With yet more rumors that the CW are looking at spinning a new show out of the long-running Smallville going around, it's time to finally break the truth to the troubled network: The show can't support a spin-off. Here's why.
Here's the thing that the CW keeps forgetting: As successful as Smallville may be - at least by CW standards - it's not really successful because of Smallville itself. When it comes down to it, the CW show that stars Tom Welling as an entirely unconvincing early-20s version of Clark Kent is, at best, an entirely okay show, lifted up considerably by the fact that it's about Superman.
When it comes to Superman and television, there're two very strange things that happen. Firstly, television producers these days seem to want to stay away from doing an outright Superman show - perhaps because they don't like the complete Superman set-up, perhaps because of budget, perhaps to stay away from comparisons to the Christopher Reeve movies, perhaps a mixture of all three - and, instead, produce kind of uneven-if-not-outright-crappy shows (Lois and Clark, I'm looking directly at you). Secondly, those crappy shows stay on the air much longer than they have any right to, outliving many, much better, shows.
There is, I think, an unspoken understanding on behalf of TV audiences that they will support even a shitty Superman show longer than they would anything similar because, hey, it's Superman. Certainly, the "Hey, it's Superman" school of thought explains a lot about Smallville's success. Smallville, by placing itself in what was originally the formative years of Clark Kent's heroic existence - something that, let's face it, doesn't really hold true by the time the show is going into its ninth season; am I really the only one who thinks that, after eight years of minor adventures and annually saving the world, Clark should be a lot better about this by now? - gave itself permission to be lazy with its writing, knowing that the audience would fill in a lot of the blanks itself. They didn't need to move beyond broad strokes with their core cast, because we knew the characters already, which worked perfectly well until they started doing the same with characters we didn't already know (or know so well): Tess Mercer, anyone? Or even Davis Bloom?
(And before I hear someone defending the show by pointing out that Chloe was an original character from day one - Come on, you thought she was going to turn into Lois for years and read that into her character as well, admit it.)
The problem with previous attempts to spin off a show from Smallville, be it Mercy Reef or The Graysons, is that there's only really one other character who has the same level of pop cultural awareness as Superman, and he's apparently off-limits to television. But without using Batman, any potential spin-off from Smallville would mean that the show would lose the (mass) audience's help in telling the story, and come over as something closer to Heroes, but on an even smaller budget... and no-one really wants to watch that for more than a couple of seasons at most.