The premise of Smallville--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 series 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 ground 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 program.
Smallville: The Complete First Season offers a very complete and attractive DVD package that is rounded out by some highly desirable extras for longtime series fans. The six-disc set offers all 21 episodes of the first season, including the pilot, in widescreen anamorphic format; Gough and Millar are featured on the set's sole commentary track, which appears on the pilot episode. Viewers can also access a number of deleted scenes from various episodes as well as view original pre-production storyboards and WB promotional spots. An interactive "tour" of Smallville rounds out the extras, but DVD-ROM owners can use the discs to access more features via the Smallville web site. --Paul Gaita