SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY FAQ
This isn’t a TV thing! Is it?
It’s an original made-for-DVD animated movie directed by a lot of talent we associate with TV, including directors Lauren Montgomery (“Legion of Superheroes”), Bruce Timm (“Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”) and Brandon Vietti (“The Batman”) and screenwriter Duane Capizzi (“The Batman Vs. Dracula,” “Superman: Brainiac Attack”).
And it’s based on the 1992-93 comic-book arc about the extraterrestrial mental patient who killed Superman?
Wasn’t that Death of Superman story arc kind of … lame?
It kind of was. I deem the funnybook death of Superman a superior bit of marketing built upon a lot of flabby storytelling.
So “Superman: Doomsday” is lame also?
It turns out “Superman: Doomsday” is not lame at all! It is smart, compelling, funny, expectation-defying and well worth $13.99. I’m not sure how this happened!
It isn’t just Doomsday and Superman pounding each other for 77 minutes, is it?
There is much pounding, it is prolonged and well-crafted pounding, but it only goes on for about eight of the feature’s 77-minute running time. The mute, Hulk-ish and not terribly interesting Doomsday has only a 16-minute cameo is his own movie. Only after Doomsday and Superman perish at minute 26 does the project begin to shoot off into new and far more interesting directions -- directions informed a bit, perhaps, by better comic book series like Alan Moore’s “Miracleman” and Warren Ellis’ “The Authority.”
Does “Doomsday” earn the PG-13 rating for its depictions of the villain’s many gruesome onscreen murders?
It does! And perhaps because Superman and Lois, as the story begins, have apparently been boning like wildcats for six months.
Lois and Superman are boning like wildcats?
And get this. Though Superman apparently no longer needs x-ray vision to see Lois naked, she still can’t get him to admit he’s Clark Kent. In a very real sense, this project takes the animated Lane to avenues not previously ventured. (Another highlight is a hilarious Luthor sequence I’m willing to label as knowingly homo-erotic.)
Does Batman cry at the funeral?
Though the Justice League played a big role in the comic-book Doomsday storyline (some will recall Booster Gold actually gave Doomsday his name), it saddens me to report that The Batman, The Guardian, Maxima, Barda, Power Girl, Supergirl, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, Atom, Aquaman, J’onn J’onzz, Zatanna, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold all sit out the DVD.
Do Cyborg Superman, Iron-Man Superman, Eradicator Superman and Superboy all rise up to replace the fallen Man of Steel?
I’m saying no.
Does the Cyborg Superman destroy Coast City, sending the Green Lantern into a homicidal rage?
What? What …
Wait a minute. Bruce Timm is involved? Is this project a component of the TV Timmverse that encompasses “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond’ and “Justice League”?
On the commentary track, Timm says no. Which might explain why no superheroes turn up at the funeral.
Is Tim Daly back as Superman?
Tim Daly remains long gone. “Doomsday” stars Adam Baldwin (“Chuck”) as Clark, Anne Heche (“Men in Trees”) as Lois, James Marsters (“Without A Trace”) as Lex, Ray Wise (“Reaper”) as Perry, Swoozie Kurtz (“Pushing Daisies”) as Martha, Adam Wylie (“Legion of Super-Heroes”) as Jimmy, Cree Summer (“Drawn Together”) as Mercy and John Di Maggio (“Futurama”) as Toyman.
Ew! Where’s Dana Delany?
Wisteria Lane! I’ll say that once I got used to the new voices for Lex, Lois and Clark, I came to embrace them. Adam Baldwin, who in live-action almost always plays villains or villainous, does an unexpectedly spectacular job assaying the ultimate boy scout.
The cast. The story. The violence. The language. The dark. The Toyman. The post-Doomsday villainy. The beauty salon. The old lady and the cat. And I loved that somebody stuck a broken Fleisher Bros. mechanical man as a trophy in the Fortress.
