The Flash TV Series: Underrated
About a month ago, Matt over at WMD
alerted me that the 1990s TV series "The Flash" was out on DVD. Immediately, it was purchased at the mecca of DVDs, Best Buy. Since then, the guys and I have watched the 20+ episodes of the series. I think it could have had a chance. However, network executives wouldn't let it grow. First, however, the obligatory...
In a freak accident, police scientist Barry Allen is struck by lightning and doused in chemicals. Barry discovers that this accident has made him the fastest man alive, able to move at nearly the speed of sound. With the help of STAR Labs scientist Tina McGee, he learns to control his powers...but when his older brother Jay (a motorcycle cop) is killed in the line of duty, Barry asks Tina o make him a special costume that can withstand the rigors of hyperspeed travel. He sets forth to clean up the streets of Central City as The Flash.
This series starred John Wesley Shipp, who has appeared on JAG as well as soap operas, as Barry Allen, the forensic scientist blessed/cursed with the power of the Flash. It also features the alluring Amanda Pays as Christina McGee, the scientist who helps Barry control and understand his powers and limitations. Also a mainstay is Alex Desert, who plays Barry's colleague in the crime lab, famous for his role in Swingers as the "it's dead here anyway"guy.
Firstly, let me say that the music for this series was awesome. It was done by Danny Elfman, of Darkman and Batman fame. His haunting tones and melodramatic pieces fit in well with the drama and suspense of the show. At times, however, it sounded just a little too similar to the Batman music.
Speaking of which, the influence of Tim Burton's pop culture art deco meets goth set design was felt. We had gothic buildings, with old school Packards and chevs, and on the same street were 1990 Ford Tauruses and Escorts. This created a spastic look for the sets that at times hindered the overall enjoyment of the series.
However, this series is a great one season wonder. Shipp pulls off the role of Barry Allen/Flash very well. He adds some great comic lines to the show, which could have taken itself to seriously. Instead, this show is like a precursor to Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, except with less Moonlighting. Shipp plays the role of the tortured Allen quite well, wanting a normal life but at the same time fascinated and intrigued by the possibilities. Amanda Pays does quite well as Tina, especially in the episode called "Is that You Tina?" where she becomes the head of an all girl gang. Her outfits are quite the rage and let me say, she wears them well.
This show had some notable guest appearances. Jeri Ryan, of Star Trek Voyager fame, made an appearance on the episode Deadly Nightshade. This episode was a trek bonanza, as Denise Crosby also played in it. David Cassidy, Angela "Tina Turner' Bassett, and Bill"Lost in Space" Mumy also played in the show, as well as the late Jonathan Brandis of SeaQuest fame. Mark Hammill had the best role outside of Allen or McGee, as he played the evil yet hilarious Trickster in two episodes. This was a foreshadowing of his voice role as the Joker in the Batman animated series. Hammill plays a great villain, and everytime he showed up, it reminded me of his role in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (applause!).
Overall, this came off as a combination of Adventures of Superman and Greatest American Hero. It was a serious super hero show, but it did not take itself too seriously. For example, Barry's overeating problem due to his metabolism was a running joke, as was his penchant for messing up any room he dashed out of. This series had comedy, action, decent special effects (for the 1990s), and a great squad of guest stars and supporting cast. What happened?
Well, it was put against Cheers, then Cosby and the Simpsons, for starters. It was also very expensive with all the effects. Then, the networks couldn't decide on a time to put it in. It bounced around, frequently getting moved without notice to the affiliates or the TV guides. This led to it being lost and forgotten by its fans, and to its ultimate cancellation.
From a comic fan's perspective, this show was very, very accurate in its portrayal of the Flash's origin. It was very true to the comic in the spirit of the dual life of Barry Allen. It had some cheese, but what superhero film/show doesn't? It was a quirky gem of a TV show that deserved a better chance, but the morons at CBS just couldn't do right by it. In many ways, this show was ahead of its time, as it focused just as much on the man behind the mask, similar to the way Smallville, XMen, Spiderman, and other superhero movies/tv shows have done.
I would highly recommend this show because it is that rarity of TV: something that appeals to the whole family, with just enough sex appeal, just enough action, and just enough camp to keep everyone entertained. The episodes with The Trickster (Hammill), Captain Cold, and MirrorMaster (Cassidy) are favorites. The show was really coming together when it was cancelled. Now, we will never know what might have been, but we can enjoy the 22 episodes of this diamond in the rough. I give it 4 out of five lightning bolts.
The thing that really stinks is there are no special features. There are no factoids on the Flash, no deleted scenes, no bloopers. Maybe they didn't survive 15 years, but there needed to be something more, like maybe commentary with the stars of the show. This is just straight episodes, no extras, and that was kind of disappointing.