By FRANCES GRANT
"No flights, no tights," is the promise from the creators of Smallville, the latest television reforging of the young life of the Man of Steel.
Instead of a fully fledged superhero, the twist to this version of Superman is that he is a confused high school student coping both with raging hormones and strangely sprouting super powers he barely understands.
Similarly, the arch villain of the piece, Lex Luthor, has yet to embrace his evil destiny. Both the hero and anti-hero are characters in the making.
There was a flight or two in last week's opening double episode, but only in the young Clark Kent's dreams as he zoomed over to the house of the extremely fetching Lana Lang and hovered over her bed. The dream woke him and there he was suspended above his own bed.
The flight dream, we suddenly understand, is the kind of surprise nocturnal event which can visit a teen superhero. How will he cope, you wonder, when the x-ray vision and the heat vision kicks in?
This show makes much of its different take on the teen angst drama. Clark Kent is an alien and alienation is the primary condition of teenagers. The dilemmas caused by his special circumstances merely throws his search for self-understanding and acceptance into sharper relief.
"I just want to go through high school without being a total loser," he says. Like any teen, his main wish is, 'I'd give anything to be normal.'
Unfortunately, his powers, rather than a gift, appear more of an encumbrance at this stage in his life. How do you explain to your peers about being able to leap a tall corn silo at a single bound?
His flaws too are more poignant than most. How tragic, for example, that the girl he's lovesick for should wear a piece of kryptonite around her neck, ensuring that he cannot get near her without falling over.
But the "I'm not from round here" factor is hardly new. On the same channel on Tuesday nights a gang of good-looking aliens and earthling friends are making a meal of the alienation metaphor in Roswell, against the fabulously lit backdrop of New Mexico.
Smallville also gives its goodlooking alien and earthling friends the kind of picturesque broodiness which seems a hallmark of the teen drama meets X-Files genre.
And Smallville is no primary-coloured comicbook town but a place of supernaturally glowing cornfields and deep mystical shadows.
It also looks set to boast an impressive range of X-Files-ish villains - the kryptonite littering the Smallville environment providing a handy cause of the town's high ratio of freaks and mutants.
The nasties have also generated the show's best lines so far: of the bug-collector who metamorphoses into a spider and kills his mother, a disbeliever says, "I can't believe he'd hurt a fly".
Smallville also has its terribly witting references to other versions of the great American Superman myth and a sprinkling of other ha-ha allusions, such as having Kent reading Nietzsche.
But mostly the show doesn't fall into the temptation of trying to signal its coolness through constant use of hip pop culture allusions and historic Superman references in lieu of action.
And it certainly looks like it has money to spend on special effects, if last week's attention-grabbing meteor shower is any indication.
Now the set-up work has been done, the show looks set to follow the example of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another of its teen drama cousins, and keep plenty of bad guy butt-kicking action to break up all that teen torment.
* Smallville TV2, 7.30 pm tomorrow
By FRANCES GRANT