Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Flash - The Complete Series (1990-1991)

The Flash - The Complete Series (1990-1991)

I loved this show as a kid, but I can now relegate it to the ranks of crappy shows that prove I was an idiot and had no taste while growing up (a crime all kids are guilty of!). Not that I'm not an idiot now, but it's all a matter of degrees. I digress, let me get back to 'The Flash'. Based on the famous DC Comics character who can move at incredible speeds, the show stars John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen, a forensic scientist who in the pilot episode gets struck by lightening, causing him to be endowed with the power of super speed. The lovely but bland Amanda Pays plays his friend and confidant Tina McGee, a scientist working at the 'Star Labs' research facility. After putting on a costume that can resist the wear and tear of his speed, Barry takes on the persona of "The Flash", fighting crime in the seedy city of... Central City.

'The Flash' clearly tries to evoke Burton's 1989 Batman film, with a similar aesthetic - dark, grimy, stagey looking city - and a terrific Danny Elfman theme. Only this series is way more flawed then that landmark film. First, the good. The acting in general is decent, and the visuals and effects are impressive for their time. The costume looks pretty cool. And the theme, as I said, is pretty darn great. Now for the negative. The stories are, for the most part, rubbish. Formulaic, derivative, predictable, and downright boring at times. The writing is painful, full of exposition, weak characterization and silly gags. The show reeks of the eighties - and it came out in the nineties!

The plotting is terrible and juvenile, and really for the first half of the season many of the storylines could have come out of your average lame cop or 80s sci-fi/action show. Most of the episodes demonstrate one thing - how incompetent the Flash is. If there's one thing you'll learn watching this show, it's that the Flash is a moron who, despite the incredible advantage he has over his adversaries, time and time again gets taken down by someone sneaking up from behind and conking him on the head. Seriously, I began to watch each episode eagerly anticipating the moment when The Flash falls for the same trick that undid him in each of the previous episodes. Or the old 'normal human somehow reacts faster than the Flash' maneuver, which also works whenever it's convenient for the plot and the sneak up from behind trick has already been used in the episode.

Problem is that the villains were too lame for the show, and the only way to create conflict was to have The Flash make an ass of himself. If he applied himself with even a modicum of competence, the villains would be behind bars before the first ad break. So instead of seeing awesome Flash action, we get to see him waste his powers on banal things. A crappy hallmark of the show is were Barry does speed cleaning or speed chores for comedic effect. This seems to be where most of the effects budget went. Things improved in the latter half of the season with stronger super-villain types showing up, most notably Mark Hamill as 'The Trickster', but it still wasn't enough.

'The Flash' is a sometimes entertaining but all too often infuriating show, and one that deserves to be skipped, I'm sorry to say. I looked forward to seeing it since my nostalgia tinged memories informed me that it was a TV classic. I now know better. Curse you, memory, curse you! Hopefully the upcoming movie will help to elevate the live action status of this iconic hero.

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