The venerable Superman mythos gets a 21st-century updating in the imaginative and engaging TV series Smallville. The premise of the show--Superman as a teenager--takes up just a few pages in Superman's very first comic-book appearance (in Action Comics back in 1938), but producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar flesh out that period by portraying young Clark Kent (Tom Welling) not as the noble Superman-in-waiting, but as an average teen with some not-so-ordinary supernatural powers, including incredible strength and heat vision (Clark hasn't lifted up, up, and away as of yet). Clark's desire to fit in with his peers and make sense of his extraordinary abilities grounds him in very realistic and identifiable terms for the series' primarily under-25 audience, as does his appealing and tentative romance with Kristen Kreuk as Clark's dreamgirl Lana Lang.
But Smallville also strikes gold when it takes a turn towards more comic-book territory, as evidenced by the parade of shape-shifting killers and other outlandish antagonists (many generated, in one of the series' most ingenious notions, by the same devastating meteor shower that brought the infant Clark to Earth) that Clark must harness his powers to face and defeat. Gough and Millar, along with their capable cast (which includes Michael Rosenbaum as a young and already bald-pated Lex Luthor, and Annette O'Toole and John Schneider as the Kents) manage to pull off the precarious high-wire act of combining science fiction with coming-of-age drama to create this highly watchable programme.