10/05/2011

The 90's television show The Flash was pretty bad, but it had some bright spots and here are ten good scenes from the fateful show.

Over ten years ago, a television show based on the comic book superhero "The Flash" aired. In 1990, a year after Batman revolutionized comic book movies, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo got together to create a television series based on the superhero. They went all out.

The costume was created by veteran special effects artist Stan Winston based on the molded muscle and cowl of Batman. It featured the stylish use of color and murals from Dick Tracy (1990). They hired Emmy award winning actor John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen\The Flash, and Amanda Pays as scientist Christina "Tina" McGee.

The show lasted 13 episodes, but couldn't hold the public's interest. Mainly, because it was awful. Poorly written. Ridiculous plot holes. Inane use of his superpowers. It was pretty much a waste.

But, there were a few bright spots.

10. The Opening
Not really a scene, but the most memorable part of the show for me was the opening. With a score by Danny Elfman, who also wrote the classic Batman (1989) score, it's exciting and dynamic. Full of quick cuts and montages of the Flash saving the day. It perfectly sets up the thrilling superhero show that was supposed to follow.

Unfortunately, it didn't really live up to the promise.

Honestly though, years later, whenever I have to do something really fast the theme plays in my head. Yes, I have a problem. Watch it and tell me it's not cool.


9. Flash Pole Vaults Through Fat Albert's Junkyard
A murderer escapes from prison to find his loot and kill Barry's father, the cop who put him away."
When the show started there were two themes: One, the Flash was a scary mysterious figure like Batman. Two, he fought normal criminals like purse-snatchers and jaywalkers. Not really, but most were pretty boring.
In episode 5, "Sins of the Father," he faced off against an escaped criminal out to kill his father. Most of the episode consists of him whining about his father and scaring information out of criminals by turning over dice and spinning pool balls. Seriously.

Pretty bad episode, but there are two great scenes. This is one and you'll see another one later in the list.
Anyway, at the end he confronts the criminal with his father in a junkyard. His father doesn't know his secret identity so he decides to change into the Flash and take him out. The quick change is the best part.


8. The Flash Is Professor Zoom
As the series went on the creators tried to revamp the show by having Barry fight supervillains. In episode 19, "Done with Mirrors," they decided to try and bring in a member of the "Rogue's Gallery:" The Mirror Master.

In the comics he's a guy that can travel using mirrors. In the TV show he's a guy that can create holograms. They cast aging former heartthrob David Cassidy as master thief Sam Scudder who uses his holograms to substitute valuable technology.

The whole episode is pretty ridiculous as people run from imaginary clowns and mimes.

In the final scene, Scudder hides by creating duplicates of himself in the train station and then stands there while Barry hopelessly tries to grab each one. The Flash can run from one end of the city to the other in minutes, but takes forever to run from one fake Scudder to the other. A constant theme of the show was to have the scarlet speedster getting stuck by a villain and someone else having to save him. So, as per usual, Tina has to save the day by turning the lights on.

In one scene Barry tries to trap the "Mirror Master" by posing as a scientist who created the flash called "Professor Zoom." This is a nod to the comic-book villain Professor Zoom (or Reverse Flash).

It's fun to watch Shipp play with a funny accent and attitude for a few minutes before botching the whole operation and falling for the old "holographic snake" trick. Why the moron thinks that giant snakes appear out of thin air while chasing a guy that can coincidentally create holographic snakes is a mystery. An interesting trivia note is that Shipp went on to voice Professor Zoom for the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series.

7. Captain Cold Tries to Kill Flash's Foot
Captain Cold, who freezes his victims to death, is contracted to kill the Flash.

This episode is loaded with plot holes, but has a few redeeming values. First, the villain is pretty cool. No pun intended, but since its there...

Instead of a guy with a freeze gun and a parka, they made Captain Cold an albino hit man with a freeze gun. Michael Champion plays the role of a contract killer with menace and an almost accidental sense of humor. Oddly enough, he reminds me of Keifer Sutherland in Dark City.

