Superficially, the much-anticipated weekly adventure fantasy series Smallville resembled the many cartoon and live-action adaptations of DC's old Superboy comic books, themselves spin-offs of the indomitable Siegel and Schuster creation, Superman. However, this new hour-long WB series went off on several new tangents, notably the Buffy the Vampire Slayer conceit that with special powers comes special responsibilities. The pilot episode, telecast on October 16, 2001, established the premise by showing a strange meteor crashing just outside the tiny Kansas community of Smallville in 1989. The meteor was actually a spaceship from the doomed planet Krypton, and its occupant was the planet's sole survivor, the infant Kal-El. Discovered and "adopted" by farmer Jonathan Kent (John Schneider) and his wife, Martha (Annette O'Toole), Kal-El grew into his teen years with the newly minted name of Clark Kent, his extraterrestrial origins kept secret from the rest of the community. Advised by his adoptive parents never to utilize his awesome superpowers lest his true identity be revealed, 14-year-old Clark (played by 24-year-old Tom Welling) was forced to adopt a non-athletic persona while attending the local high school. Clark's only allies were the lovely Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), for whom our hero carried a secret torch, and aspiring entrepreneur Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), whose life Clark had saved. Just as the soon-to-be-villainous Luthor was essentially a comic character here, so too was the young Clark Kent, miles removed from his adult "Superman" alter ego. Indeed, the series' executive producers, Michael Tollin and Brian Robbins, prided themselves on the fact that their version of Kent was never seen wearing the traditional Man of Steel cape and tights. Opening to excellent critical and audience response, Smallville ended up as one of the jewels in the WB Network's crown during its first season on the air.
by Hal Erickson synopsis