Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 16: "Meet Mr. Mxyzptlk"Reviewed by: Scotty V
An old Totem Pole stands in a windy field, presumably somewhere near Shuster College. T.J. and Lana are there to cover the story of its removal from the field. However, even with a crane the Totem won't budge and Superboy is called in to help. Even Superboy has measurable trouble moving it, but eventually he lifts it from the ground. Suddenly, the Totem disappears with a 'Pop' and in its place a little man dressed in yellow and calling himself "Mixus-piddle-ick" appears. The little guy claims he's been waiting to talk to Superboy and wants to meet him on top of the biology building to discuss his making Superboy a star. On the building's rooftop, he explains that magic has gotten boring in the 5th Dimension, and that he wants to take Superboy back with him so he and all his people can learn to be super too. When Clark refuses, Mxy (Michael J. Pollard) suggests a wager. If he makes Lana fall in love with him then Superboy comes with him; if not, then Mxy'll leave.
When Mxy's first two attempts, a joke and kiss and then a fabricated rescue, fail; the little guy disguises himself as Clark Kent and tries again. The real Clark catches him in the act but allows the façade to go on for a bit. Fake Clark gives Lana a gift, telling her from now on every day's her birthday, then takes her swimming and for a walk by the bay. Though all the while new Clark acts completely different, love struck and extremely dorky, Lana doesn't seem to care and instead tells him the day's been "heaven." When real Clark, as Superboy, decides to step in and put a stop to the madness, Mxy Clark tells Lana she should go with Superboy. For what woman in her right mind would want to stay with Clark Kent when she could be with such a great hero? Lana then shows her true colors, telling Superboy she's sorry, but that she can't leave Clark.
Superboy, T.J. and a Professor (Russ Wheeler) meet to discuss the Totem, trying to figure out what the magical creature is really about. Superboy expresses the need to get rid of the "imp," while T.J. seems surprised to hear the guy's been hitting on Lana. After all, says T.J., how could Lana have time with all the togetherness she and Clark have been spending lately? The Professor spots the creature's name, written in strange lettering on the Totem in T.J.'s photos, and says something about "reflection," hoping that soon he can discover more. Meanwhile Lana and Mxy Clark head to Lana's dorm room, where "Clark" tries to put the moves on Lana. When he kisses her though, Lana tells him he should leave and he refuses, turning back to Mxy before her eyes. He then plants a magical suggestion in her head, telling her she wants to go back to the 5th Dimension with him and, hypnotized, she agrees.
On the rooftop, Mxy informs Superboy that Lana wants to go with him and Superboy formulates a plan to stop them from leaving. Spotting a puddle on the roof and remembering the Professor saying "reflection," Superboy says Mxyzptlk backwards and smiles. When Lana arrives near the Totem site, prepared to leave, T.J and Superboy give her a "note," containing a special goodbye T.J. will video for Lana's father. Mxy appears, demanding to know what they're doing. But when the boys appeal to Mxy's sense of decency, Mxy allows the reading. Lana though, is unable to pronounce a certain word on the letter so Superboy offers to help. Baited perfectly, Mxyzptlk steps in and tells Superboy his help will never be needed again and reads the word himself. Since the word is his name backwards, Mxy realizes he's been tricked and then vanishes. Later, Clark and Lana discuss the incident and Clark's double and Lana tells him one Clark is all she needs.
Rating - 2 (out of 5): If there's one thing I really like about this show, it's the theme song. I mean it's no "Save Me," or John Williams, but it's still very Superman-ish and I often catch myself singing it around the house. If only it weren't so "80's" it would be that much better. But then, the show did come out when Miami Vice was all the rage so that's to be expected. It's really too bad I can't like the rest of the show as I do the theme song, but when we keep meeting like this they really make it very difficult.
"Hiya folks! Mixus-piddle-ick is da' name, dimension hoppin' is da' game."
That about sums things up. I mean, the truth is the writers actually got the character of Mxy pretty well. He really does seem like a live-action incarnation of Superman's silly, magical, annoying imp tormentor. The problem is, the acting is so bad and the premise and resolution so unbelievable that it doesn't even matter. Every time Pollard speaks as Mxy it makes me cringe. In the opening scene alone, all he says is the line listed above and I want to throttle something when I hear it.