What’s not so great?
All the extra lines on Superman’s face. They just make the Last Son of Krypton look tired and too old to date Lois (who by contrast has never looked sexier).
What of the extras?
* Commentary track by Vietti, Montgomery, Timm, Capizzi, voice director Andrea Romano and executive producer Gregory Noveck. Learn that Lex Luthor, who had little to do with the Death of Superman storyline in the comics, was added to the animated version’s mix because “for the mainstream audience, he’s pretty much like the only Superman villain who counts.” Learn that other storylines pitched by Timm and Capizzi were shot down because they weren’t “adult enough.” Learn that the movie’s Metropolis is meant to look less utopian than the one in the 1990s series. Learn that Marsters almost played Green Arrow on “Justice League” (which would have paired him with Morena Baccarin as Black Canary) but had to cancel at the last minute. Learn that composer Robert Krall was hired because producers were impressed with his work on “Angel.” Learn that a key action beat – Superman lofting above overcast skies to absorb the sun’s radiation – was cut from the film’s final battle because it was discovered that “Superman Returns” would be using it first.
* “Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!” (43:10) This documentary reminds us how the 1992-1993 Doomsday storyline grew out of DC Comics’ 1985 continuity reboot. Learn how pissed off the comic-book writers were when their Time Warner overlords asked them to throw out their Lois-Clark marriage plans in service of ABC’s TV version of “Lois & Clark.” Be reminded that “Death of Superman” stories had been told in the comics many times before 1992. Learn that the DC writers and editors were impressed with their work on the project. Be reminded that clueless youngsters flooded DC with protest letters and death threats, and that grown men stood in very long lines to buy their copies. Be reminded that the Superman comic line actually ceased publication for a few months, so as not to telegraph his inevitable return.
* “Behind the Voice” (5:19) Learn that a lot of the voice principals laid down their lines together.
* “Justice League: The New Frontier Teaser Reel” (10:44) deals with the coming animated DVD feature based on the spectacular 2004 comic-book series by Darwyn Cooke. Be reminded how rare it is to find a period piece dealing with DC Comics characters, since the Time Warner overlords have traditionally been so focused on “updating” the publisher’s classic characters. Hear what Kyle MacLachlan sounds like as Superman, what Lucy Lawless sounds like as Wonder Woman, what David Boreanaz sounds like as Hal Jordan.
* “Superman’s Last Stand” is, I think, an interactive game for the very, very bored. But I’m not certain.
* “Trailers” includes two minutes for “I Am Legend” and 90 seconds for “Blade Runner: The 25th Anniversary Edition.” Also plugged: “The Last Mimzy,” “Babylon 5: The Lost Tales,” “Spawn: The TV Series,” the pilot for the “Blade” TV show and the sixth season of “Smallville.”
“Brothers & Sisters” employs a lot of actors for whom I harbor fond regard, among them Rachel Griffiths, Balthazar Getty, Sally Field, Calista Flockhart and Emily VanCamp. (Former “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” showrunner Marti Noxon was the “Brothers” showrunner very briefly, which could explain why one of the characters is called “Joe Whedon” and another “Amber Trachtenberg.”)
Still, I never got past episode one last fall. The “Brothers” pilot was kind of dull and clumsy and the reviews were poor (Time called it “the sort of talky tedious drama that is far less intelligent than it clearly thinks it is”). “Brothers” was also airing opposite “Entourage” (or whatever else HBO was running Sunday nights at 10 p.m.). Still, when offered the chance to review the first-season “Brothers and Sisters” DVD, I figured I’d give the show another gander.
