With news of Smallville being renewed for a ninth season, fans can start to wonder what next season might or should look like. We're still waiting on official word regarding Tom Welling's contract. Will he be back for the whole season, or will he only appear in a specific number of episodes like the rest of the cast?
If Smallville wants to survive even longer, the best bet would be to lessen Welling's episodes. While it may seem counterintuitive to have Clark Kent missing for a few episodes, in the long run, it could help the franchise thrive.
Tom Welling may be the star of Smallville, but with every season, it must become harder and harder to convince him to stick around a show he's devoted the majority of his career to. Much like former co-stars Kristin Kreuk and Michael Rosenbaum, Welling surely must have a desire to broaden his horizons.
In order for the show, or some form of it, to stick around for a long time, it becomes necessary to switch things up. The introduction of Oliver Queen as a permanent fixture this season was a great start, but now Smallville has a chance to invest even more in the Green Arrow.
In a perfect world, here's what I would do. Sign both Welling and Justin Hartley up to appear in 14 episodes each next season. Then the show can have eight episodes devoted to each separately with six more episodes where the Green Arrow and Clark Kent combine forces. It would be like having two shows in one, which could make an even smoother transition if Welling decides to leave by the series wants to continue.
It would be a stroke of genius for The CW to use Smallville season 9 as a testing ground for a potential Green Arrow spin-off. Instead of just suddenly creating a new show, the writers could work on the character and develop his own storylines that could easily be transferred to a full-length season.
The main trick would be to give them distinct stories. While fans love Clark and his slowly developing relationship with Lois Lane, it would be wise to branch Oliver out and work on him (and possibly Tess Mercer) in a world that doesn't always come back to LuthorCorp. Lex is Clark's archenemy, so this format could let them create a villain to rival the Green Arrow.
If separating these two heroes seems to jarring, the show has Chloe and Jimmy as glue. Their stories could easily cross into both spheres, with Chloe providing tactical support for Clark and Oliver.
Giving Smallville a ninth season is a good start, but the writers (and the CW) should look to the future. With most of the networks new shows failing, it would be a smart move to find new ways to get as much as they can out of current ones. The network has already started this with a Gossip Girl spin-off in the works, but Smallville has even more potential. It's the network's longest-running series, and with these suggestions, it could keep that title for a long time.