The entire scene is weird though. It starts with a Professor, a bulldozer/crane and some construction type guys trying to move the Totem. T.J. and Lana are there to cover the story of the... removal of a Totem pole? Okay, so then when the bulldozer can't remove the thing, Superboy (who has nothing better to do) simply shows up in order to remove it. First we see Superboy fly in but then, when the camera angle switches we see Supes walk into frame. I mention this because there's a very confusing bit of dialogue just before Superboy is seen walking up next to Lana but right after he's shown landing when the angle switches. "Thanks for comin' Superboy!" When I first watched this episode I thought it was Superboy who said the line because the line ends just as he walks up next to Lana and Newton's lips are clearly just finishing speaking when the line ends. However, it almost sounds like T.J.'s voice and why would Superboy say that anyway? Just after the line is spoken though Lana, who Superboy walks next to, laughs, as if the hero's made a joke so maybe Superboy did say it just to be funny. But then, it also sounds as if the line comes from a bit of a distance and it has less volume than the next line Superboy does speak so who knows? I'm guessing the dialogue was looped in after the show was shot and that there was some problem with Newton's actual line, if he had one, or that the creators just wanted something there when there originally wasn't. It's perplexing. But then we have the rest of the scene and episode.
The construction worker in this scene, who wasn't there a minute ago, is wearing a sweater in sunny hot Florida, and he's doing construction work outside...in the middle of the day. I think the shovels in the scene are the same ones used later when Mxy 'Pops' in two prisoners to attack our heroes. Not that there's anything wrong with reusing props, it's just that I don't think I've ever even seen a shovel on this show so it occurs to me that someone standing nearby said something like: "Hey, since we already have these shovels..." Then there's the Professor. The dialogue this poor, yet horrible, actor is forced to speak is just terrible. "Absolutely amazing!" He says just as T.J. and Lana are magically clothed in carnival outfits, "Instantaneous matter transference!" Even Newton seems to be off his game here. I suppose it's possible that the producers told everyone to just be silly since Mxy can be kind of a silly character and since the episode itself is silly.
We then go to the rooftop where Mxy tells Superboy everyone in the 5th Dimension does magic, but that it's all they can do. So what's the problem? If you can all do magic, which is something Supes is vulnerable to anyway, then why don't you just make him do what you want? And if what you want is to have Superboy's powers, then why not just magically give them to yourselves? Mxy already zaps himself around instantaneously, flies and floats, brings criminals from who knows where, changes shovels into firearms and can make himself look exactly like Clark. I don't see why he needs Superboy to come with him at all. It's not that a reason couldn't have been given that would make sense. It's just that there wasn't a reason given that does. Mxy begs Supes to come with him, saying that the hero can teach them, show them, how to have powers. How would he do that exactly? "This is how you...fly." Especially when they can seemingly do anything they want it just doesn't make sense.
When Mxy spells out his name in the air, the letters appear magically and you figure that they're not really there physically and they'll vanish when Mxy's done. Only they don't. In fact, the letters staying there is a lynchpin to the resolution of the episode that really makes no sense. When Superboy is told that Mxy and Lana are going back to the 5th Dimension, he finds the letters right where they were before. They even have one of those strings holding them all together. It's like a "Happy Birthday" decoration but instead of "Happy Birthday" it says "Mxyzptlk," or in this case, since Clark picks it up backwards and gets his nonsensical idea "Kltpzyxm." Why would magical letters that were brought into existence by an omnipotent being with endless power be strung together by a string? When I first saw them fall to the ground early in the episode I just thought it was a bad effect. That they had used the prop with letters strung together to give the appearance of floating magical letters but that when they showed them fall we were able to tell what it was by mistake. But then they come back to it at the end of the show and use it as the crux that tells Clark what to do. As absurd as all that is, why would the strangely strung together letters still be there after Mxy 'popped' out of there? Wouldn't they just 'pop' out too?