The nighttime soap tells the “Family Ties”-ish tale of the affluent, California-rooted Walker clan. Field just won an Emmy for playing the liberal Jewish mom, Nora Holden Walker; Ron Rifkin (“Alias”) plays her brother Saul Holden, who helps run the successful family produce business alongside two of Nora’s kids, Sarah (Griffiths) and Tommy (Balthazar Getty). Sarah and Tommy have three other siblings, Republican political operative Kitty (Flockhart), gay lawyer Kevin (Welch heterosexual Matthew Rhys, “Titus”) and war-vet substance abuser Justin (Dave Annable, “Reunion”). There’s also a secret second Walker family that’s discovered after the Walker patriarch (Tom Skerritt) perishes in the pilot.
Watching more episodes on DVD did not make me like the show a lot better. Its world-class actors only serve to remind me of their work in funnier, more compelling dramedies like “Six Feet Under,” “Pasadena,” “Ally McBeal” and “Everwood,” and “Brothers” doesn’t otherwise much distinguish itself in the vast vast 21st century sea of scripted hourlongs.
Except in one respect. When it comes to the gay smooching, “Brothers and Sisters” makes “Will & Grace” look like “The Unit.” The show represents a breakthrough in network male-on-male spit-swapping, boasting copious Disney-sanctioned homosexual lip-lock. The show started with the openly gay Kevin, then introduced the Rob Lowe character’s gay brother. Still later in season one it is revealed that another core member of the Walker clan is secretly gay.
All this homosexuality is not entirely unexpected! “Brothers” was created by gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz. Greg Belanti, one of the homosexuals behind “Dawson’s Creek,” “Everwood” and “Jack & Bobby” (and the upcoming “Dirty Sexy Money,” one of at least two new ABC hourlongs to feature a major transsexual plotline this season), served as head writer and showrunner during most of “Brothers’” first season.
Another writer on “Brothers” is homosexual actor/playwright David Marshall Grant. Grant, some will recall, helped generate a shitstorm of viewer protest and sponsor pullout for (a pre-Disney) ABC more than 15 years ago when his gay character cavorted nakedly with another male in “thirtysomething.” “Brothers,” a 21st century ABC hourlong with a lot more homosexual content, has to my knowledge inspired no sponsor pullouts. Owing perhaps to the popularity of “Six Feet Under” and “The L-Word” and even “Buffy,” the religious right seems to have finally conceded this battle.
. 1.3 “Affairs of State.” Writers Jon Robin Baitz and Craig Wright and actors Patricia Wettig and Matthew Rhys. Learn that SNL vet Laraine Newman was intended to play a bigger role in the series, but ended up getting phased out along with the fictional political TV talkshow her character worked on. Learn that the original game plan was for Nora Walker to learn of her husband’s affair in the series’ 13th episode rather than the third. Learn that Republican strategist Mary Matalin, via a phone call, helped the writers shape Flockhart’s character.
. 1.7 “Northern Exposure.” Screenriter/playwrights Jon Robin Baitz, David Marshall Grant and Molly Newman. Learn that this is Greg Berlanti’s favorite episode. Learn that Grant found his transition to television writing with this series “enormously challenging.” Learn that Newman’s husband played the French ambassador, but wound up almost entirely on the cutting-room floor. Learn That Newman used to write for “The Larry Sanders Show” (likely the best sitcom ever forged). The writers speak of an “ABC rulebook” that states that the fourth act of any hourlong episode is always very dramatic and about 12 pages long, while the fifth act is as a rule about half that size and sets the stage for a resolution that greets audiences in the five-page sixth act.
. 1.16 “The Other Walker.” Writers Alison Schapker, Monica Breen and Marc Guggenheim and actors Dave Annable and Emily VanCamp. Learn that the Lowe character, a presidential candidate, got the name of Robert McCallister because that was the name of the future U.S. president in Berlanti’s extra-crappy WB drama “Jack & Bobby.” Learn that Rob Lowe’s character served in the Air Force. Learn that the smalltalk leading to the meat of the scene is called “the downbeat.” Schapker & Breen, who worked on “Charmed,” “Alias” and “Lost,” believe “Brothers” is the third series they’ve written on in which “a sister comes out of the woodwork.” Learn that Schapker (or possibly Breen) saw “Top Gun” 11 times while it was in cinemas.
