Syndicate: Intergang.
- Team Dad: Perry.
- The Teaser: Sometimes they had an opening gag with Clark doing something and mildly showing his powers. One in particular had him accidentally coming across Bo Jackson and playing basketball with him. Jackson was completely dominating him until Clark decided to do a slam dunk from half-way across the court."Bo don't know how to do that..."
- Terminator Twosome: H.G. Wells and Tempus.
- Their First Time: "Soul Mates" (right after the wedding one) revolve around this. Justified as Lois and Clark had to explore time and anterior lives to lift a curse, then properly having their first time.
- They Would Cut You Up: Jonathan Kent admits he once had this fear about Clark, but overcomes it. The Alternate Universe Clark isn't so lucky, as his fiancé Lana Lang is constantly reminding him of this as a bullying tactic.
- Those Two Guys: Perry and Jimmy. (See "Leaning on the Fourth Wall")
- Too Dumb to Fool: It's literally impossible to notice whenever something's off about Superman's disguise, but Jimmy always notices.Jimmy: New specs, CK?Clark: Yeah.Jimmy: (grabbing for Clark's glasses) Can I try 'em on?Clark: No! ...The prescription's too strong. It might hurt your eyes.
- Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Superman is seen flying to places like Japan and Switzerland to fetch food for Lois, arriving back in Metropolis a few seconds later. In "Chip Off the Old Clark", however, he has 15 seconds to get to Eastern Europe to intercept a nuclear missile, but announces he won't get there in time. Instead, he tunnels directly through the Earth because it's quicker...?
- Trigger Phrase: Used a few times. In "Illusion of Grandeur", a stage magician hypnotizes Perry into exclaiming "That's brilliant" whenever Jimmy says anything. In the same episode, the Villain Of The Week uses the trigger phrase "The moon and the stars" to manipulate others, including Superman.
- In "Target: Jimmy Olsen", the titular character is programmed into a Manchurian Agent who tries to kill Lois.
- Trophy Wife: Subverted when the seeming trophy wife of Intergang's boss swiftly takes over and proves to be her husband's equal in brains and ruthlessness after he is imprisoned.
- True Meaning of Christmas: Dean Cain played Clark as a big kid who is completely gaga about Christmas, in contrast to Lois who sees only commercialism.
- Trust Password: In his first appearance, H.G. Wells proves his identity by whispering "I know you're Superman, and I need your help."
- Clark later proves he's the "real" Superman to Lois by naming his favorite film, which is (what else?) To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Two-Person Love Triangle: Lois, Clark, and Superman start off this way (one of the show's original taglines/descriptions was "A Love Triangle for Two"), but when Lois finally figures out Clark is Superman, it solves that problem. It later comes back to bite them when someone gets pictures of Superman and Lois together in bed, and this trope is in play again as everyone assumes Lois is cheating on her husband.
- Unexpected Virgin: Superman is revealed to be a virgin. He had some legitimate concerns (see the essay that named the trope Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex). Meanwhile, Lois and Clark end up together and, supposedly, subvert this trope. By the end of the show, they are revealed to be trying for a baby.
- Unseen No More: Alice, Perry's oft-referenced wife. Her face is constantly hidden via camera angles, objects and/or smoke, other people's heads, etc. That is until the penultimate episode of the whole series ("Toy Story"), when she is finally seen.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Lex, obviously. Most of Intergang's sleeper agents fit this trope.
- Larry Smiley's Instituate of Love and Dependence!
- President-elect Tempus in season four.
- Villain of the Week
- Villain Has a Point: A season one villain thinks Superman is the vanguard to an alien invasion. This turns out to be half true as Superman's presence on Earth gives a rogue Kryptonian the idea to invade.
- Villainous Breakdown: Lex has a pretty epic one in the last ten minutes of the first season.
- Villainous Crush: AKA a day in the life of Lois Lane.
- Villainous Lineage: The Prankster's dad is an even bigger Jerkass than he is.
- Gene Newtrich discovers red kryptonite in the Season 2 episode "Individual Responsibility". In Season 3's "Ultrawoman", his nefarious sisters pick up where he left off by building a red kryptonite laser, which has totally different effects.
- If Baron Tempos and Tempus Tex are any indication, being evil runs deep in Tempus' gene pool.
- Both of [Lex Luthor's sons abduct Lois at some point.
- Lex Jr. in particular is a chip off the old block, right down to his one-liners and affinity for opera.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The Church family, who own a series of monolithic Wal-Mart type stores and give money to the needy.
- Villains Blend in Better: Alternate-Earth's Metropolis goes to hell after the arrival of Tempus, who gets himself elected Mayor and removes all gun regulations. Cue the chaos. Conversely, Lois and Clark have trouble just ordering a drink in 1866.
- Inverted, however, with the cloned crooks in "That Old Gang of Mine." Clyde Tolson chews on a credit card to test whether it's real "Gold", and a bank-robbing John Dillinger boasts that he's about to make the front page of the evening paper.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Lois had a tendency to belittle Clark's assistance when in need, though Clark gave as good as he got.Clark: You are the same reporter you have always been: Hard-working. Dedicated. Maybe a little over the top sometimes. You could use some more vacations. Maybe a semblance of a life...
