Series creators Al Gough and Miles Millar owe a lot to adolescence. Deciding to chronicle that part of a character’s life has given them two mega-hits: Smallville and Wednesday. However, these two shows premiered over 20 years apart from each other, and Smallville came to life in a very different TV world. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gough and Millar talked about the young Superman series and if they have any regrets about it.
During the interview, the duo stressed that one of the biggest changes that separate today’s content from the early aughts is the episode counts. While today there are a few shows that deliver 20+ episodes per season, that was the norm when Smallville premiered. So, a series would typically hit 100 episodes by Season 5, which meant that season-long and series-long arcs had to be a lot more spaced out. One of those arcs was the relationship between lead character Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), which was famously dragged out – as Millar underscores:
“We were definitely cautious and just very conscious of the fact we wanted to get to five seasons, and we ended up at 10 seasons, but we’re just like, ‘OK, if we split them apart, what are we gonna do?’ Again, as the father of girls, I think the female characters we would do differently today. I think Lana, her agency was not there. She could have been a much stronger character, and she always felt put in positions of weakness. It’s a different era, a different time. So, that’s something I think we could have done and would definitely look at to do better.”
Gough and Millar Think Smallville Wouldn’t Happen Under Today’s Standards
As Millar indicated, the disregard for female characters’ agency severely damaged Lana Lang’s arc, since for most of the series the approach to Lana was that she was waiting for Clark to be with her, and she didn’t have much else going on. At the same time, the show subverted some female character tropes when it came to cousins Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack). Despite the mistakes, Gough celebrates the fact that they got to do the show they wanted, and ignore some canon aspects from the Superman mythology – which probably wouldn’t fly today:
“I think there are things there, if we went back, we probably would be a little more adventurous with some of those relationships and bring them to certain heads and let them play out. […] I feel like we were very, very fortunate to do the show when we did it because we got to make the show we wanted to make, and frankly, there was no committee sitting over us telling us what we could or couldn’t do. I mean, we had Warner’s features, who wouldn’t give us certain characters that we wanted, but we got to make the show we wanted to make which we wouldn’t be allowed to make that show today. There were so many deviations from the canon.”
Smallville aired for 10 seasons and delivered over 200 episodes. It told the story of Clark Kent as a teenage boy learning to use and master his superpowers, way before he became Superman. Across the series, several famous characters were featured in the story, including Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore), Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), and Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum). The series wrapped its run in 2011, and today Rosenbaum and Welling host the podcast Talk Ville, in which they rewatch the series and comment about every episode with former costars.