. 1.23 “Matriarchy.” Director Ken Olin, writer Sarah Caplan and actor Balthazar Getty. Olin reveals Getty likes to laugh at the employment benefits of the guest stars. Learn that Sally Field was in Garry Marshall’s first series. Learn that Michael Nouri was in Ken Olin’s first series, “Bay City Blues.” Learn that Garry Marshall is a fan of the show, and that Garry’s involvement in “Brothers” owes to a chance encounter with Getty in the Disney commissary. Learn that “the guy from ‘Titanic’” rigged the episode’s exciting tent collapse. Learn that Emily Vancamp is hot for “Alias” vet Michael Vartan, whom she first met at an upfront.
* “The Deleted Episode: ‘State of the Parties’” (42:50), an installment, intended to serve as the series’ second episode, that never aired. Baitz explains in an introduction that ABC pulled it because it slowed things down.
* “Creating The Walker Family Tree.” (29:01) Series creator Baitz compliments showrunner Berlanti again and again on what a fine job Berlanti is doing with Baitz’ concept. Sherri Cooper describes her writing partnership with David Marshall Grant as “an arranged marriage.” Staff writers Cliff Olin (son of series star Patricia Wettig and series producer-director Ken Olin) and Peter Calloway admit they had little experience with marijuana when they a wrote a Sally Field/Margot Kidder dope-smoking episode. Be reminded that Rachel Griffith’s American accent is fake. Learn that Ken Olin thought the show “took off” when Sally Field’s character revealed she knew of her late husband’s mistress. Learn that the Walker family enjoys its alcohol. Learn from Sarah Caplan that something like two-thirds of the “Brothers & Sisters” crew (along with Ron Rifkin and Balthazar Getty) came from “Alias.”
* “Behind the Scenes With The Brothers” (6:14) Learn that Balthazar Getty, Dave Annable and Matthew Rhys hang around with each other and behave like brothers off-camera as well. They pretend to kick each others’ testicles. They horseplay with Ken Olin on the producer’s couch. They take us on a tour of craft services, make-up, wardrobe, the writers’ offices and the dressing rooms.
* “The Family Business” (4:35) There is a family business within the show, but this minidoc deals with the fact that producer Ken Olin’s entire family is employed by the series, including actress-wife Patricia, writer-son Cliff and actress-daughter Roxy.
* “Bloopers and Outtakes” (2:28) Flubbed lines! More testes bashing! Wettig combines the words winery and vineyard! Dirty words are fully bleeped!
CONSPICOUS BY ABSENCE:
* The never-aired original pilot starring Betty Buckley as “Iva Walker,” Jonathan LaPaglia as the gay “Bryan Walker,” Marta Martin as “Bryan’s ex-wife,” Dan Futterman as Flockhart love interest “Jonathan Sternfeld” and longtime Olin associate Peter Horton as “Warren Salter.”
Herc’s Popular Pricing Pantry
Amazon is going nuts with its “TV Month sale” now that the networks are only days away from launching their fall slates.
To save you some of the searching and scrolling, here are the most heavily discounted titles, all 60% OFF:
Babylon 5 Season One $23.99
Babylon 5 Season Two $23.99
Babylon 5 Season Three $23.99
Babylon 5 Season Four $23.99
Babylon 5 Season Five $23.99
Bones Season One $19.99
Cheyenne Season One $15.99
Gilligan’s Island Season Two $15.99
Gilligan’s Island Season Two $15.99
Gilligan’s Island Season Three $15.99
F-Troop Season One $15.99
Invasion The Complete Series $23.99
Justice League Season One $17.99
Knots Landing Season One $15.99
Kung Fu Season One $15.99
Kung Fu Season Two $15.99
Kung Fu Season Three $15.99
Life Goes On Season One $15.99
Make Room For Daddy Season Five $13.99
Nip/Tuck Season One $23.99
Nip/Tuck Season Two $23.99
Nip/Tuck Season Three $23.99
Smallville Season One $23.99
Smallville Season Two $23.99
Smallville Season Three $23.99
Smallville Season Four $23.99
Smallville Season Five $23.99
Superboy Season One $15.99
Supernatural Season One $23.99
Veronica Mars Seaons One $23.99
Veronica Mars Seaons Two $23.99
The Waltons Season One $15.99
There are hundreds of other titles at lesser (but still impressive) discounts. Find the entire “TV Month sale” here.
