Like BTVS, only starring a guy and less compelling and individualized characters, Smallville follows a teen with superpowers and the archetypical struggle with adolescence, adulthood, identity and superpowers, all of which even out to be the same thing. Superpowers as metaphor for puberty is a concept that I find endlessly fascinating, probably because part of me still thinks I'm a cripplingly shy 15-year-old.
Though I like the superpowers=teenage life trope, Smallville doesn't instantly win me over. It has a hard act to follow, set up by BTVS [that's Buffy The Vampire Slayer]. See — BTVS was like Desperate Housewives in terms of unfortunate events combined with Gilmore Girls for witty dialog and construction and Dead Like Me for its thoughtful take on mortality. Then there was the whole tone-switching Romeo-and-Juliet angle. You know how Romeo and Juliet reads like a comedy until Mercutio gets killed? BTVS took that comedy/tragedy balance to an even more ambiguous level by killing off craploads of beloved characters, yet never sparing the humor. BTVS was a comedic melodrama with some actual emotional heft.
Plus it had VAMPIRES, which are another cool metaphor [or cluster of metaphors] unto themselves, but I could digress about them for a long time, so I won't.
Having established that BTVS is the critical asymptote of television greatness that all one-hour dramas yearn for but can never achieve, I now grant that Smallville is a solid and entertaining show. With a thoroughly standard formula as popularized by BTVS, Smallville must distinguish itself through characters and setting. As far as characters go, Tom Welling as Clark Kent has little emotional nuance; his inner turbulence comes across as model-boy poutiness, rather than Sturm und Drang. He spends most of his time looking and acting like a Straight Man, and I don't care. Fortunately, almost everybody else acts better than he does.
While I'm talking about characters, here's a special KRYPTONITE [or whatever will make her go away] section for Lana Lang. Does anyone else find her an irritant and drag on the entire series? I've only seen eps 1-4 of season 3, and I can't stand her. Every time she appears, the show turns into Angsty McAngst and the Angstballs. Clark may be a zero, but Lana just has negative value. What sort of intelligent person would pine after someone who kept hurting her [can you say "prep for a future abusive relationship"?]?? What sort of modern, even halfway enlightened teenage girl thinks it's her mission to "save" her bad boyfriend or "wait" for him until he's ready? What sort of moron keeps following Clark around even though it gets her tied up, injected, knocked out, etc. [and that's just in those 4 eps!]? The point is that she's a brainless airhead with no sense of self-preservation, no emotional grounding and, worst of all, no freakin' backbone. You'd think someone who kept intercepting bad guys and kicking them in the nuts would be brave and interesting, but no. She's just like some walking, talking plot point with inconsistent psychology who exists only to motivate Clark into rescuing things.
Back on track, I really like the setting of Smallville. After I got used to the characters saying Smallville and Metropolis with straight faces, I thoroughly enjoyed the singular setting. See…Smallville is a pretty weird place for TV Land and not just because of the meteor rocks. There are an inordinate number of parental figures in Smallville that care about their children [no matter how messed up they may be]. In fact, Clark and his parents, stupendously enough, form an unbroken, happy, two-parent family, a source of strength and comfort to each other. The Kents represent the flip side of all the kookily dysfunctional families that populate most of TV Land: the Kents prove that families are good for something after all.