Ah, the 1990’s. Not a helluva lotta good came out of that decades. It was pretty lame for the most part, especially for comic book fans. Except for this one little gem: The Flash. But, alas, many people didn’t get to see much of the show.
The reason no one got to see much of it was because CBS was playing schedule roulette with the Flash, and then wouldn’t even show the damn thing when it did manage to stay in one time slot for more than a week. I remember they put it up against both The Cosby Show and The Simpsons on a Thursday night. Thursday nights were owned by NBC’s sitcom block, so that was a losing proposition from the outset, and virtually guaranteed that an effects-laden, budget-heavy show was doomed. I remember at least two instances where the program was preempted for “breaking news stories,” meaning we missed out on 45 minutes of story (and on one night, the whole damn show). I know I missed at least three episodes when they were originally broadcast, which majorly sucked, since this show was fantastic! I heard that some of The Powers That Be at CBS went so far as to apologize to some of the cast for mucking up their chances for a hit show.
Re-watching this show, and doing so in color for the first time ( I didn’t get a color set until 1992; don’t ask), the show was, in my opinion, the best attempt to bring live-action comics to the small screen up to that time. The only better incarnation was Chris Reeve’s Superman (at least the first two movies). Everything was garish; four color sets, older, stylish cars, not quite Gothic architecture. Watching it now reminds me a lot of Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy movie; the creators of The Flash seemed to use the same approach to the look and color scheme of the show. And it’s a very good look.
The acting was pretty good as well. John Wesley Shipp, like Chris Reeve, was a soap opera veteran and played the role with aplomb and a certain goofiness that fit the proceedings perfectly. Amanda Pays was cast as Dr. Tina McGee, and manages to keep a steady head amid the strangeness. You also have some interesting roles for many noted actors and performers, like Richard Belzer, Alex Desert (as Barry Allen’s best pal Julio), Brian Cranston, Jeri Ryan, Bill Mumy, and David Cassidy. And, of course, Mark Hamill playing the Trickster, which seemed to be as much therapy for him as voicing the Joker on the Batman cartoon.
The plot of the show was fairly true to the comic books, with Barry Allen being hit by lightning and chemicals to transform into the fastest man alive. The show itself is a grand, if unintended combination of all three then-current incarnations of the Flash –this Central City reminded me of Jay Garrick’s roost in the original Flash Comics, and the science was similar to Wally West’s mid-eighties run as the Scarlet Speedster. The show was a little corny, a little campy, at times, but it was a lot of fun, like a good comic book (or a good television show) should be. It wasn’t as heavy on actual super-villains as the comic book was, with only a couple of the Rogues’ Gallery making it to the small screen. But TV budgets could (and still can) only go so far. Especially in those pre-CGI days.
I’m sure a lot of folks have been watching the newest incarnation of The Flash on the CW, a spin-off of Arrow. It’s a great show, and features several stars of the original Flash series in supporting roles, particularly John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen’s father, and Amanda Pays as a new version of Tina McGee.
This set runs for around $16.00 on Amazon.com, and it’s really worth the price – 6 DVDs with all 22 episodes of the show. The only drawback is that there aren’t any extras on the making of the show. But I can live with that. I binge-watched the whole series over the course of a few mornings and afternoons, but if you want to catch the really good episodes first, the pilot, “Watching the Detectives”, “Sins of the Father” (featuring M. Emmet Walsh as Barry’s father), “Ghost in the Machine” (introducing the fifties’ vigilante the Nightshade), and “Done with Mirrors” (featuring David Cassidy as the Mirror Master) are all great shows.