Also still in force is
Amazon’s Giant Emmy Sale.
To save you some of the searching and scrolling, here’s a slightly more organized rundown of most of those titles:
All In The Family 1.x-6.x $14.99
The Ben Stiller Show: The Complete Series $15.49
The Corner: The Complete Series $15.99
Hazel 1.x $14.99
The Jeffersons 1.x-6.x $14.99
Mad About You 1.x $14.99
Maude 1.x $14.99
Murphy Brown 1.x $15.49
Night Court 1.x $15.49
Reba 1.x-2.x/4.x $14.99
Soap 1.x-4.x $14.99
227 1.x $14.99
The Waltons 1.x-2.x $15.99
Alien Nation: The Complete Series $19.99
Anything But Love 1.x $19.99
Arrested Development 1.x-3.x $19.99
The Bernie Mac Show 1.x $19.99
Bewitched 1.x-4.x $19.49
The Big Valley 1.x $19.49
The Bob Newhart Show 1.x-4.x $19.49
Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1.x-7.x $19.99
Christy: The Complete Series $19.99
Dharma & Greg 1.x $19.99
Family 1.x-2.x $19.99
Hill Street Blues 1.x-2.x $19.99
Huff 1.x $19.49
In Living Color 1.x-5.x $19.49
King of the Hill 1.x-6.x $19.49
The Larry Sanders Show 1.x $19.49
Mad About You 2.x-3.x $19.49
Malcolm in the Middle $19.99
The Mary Tyler Moore Show 1.x-4.x $19.49
M*A*S*H 1.x-11.x $19.99
Millennium 2.x-3.x $19.99
Murder One 1.x-2.x $19.99
NYPD Blue 1.x-4.x $19.49
The Pretender 1.x-4.x $19.99
Remington Steele 1.x-5.x $19.49
St. Elsewhere 1.x $19.49
The White Shadow 1.x-2.x $19.49
WKRP In Cincinnati 1.x $19.99
Babylon 5 1.x-4.x $23.99
Benson 1.x $21.99
Boston Legal 1.x-2.x $24.99
Columbo 5.x $21.49
Curb Your Enthusiasm 2.x-3.x $20.49
Dallas 3.x $21.49
ER 2.x-5.x $22.49
Everybody Love Raymond 4.x-5.x $20.99
Magnum P.I. 4.x $21.99
Millennium 1.x $23.99
Murder She Wrote 2.x $21.99
My Name Is Earl 1.x $24.99
Nip/Tuck 1.x-3.x $23.99
Northern Exposure 3.x $21.99
The Office 2.x $24.49
The Rockford Files 3.x $21.49
Smallville 2.x/5.x $23.99
Supernatural 1.x $23.99
The Unit 1.x $24.99
House 1.x-2.x $31.49
Law & Order SVU 1.x/3.x/5.x $27.99
Monk 1.x-4.x $27.49
Prison Break 1.x $28.49
Saturday Night Live 1.x $29.99
Seinfeld 3.x-4.x $26.49
The Shield 1.x-5.x $29.49
That ‘70s Show 1.x-5.x $28.99
24 1.x-5.x $29.49
The West Wing 1.x-7.x $25.99
The X-Files 1.x-9.x $28.49
For the complete sale, click here.