It's hard to believe that Smallville has been off the air for over 5 years now. Debuting back in 2001 and starring a young Tom Welling as Clark Kent - it ran for an astounding 10 seasons. The series was a television phenomenon, becoming one of the first major superhero successes on TV since the glory days of the 1960s Batman. Unfortunately, it just missed out on the modern day superhero era (dominated by the CW's "Flarrowverse"). Though it may not be on the air anymore, that hasn't stopped Smallville from amassing a legacy that lives on today, influencing many of the modern day Superhero TV series. Here are just some of the ways that Smallville has influenced today's major Superhero TV series'.
1. Origin Story
Back in the glory days of Superhero TV (and animation), the pilot episodes were usually just a great caper to kickstart the series. Although there were some exceptions, it was easier and less hassle to just go straight into the adventures with an already well-established hero. Thus, the pilot episodes, in effect, were no different than the other "villain of the week" episodes that followed. However, Smallville strayed from this format as, not only was the first episode an origin story, the entire series was pretty much an origin story, focusing on Clark Kent's arrival on earth as a child and being found by Jonathan and Martha Kent. The entirety of the series was based on Clark's journey to becoming Superman. Just as we see in Arrow, The Flash, Marvel's Daredevil and Supergirl, the pilot episode focuses on the hero's debut as a crimefighter and the first season (if not whole series) is usually based on those respective heroes' journeys to becoming the fully-fledged heroes established in the comic books. Smallville was one of the first series' to not only adopt the detailed origin story (very detailed in Smallville's case) on television but it influenced it's fellow CW network successors in a big way. Arrow may have kickstarted the Arrow-verse but things could have been very different if Smallville hadn't influenced the modern day Superhero shows like it did.
2. The Computer Genius Sidekick
Every superhero has one - the often nerdy, sometimes clumsy but always adorable genius sidekick who deserves just as much credit (if not more) for saving lives as their respective superhero. Nowadays we have the likes of Felicity Smoak, Cisco Ramon, Caitlin Snow and Winn Schott - all of whom excel at their roles and constantly prove how superheroes can't fight the fight alone. But when it comes to these kinds of characters, there is none greater than the original...ladies and gentlemen I give you: Chloe Sullivan. Chloe was portrayed with perfection by the incomparable Allison Mack and constantly received praise for being one of the best actresses in the cast. Furthermore, aside from Tom Welling, Mack was the only other cast member to remain a series regular with the series for it's entire 10 seasons. Over the course of those seasons, Chloe Sullivan managed to save Clark Kent more times than we could possibly count. In fact, she ended up being responsible for forming a mini Justice League with Clark, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Cyborg and Impulse. Chloe, of course, was Watchtower - now you can't get much more Justice League than WatchTower. The genius computer sidekick on the comms is a staple of modern day Superhero TV and all of them, in some form or other, have undoubtedly been influenced by Chloe Sullivan. What an incredible character performed by an incredible actress.
3. It Humanized Superheroes
Throughout Smallville's 10 year run, we got to see Kal-El grow up as Clark Kent on the Kent farm in Smallville, Kansas. Particularly in the show's first 5 seasons, we were allowed to see this future superhero, start out his journey as a young farmboy. This was a story that had never been told before. Much like today's Gotham, Smallville told a unique story that very little had covered before - the boy's journey to becoming a hero. Furthermore, The Flash portraying Iris West as Barry Allen's childhood love is reminiscent of Clark Kent and Lana Lang's relationship in Smallville. Tom Welling delivered an authentic and rich performance as Clark grew up loving, laughing, learning about his powers and failing many times before figuring out how to adapt and thus, succeed. Just as Bruce Wayne does in Gotham. Just as Oliver Queen starts out as a vigilante in Arrow and the series is based on his journey to becoming a hero. Smallville was one of the first series which humanised a superhero - a trait that many of today's Superhero TV shows have adopted successfully.
4. Justice League on TV
Like I mentioned earlier with Chloe being WatchTower, Smallville had basically assembled a mini Justice League of their own characters on TV. Because of restrictions, they weren't able to use the other two main Justice League leaders in Batman and Wonder Woman - however, Chloe did drop a mention of them both when she was out finding other heroes to recruit - but they did assemble a pretty formidable force with Clark, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Cyborg and Impulse along with Chloe as their eyes and ears. It also featured other characters like Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Zatanna and Supergirl too. It could be argued that this influenced its successors in the Arrow-verse. With Supergirl finally joining her heroic counterparts on The CW and rumors of a potential Arrow/The Flash/Supergirl/Legends of Tomorrow crossover, chances are that we will see another potential mini Justice League formed on TV. I can't wait for that!
5. It Told it's OWN Story
Smallville wasn't afraid to deviate somewhat from the comic books as long as the end result was the same. Thus, their decision was justified. For example, Lois Lane and Clark Kent becoming frenemies long before the Daily Planet days. The Davis Bloome and Jimmy Olsen storyline also deviated. Furthermore, Chloe Sullivan was an original character, created solely for Smallville, much like Arrow's John Diggle. Original characters help the show to form their own continuity and as long as they benefit the storyline (there have been occassions when they don't), they help to create a unique version of the comic-book story, fit for TV. Many shows have adopted Smallville's successful formula.
In conclusion. Smallville was before its time. It may have just missed out on The CW's superhero-centric "Arrow-Verse" but there's no question about it that its influence lives on through the modern day Superhero TV Shows of today. From a maturing hero to original characters, Smallville's legacy will live on and continue to influence the Superhero TV landscape to come. I think I'm going to re-watch it now.