The Flash (1990) Review – Better Than Expected

The 2014 Flash series isn’t the first time the Scarlet Speedster had his own show. In 1990, CBS produced a single season of The Flash. Despite low production values and awkward design sensibilities of the era, The Flash managed to be a good show, faithful to its comic book roots. Too bad no one watched it.

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The Flash focused on Barry Allen, played by John Wesley Shipp (famous for his role as the dad on Dawson’s Creek) with Amanda Pays as Dr. Tina McGee, a S.T.A.R. Labs scientist who helps Barry. Surprisingly, the creators, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, embraced the comic books roots of the characters. This is evident from the outset as the opening credits, replete with Danny Elfman score (fresh off Batman 1989), as they blended comic panels into live action, showing the hero’s origin. Super speed is one of the easier powers to visualize on television. Despite the current tech, the producers did an excellent job executing Flash’s visuals, utilizing the high budget effectively.

Flash has one of the better, albeit less known rogues galleries. While the second season was reported to have brought more of them about, unifying them against Flash had the show continued, the first season did an admirable job bringing them to life. Captain Cold, Mirror Master and Nightshade (though in a different form) were given their dues. The best villain though was not due to the character, but the person who portrayed him. The Trickster, one of Flash’s goofier rogues, was played by Mark Hamill. The Trickster is a hooky character to say the least, but Hamill owned it, making him one of the better villains.

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The suit was always problematic, despite the story logic behind it. Dr. McGee repurposed an experimental deep sea diving suit for Flash, as it wouldn’t be torn apart by friction as he ran. Still, the costume looked like 20 lbs. of rubber, something common of every costume at the time. The added muscle definition didn’t help, either.  Still, the execution helped offset the aesthetics.

The Trickster (Mark Hamill)

The Trickster (Mark Hamill)

For me, the two best episodes of the show were “Ghost in the Machine” and “Fast Forward.” The former featured Nightshade (different than the magic based female DC character), a hero from the 1950s and Barry’s idol. The two worked together, capturing the Ghost. This played out similar to one of the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, “Beware the Grey Ghost.” The generational team-up is one thing DC comics excelled at (once upon a time), and works wonderfully here. “Fast Forward” is a time travel story (something I’m a sucker for), and a common element of Flash stories.

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Though the show was short lived, its legacy lives on to today. Mark Hamill, voicing the Joker for decades in DC’s animated series, also voiced the Trickster in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, “Flash and Substance.” The 2014 Flash series, spinning out of Arrow, features both Shipp and Pays. Shipp plays Barry’s father, incarcerated for murdering his wife (it’s a thing, won’t spoil it here), and Pays reprises her role as Dr. Tina McGee.

The original Flash series was a lot of fun, and a shining example in this dark age of low tech of how superheroes could be brought to life on the small screen. Though many elements expectedly fail to hold up, there’s still plenty to enjoy. If you have the time, give it a spin.

Watch this as it aired? What was your favorite episode? Comment below!

Everything copies Batman. 

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3 responses to “The Flash (1990) Review – Better Than Expected

  1. I liked this show. Shame they didn’t make more episodes. I prefer this costume over the new one. I always thought it was funny how Hammil got to voice the Joker after playing the Trickster who is somewhat similar.

  2. Pingback: Around the Web – 9/28/14 | The Credible Hulk·

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