We have seen an explosion of the number of DC shows on TV. Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Gotham, DC Legends, and shows like Krypton and Teen Titans are still a possibility. Be ready for more to come. Yes, the superhero movies taking over the silver screen led the to inevitable of them coming to the small screen. BUT these shows needed a format, to know what works and what doesn't, to have a pioneer in which they can learn from. That was Smallville! It is time once and for all to give Smallville it's due for bringing modern day superheroes to TV. (I understand there were shows in the 90s, but they were not around for 10 years).
For those of you that have lived under a rock until the Flawrrowverse got started, Smallville was a show on WB/CW that follow the life of teenage Clark Kent. We watched for 10 seasons as he navigated being a hero behind the scenes, relationships, leading a dual identity, accepting his fate as savior, and eventually emerging into the light as Superman. Smallville struggled with identity for most of it's run. Some episodes it tried be a typical "Dawson's Creek" teen drama, other episodes saw it try to be a superhero show, others just followed and created the "freak of the week" idea. It was show that was very hit or miss in later seasons until it threw all caution to wind and just decided to be a comic book show. That is when we knew we could have a true superhero show with the teen angst and melodrama of love story subplots that take away from the show. I will never forgive Smallville for the Clark, Lex, Lana triangle. I digress, but here are the elements that other shows have pulled from Smallville.
When network shows are asked to produce 20+ episodes a season, you are bound to get filler episodes that don't push the season arc along at all. Smallville had many plots in its first season, but they probably could have been explored in half a season. Bringing different villains for our young hero to fight each week began a formula to ensure smaller episode long plots can work with the season arc lingering in the background, ready to be explored a littler further whenever it was convenient. It assured a long and mostly entertaining season. Barry's wall of the unexplained from Season 1 was a direct rip off of Smallville's wall of weird!
Avoiding Holiday Specials
Once upon a time the network had this crazy notion that holiday specials were a great idea. I remember an Halloween episode where Lana joins a sorority full of vampires and the ladies of the show all become vampires. There was a Christmas special themed like a Christmas Carol. There were a few more unmemorable ones. The problem with these episodes is that they had nothing to do with the current season what-so-ever. It is as if they filmed as a special and plugged it into the slot for the closest holiday. It made no mention to any current storylines for that season. It is something I have seen the newer shows avoid. We still get holiday activity in the background to get a sense of where in the year things are set, but have yet to see any ghost's of Christmas past.
Team Ups Boost Ratings
Who else went "awwwww snap" when Smallville introduced Green Arrow to the show? It had already introduced Impulse, Cyborg, Aquaman and other heroes as time went on. It gave Clark some equals and gave way to the idea of larger universe. The "Young Justice" episode team up with Cyborg, Impulse, Green Arrow, and Aquaman? We saw our first glimpse of the Justice League on TV. It was by far my favorite episode ever. Later in the series we were privy to a 2 episode special involving the Justice Society of America! That was my second favorite episode of the series. Team ups are awesome. It is a formula Arrow, Flash, and now Legends have used to great affect to interlock their universe. My mind melted when Flash jumped universes and networks to team up with Supergirl! Supergirl saw a huge ratings boost and probably ensured it a second season. Arrow has even resurrected Matt Ryan's Constantine after being canceled. Smallville set up a world bigger than itself, something the Flarrowverse is capitalizing with different shows for each main character.
The CGI Budget Is Worth It
One limitation Smallville had was that it was ahead of it's time. The CGI technology wasn't far enough along and it maxed the budget for the show. For those who don't know the show, we never saw Clark fly until much later in the show. It was originally because the CGI budget needed was too much. They couldn't afford it. By season 8 when were introduced to ZOD and his Kryptonians, the technology had come a long way and it was possible to do. By this point in the show, it was fun for the show to tease us about when Clark would fly so they elected to keep him grounded. Now we have FIRESTORM, ATOM, HawkGirl, HawkMan, and others flying about like it is nothing. It has been 15 years since Smallville first aired. The technology is more available and cheaper. Smallville forced the network to develop their CGI engines for low cost to maximize a show's potential.
Two Versions Of The Same Character Can Exist At Once
When we heard of a new Superman movie coming out in the mid-2000s, Smallville was a big deal. Fans of the show clamored for the movie to be a future version of the Clark they had come to love over the first few seasons. They cried when Tom Welling was cast aside for Brandon Routh. We had two different Clark Kent's in existence at once. It didn't melt the universe or cause many issues. We now have two different versions of the Flash. Ezra Miller's Scarlett Speedster has already appeared in Batman V Superman. Grant Gustin's Barry Allen is going strong through 2 seasons of The Falsh. With the multiverse set and explained through and through, our minds can accept that multiple versions of the same character can exist at once. This leaves hope we can see fan favorites like Superman and Batman join the Flarrowverse.
Webisodes, Comics, and More!
Smallville actually became it's own comic! It even gave us issues past the end of the show! The Chloe-Chronicles were mini webisodes that took the show to another media. These were fun little throw ins that occurred out of the show but still tied in. The Chronicles of Cisco and Arrow Webisodes are directly because of the Smallville's success in this area. The CW Seed has them for the hardcore fan that cannot get enough. Arrow even introduced Vixen this past season who was on a previous webisode. When Oliver was asked how he met Vixen during a Season 4 team up, his reply was "We had an animated encounter last year." Those who have seen the animated shorts died with laughter at this punny reply!
Whether you love or hate Smallville, you cannot ignore that it set up these other shows for success. Avoiding it's mistakes while embracing it's strengths has set Arrow and company up for sustained success on the small screen. Re-watching the show I chuckle at the limitations and the "Dawson's Creek" feel. It is the only show I have the entire collection of on DVD and have re-watched in it's entirety multiple times. The way it can truly be honored is by a crossover with the current shows via the multiverse. It would be a great bone to throw fans who have been with these shows since the very beginning. I'll save that for another time.
Think I am out right crazy? Comment, agree, argue, and post below!