Lois: Is this going somewhere?
- Wait Here: Lois never does.
- Waving Signs Around: A crowd of protesters gather to hold up signs, chant slogans and basically show public disapproval for Superman after he fails to save Luthor from dying. They crash one of Superman's numerous prize ceremonies to chant "Superman must go!".
- The public does not look fondly on a super-hero fathering a "love child" and (making matters worse) failing to provide financial support. The crowd chants "Super-Hero. Super-Zero!" They hold up handmade signs with slogans such as:"Super Stud is a Dud"
"Be a MAN Superman"
"Super Kids Need Super Dads"
"Superman Can't Fly Above the LAW"
- The public does not look fondly on a super-hero fathering a "love child" and (making matters worse) failing to provide financial support. The crowd chants "Super-Hero. Super-Zero!" They hold up handmade signs with slogans such as:
- Waxing Lyrical: Perry, a rabid Elvis nut, often inserts the King's song titles into his lines.
"Hey, I tugged on Superman's cape!"
- After being jailed for violating an injunction against using his powers, Superman shares a cell with a criminal he recently apprehended. The moron can't resist an obvious joke:
- We Can Rebuild Him: Johnny Corben, aka "Metallo".
- Weirdness Magnet: Lois, who lampshades it frequently.
- Weirdness Search and Rescue: When the series started having story arcs involving time travel and alternate universes, none other than H.G. Wells himself arrives to advise the heroes.
- An episode involving virtual reality has Jimmy Olsen advise Superman on how to catch the bad guys in the virtual world.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A literal mouse example. A villain tests a device for transferring Superman's powers to others on a mouse. The 'supermouse' dashes straight out of its metal cage at superspeed into the outside world and is never seen again. An ultrafast, invincible, nigh-immortal predator is basically free to pounce on or through anything in the world.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: When Lois bemoans the fact that Superman is probably too busy to help because by now he's probably got his own TV showClark: Superman on TV? I don't think so.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: When Luthor assembles his agents to test Superman's abilities, a woman in the room asks why they don't just save themselves the trouble and kill him.Lex: Have you ever read Sun Tzu's The Art of War?Monique: I'm waiting for the Reader's Digest version.note
- Jaxon Xavier's A.I. computer wonders aloud why they don't just kill Clark by yanking off his VR helmet, severing his mind-body connection. Xavier isn't receptive to this advice.
- Wicked Toymaker: Two versions of Superman's nemesis Toyman appeared in the series.
- Winslow Schott, played by The Jeffersons actor Sherman Helmsley (with the late Isabel Sandford, his Jeffersons co-star, playing his secretary Ms. Duffy), appeared in Metropolis at Christmas time, handing out toys with a chemical additive that turned children greedy and caused adults to act like children. Immune to the effect, Superman eventually found the source of the chemical and neutralized Schott's operation. At one point, Schott is referred to as "A Toyman" but is never actually called by the villain's name. Unlike the comics, the Schott character had a happy ending, finding romance with Ms. Duffy.
- A second Toyman appeared during the show's run, this one actually called "The Toyman", played by Grant Shaud. Somewhat more sinister than the Winslow Schott character as portrayed by Helmsley, this Toyman whose real name is Harold Kripstly is responsible for several child abductions. Naturally, Superman foils his scheme and brings him to justice.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Clark's feeble-looking fake beard ("I've Got A Crush On You"). Suddenly the glasses don't seem like such a horrible disguise.
- Lois wears a red wig to elude the cops in "Dead Lois Walking".
- Will They or Won't They?: This is teased for so long, that when they finally do the episode is called "Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding" because of the Snap Backs, Clones, and so forth.
- Woman Scorned: In "Pheromone, My Lovely", a perfume manufacturer goes berserk after Lex dumps her for Lois.
- Dr. Veda Doodson's motivation for inventing an age-regression machine is her ex-husband, who left her for a younger woman.
- World of Ham
- You, Get Me Coffee: Perry and Jimmy's relationship. Established in the first episode, when Lois demands that the paper assemble her a task force. Perry deadpans, "You can have Jimmy."
Perry: You finished with those obituaries yet?
- Also this exchange:
Jimmy: No, but—!
Perry: Jimmy... never underestimate the importance of a good obituary. (leaves)
Jimmy: I can think of one right now.
- You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Spoken aloud by Clark at least twice.D.A. Clemmons: I suggest you keep your emotions in check, Mr Kent. You obviously have no idea who you're dealing with, here.
Clark: Yeah, neither do you.
- You're Insane!: In "Double Jeopardy", Lex proclaims the love he has for Lois Lane by tying her to a chair — bound and gagged — while brandishing a hyperdermic needle, presumably filled with some type of drug which he can use to make good on his odes.Lex: Let's hear that lilting voice.
Lois: You sick, twisted, disgusting sociopath.
Lex: Oh, you finishing school girls.
- Jefferson Cole adds Dr. Klein to his revenge list for his "unhinged and insane" remark.
- New Krypton's head elder goes from insisting that "Lord Nor has been judged too harshly" to He's mad, I tell you! Mad!
- Zero-G Spot: During Lois and Clark wedding night, which was Their First Time.