- Title: The Flash
- tv.com: link
My five favorite comic book heroes in no particular order are Batman, the Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel (Shazam!), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, except no substitutes), and the Silver Age Flash. The Flash uses the origin and character of the Barry Allen Flash but puts him in modern times while incorporating characters from both the Silver Age Flash and the current Wally West version (such as Tina McGee).
Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) is a police scientist. While working late at the lab one stormy night a lightning bolt strikes through the window hitting a rack of chemicals and the mild mannered Allen. After the accident Barry finds he is always hungry and what starts as a short run might make him end up 30 miles away in just seconds.
Barry asks the help of a scientist at Star Labs, Tina McGee (Amanda Pays), who discovers that Barry’s metabolism has been sped up and together they begin to test out his powers finding that he can run faster than the speed of sound, heals much faster, and use of his powers can cause occassional blackouts. When Barry’s brother Jay (Tim Thomerson) is killed by a gang leader (Michael Nader) Barry decides to bring him to justice using his new powers and becomes the Flash.
Over the course of the pilot and the following 21 episodes the Flash defends Central City from various villains such as the Trickster (Mark Hamill), Captain Cold (Michael Champion), the Mirror Master (David Cassidy), the Ghost (Anthony Starke), local crimelords and corrupt politicians, killer androids, and a even a clone of himself.
The series as a whole is a little uneven but for the most part the stories hold up. The creators made sure to populate the series with supporting and recurring characters that add to the dynamic of the show. Julio Mendez (Alex Desert) is Barry’s best friend and works in the crime lab, and Officers Bellows (Vito D’Ambrosio) and Officer Murphy (Biff Manard) are good comic relief and help flesh out the Barry Allen character. Mike Genovese is an excellent choice for the role of Lt. Warren Garfield and M. Emmet Walsh works well as Barry’s overbearing but good hearted retired cop father. Other guest stars include Jason Bernard as a retired crimefighter of the 1950’s known as the Nightshade, small time huckster Fostnight (Dick Miller), and Richard Belzer as tabloid TV journalist Joe Kline.
Even with all the supporting roles the series falls mainly on shoulders of Shipp and Pays who both are up for the challenge and have a nice on screen playfulness and chemistry that works well (Iris West the character that becomes Barry’s wife in the comic books is only present in the pilot played by the wonderful Paula Marshall). I would have liked to see where the series would have taken them.
The series also seems to have some lasting effects in both reality and comics. One of the best episodes Beat the Clock involves the Flash trying to save the life of a man in death row convicted of killing with his wife (Angela Bassett) less than an hour before his scheduled execution. What’s interesting here is Bassett plays the murdered singer and it’s a good bet her performance here helped land her the role as Tina Turner just three years later. Also of interest is Mark Hamill playing the Trickster in a performance that is just slightly crazier than the Joker performance in Batman: The Animated Series which includes a crazy female sidekick that was obviously the early inspiration behind the Harley Quinn character.
Barry Allen was the best of the Flash heroes and the series keeps most of the character intact. Originally I was more than a little miffed at the inclusion of Tina McGee in the series, but the relationship between the two really does pay off (pun intended). In tone and story The Flash falls somewhere between the old Adam West Batman and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (which appeared on TV just a couple of years later; I can only imagine at the cross-over potential.). It keeps the joy of the character and some of the zaniness of his rogues gallery. Comic fans can also look out for fun little jokes hidden throughout the series such as name of the doctor Barry uses when he goes undercover and naming his brother Jay (after the Golden Age Flash). The collection sadly contains no extras and the box set is nice except the odd placement of the discs which force you to remove two discs at a time. Overall it’s a nice, though not great, DVD collection Flash fans should race out and add to their collection.