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When ABC and Lorimar approached Deborah Joy LeVine about doing a new series about Superman, she said she wasn't interested.

LeVine, though, was intrigued with creating a series about Lois Lane and Clark Kent. "I'm interested in doing a whole new show with a whole new take on it," LeVine recalls telling her suitors. "So if you give me that creative license to go ahead and create a new sort of romantic adventure, a 'Moonlighting' if-Bruce-Willis-could-fly-type show, than I would be very interested."

The end result, "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," premieres Sunday on ABC.

Before creating the series, LeVine, whose office is filled with Man of Steel memorabilia, read 250 Superman DC comic books. "I felt I had a duty to all of those people out there who are such die-hard Superman fans, even though I was going to skew the myth and do it the way I wanted to," says LeVine, who was executive story consultant on ABC's "Equal Justice."

'I felt like I needed to know the history. The shock that I got was that I really enjoyed those comic books."

"Lois & Clark" is very much a '90s take on the Supie myth. Clark Kent (Dean Cain) is anything but a nerd and has a body that would make Fabio envious. "He's really looking for a great woman to settle down with and having a family," LeVine says. "He does have a little problem in that he comes from another planet."

Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) is still the star reporter on Metropolis' Daily Planet, but she spends her evenings alone watching old movies. Daily Planet editor Perry White (Lane Smith) is an oddball whose favorite phrase is "Great shades of Elvis." And Clark/Superman's rich, powerful nemesis, Lex Luthor (John Shea), is a handsome charmer.

LeVine promises 25% of the series will feature "superhero" sequences. "The tights on Dean Cain are a must," she says, laughing.

The lavish production occupies four sound stages at Warner Bros. in Burbank. Today, Perry is giving Clark a lecture in his office about not getting involved with Cat Grant (Tracy Scoggins), the paper's society-gossip columnist.

The Cat Grant character is new to Metropolis. "I am referred to by Lois as the mudslinging liver monger," purrs Scoggins ("Dynasty"). "I try to seduce Clark. I try to seduce Superman. I want Lex Luthor. I'm after the most eligible, the most sexy men--whomever I can get my claws into."

Surprisingly, Smith ("The Mighty Ducks") has never seen the classic '50s Superman series starring George Reeves or any of the Christopher Reeve movies. "What fascinated me about this part is that Perry White is totally outrageous and unpredictable," Smith says. "Since I'm from Memphis, they decided to bring in this Elvis Presley element and make me a fan of Elvis. He's the real comic element of the show."

Cain ("Beverly Hills, 90210") is getting a quick massage between takes. "I've a very sore neck," explains the former college and pro football player. "It's the flying and long hours. There's a lot of physical work to this role. I am averaging 12 to 14 hours a day, five days a week."

Cain isn't intimidated following in the cape and tights of Reeves and Reeve. "We're a totally different show," Cain says. "Clark is a normal person who happens to be extremely nice and has strong values. He creates the Superman guise so Clark Kent can do good as opposed to hiding himself as Clark Kent. It's important for him to be a normal person to fit in. He wears glasses to fit in."

This time around, Lois isn't the staid, matronly dressed woman of the old series. "She's going to be bright and smart," says Hatcher, whose last series was CBS' "Sunday Dinner." "She's hip. She has her own style."

The actress worked with the costumer to get a specific style for Lois. "I wanted her to have a haircut or clothes you hadn't seen," Hatcher explains. "So what we have ended up doing is finding a lot of retro '40s stuff and refitting and redesigning it, so it fits really nicely but looks a little different."

Hatcher is pleased the series focuses more on relationships than Superman's feats. "The structure of the show is about these two people getting to know each other, having to work together and competing over stories," Hatcher says. "There's also a relationship triangle between Lois, who has her feelings for Superman and doesn't have feelings for Clark, but will develop feelings for Clark as Clark."

But how does Hatcher justify the fact that Lois doesn't realize Clark and Superman are one and the same?

"In our show, there are plenty of women in the newsroom who think he's to die for," Hatcher says. "Lois just isn't one of them. I think she gets annoyed that he's someone she's going to have work with and is challenging her space. It kind of touches her off guard, so she would never think of him that way. Superman, she just meets under different circumstances."

"I don't think she doesn't like Clark," Cain says. "I don't think she sees Clark for who he is. Superman radiates a whole different aura."

"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC; repeats of the old "Superman" series air daily at midnight and 5 a.m. on Nickelodeon.

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