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"Smallville" is a fun and delightfully unassuming drama about what Superman's life might have been like in high school in Smallville, Kansas.
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By ROB HEDELT
But the stylish adventure series, Tuesdays at 9, is neither. Instead, it's first episode presented a fresh, inspired take on Superman as a youngster.
There's no doubt that the producers, veterans of both "The X-Files" and "Roswell," will have to be careful to keep this youth/adventure series from veering into sci-fi silliness or infatuated teen soap opera.
But at least for now, the show's creators seem to have found an interesting middle ground, intent on luring viewers with an examination of what the high school years would be like for Superman.
It's no accident that this isn't called "Superboy," and instead operates under the name "Smallville."
That's because the quaint, farm-belt feel of life in this mythical Kansas town is a big part of its charm.
That dovetails nicely with its star, newcomer Tom Welling as Clark Kent.
The same way that Christopher Reeve wove decency and heartland values into his portrayal in the "Superman" movies, Welling makes the teen Clark a sweet, unassuming youngster struggling with why he's so different.
Having seen the opening show, viewers know that stems from the fact that the Smallville High student isn't exactly from the next county.
It's more like the next solar system, as he ends up in Smallville when his spaceship crashes to Earth as part of a meteor shower that changes many things in the small town.
Clark is a godsend to Martha and Jonathan Kent (John Schneider and Annette O'Toole), a childless farm couple who yearn for a family, and the meteor shower sets other things in motion that create the show's ongoing relationships.
As the meteors fall, we see youngster Lana Lang with her aunt, rushing to reunite with her parents in downtown Smallville.
Unfortunately, the Langs are among the first casualties of the flaming meteors.
Meanwhile, in one of the cornfields that fill the landscape, a young Lex Luthor is waiting for his industrial robber-baron father to finish a deal/swindle with several farmers.