And the lady that Superboy saves from having a windowsill flowerpot dropped on her head is just too much. After Supes save her, Mxy displaces her somewhere and takes her place. Here's where he tells Superboy that in the 5th Dimension they settle disputes with wagers and that they will gamble on Lana's love. Superboy tries to grab Mxy but it's that moment the imp chooses to replace the lady and zap himself away. When that happens though, the woman acts lovestruck, saying: "Ohhhh Superboy!" It's really kind of sickening. The prisoners Mxy transports to attack so he can save Lana are another case of the seemingly intentional hiring of poor actors as guest stars on this show. And when they hit Clark he just falls down leaving Lana to face two armed men by herself. I understand the need to protect his identity but what if they'd shot her?
So then Mxy takes on Clark's identity and this is where things get really silly. And I get that that's what they were going for but it's really a little much to believe. This guy is clearly not Clark. Even Christopher Reeve never acted this dorky as Kent. And on this show, Clark has never really been very dorky at all. Lana does mention that Clark's been acting strange and different. But while that goes for his romantic attitude toward her, it wouldn't really stand for him actually having a completely different personality. It further doesn't ring true when "Clark" tries to kiss her, after they've been romantic all day and there have been romantic hints throughout the series, that she would get angry and say "I think you should leave" as if he's a stranger.
In the lab when Superboy is stewing with jealousy over Mxy hitting on Lana I was put off by T.J.'s reaction. If you read my reviews you already know I'm not crazy about the T.J. character but a lot of that comes from Jim Calvert's acting and the character just being a total boob. In this case though, he's very two-faced and back stabby toward his "best friend." When Superboy tells him not to underestimate Clark because there's more to Clark than what can be seen, T.J.'s exact words are "Look Superboy, I love the guy but hot lava he ain't." It's just insulting and he says it right to the guy's face. T.J. doesn't know that Superboy is Clark but Superboy now knows what T.J. really thinks of him. Superboy also acts strangely and a bit out of character here because he acts jealous. Now I realize what we're seeing is Clark, who does have feelings for Lana and is frustrated that Mxy is seemingly unstoppable, showing his emotions. But he says to T.J. about the imp, as he calls him, "he's hitting on her (Lana) and I don't think she minds!" Now Clark knows that Mxy is disguised as him so that makes things very different. Clark wouldn't be upset at Lana for not minding because she's under the impression that Clark is hitting on her. Furthermore, when he confronts them by the bay as Superboy, he could have simply explained to her that the Clark she is with is really that magic guy from the Totem. Instead he says: "That's not the Clark you know," but then just slinks into the corner when she says she can't leave Clark just to be with Superboy. It's just a dumb way for them to keep this absurd plot going.
So then Clark makes the "necessary to end the story plot whole" jump to conclusion that, for some reason, if he makes Mxyzptlk say "Kltpzyxm" that everything will once again be right with the world. Why? I suppose it was because the Professor said something about the creature's name and reflection. They should have at least had the Proff say something about having the creature say its name backwards. I realize that then they wouldn't be able to show Clark thinking it up on his own when he saw his own backward reflection in the puddle but that's a sacrifice I would have suggested they make. Even if the Professor would have said something about saying it backwards but not mentioned the creature needed to do it. Then we could have Clark thinking up his plan and not being 100% but not just making something up that didn't really make any logical sense. We get it because we know whom the imp is and what Supes needs to do, but Clark doesn't and shouldn't.
So in summation, we have a silly episode that doesn't really come together particularly well where characters act out of character or just plain stupid and where a completely implausible jump to illogic solves the case of the week sending an imp who can't act back to 5th Dimension. Not even can the imp not act (his Clark impression to my eyes and ears is a dismal failure) but actor Pollard appears to be reading from cue cards, that he may never have seen before, the entire time. We have Lana showing affection for Clark even though Clark seems a doofus who then turns into an imp and we have Superboy jealous of himself while T.J. makes fun of his best friend behind his back. Some of Mxy's attitude and dialogue do sound right though and I can appreciate that the costume is old school accurate so therefore I add a point because the writers actually considered the comics for this one. Otherwise this'd be another 1 score. Next up, we look toward the marshes as "Birdwoman of the Swamps" takes flight.
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