The fact that his weapon of choice is a nuclear powered freeze gun is never really explained other than saying it was stolen. It makes no sense. Why would a mercenary choose the most unusual method of killing people possible? It guaranteed his kills would attract attention. Whatever.

The Flash is a moron as usual. He stumbles from one situation to another while people are killed around him. The police are the flat-footed idiots they are in every episode and actually arrest Captain Cold only to let him loose again. Barry has a cold for five minutes so they can set up the gag of his hyperfast sneezing sending him flying across the room.

Interesting trivia: The bit part of Japanese gangster Johnny Choi was played by a young Francois Chau. He went on to play the one-armed Dr. Pierre Chang on Lost.

In this scene, Captain Cold, determined to finish the job of killing the Flash. He freezes a bus and Flash races to the scene to free them before they freeze to death. So Captain Cold freezes his foot. Not a great plan, but I guess you have to start somewhere.
 
6. Trickster Tries To Drown Flash...The Fool!
Episode 11, too late to save the show was the first attempt to bring in a super-villain from the comics. "The Trickster," a Joker rip-off. An insane psychopath, he starts stalking a reporter who's an old friend of Barry Allen. Dressing himself in a flamboyant costume, and potentially lethal gags, he sets out to win her heart from the Flash.

Here's where it gets cool though. He was played by Mark Hammill, who went on to do the voice of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. This was practically his audition tape for the show. Hammill's performance is pretty much the best part of the entire series, but this was his debut.

In this scene he has the reporter and Allen trapped. Surprisingly enough, it doesn't work and Barry escapes using a move that would have made Houdini proud. Notice the Joker's trademark cackling. 



5. Flash Catches a Bullet and Then Throws It Back
The best episodes were the ones that featured supervillains from the comics, but there were a couple of original villains that stood out. In episode 7 "Child's Play" they had Barry fight drugs. This was a pretty fun episode. A bunch of 60s hippies try and take over the city with a new designer drug called "Blue Paradise."

There's a nice inside joke as Barry passes a movie theater playing Batman. A young Mark Dacascos, from Iron Chef, makes an appearance as an undercover narc. Hot teen actor Jonathan Brandis plays one of two homeless kids Barry helps out. Where is that guy anyway?

A small-time drug dealer with a flashy car tries to get away from The Flash. In this scene he showcases his ability to catch speeding bullets. One of the scarlet speedster's trademark moves.


4. The Flash and The Trickster Have A Boy's Night Out

In the series finale they decided to go out with a bang by bringing back the best villain of the show. When the Trickster is put on trial for murder his lawyer can't stop him from dressing his costume and making a statement to the media pretty much convicting himself before the trial.

The Trickster gets busted out of court by the bonkers daughter of toy manufacturer using a laughing gas filled teddy bear. The creepy vibe between the two is downright scary and you can watch this scene to prove it.
In this episode they introduced a character called "Prank" that becomes his female sidekick. Sound familiar? This most likely inspired the Batman: The Animated Series creators to create Joker's female sidekick for the show, Harley Quinn.
This episode plays with the biggest differance between the Trickster and the Joker. The Trickster uses old practical jokes. There are some great scenes where he uses sneezing powder, super sticky gum and chattering teeth to incapacitate. He kidnaps the fastest man alive using trick gum and brainwashes him into becoming his partner.

In this scene they begin their crime spree. Besides being good crazy fun John Wesley Shipp gets to show some of his comedic skills as the brain-washed Flash.
 
3. The Flash Trips Out and Vibrates Through A Wall

The Flash has a bunch of trademark moves from the comic books. Besides running fast, he spins his arms fast enough to make tornadoes. He can run up walls and on water. He can run fast enough to go through time.

One of his best moves is being able to vibrate his body fast enough to pass through walls.

He had never done it until episode 7 "Child's Play" when he takes a hit from the supervillain's designer drug "Blue Paradise." The trip sends Flash through a wall. Literally.

 
2. The Coolest Hero on The Flash Isn't Barry Allen

Here's a tip for anyone developing a superhero show. Don't bring in a hero cooler than the main character. In episode 8, "Ghost in the Machine" they introduced the character of a fifties hero known as "The Nightshade." Cool costume. Cool car. Great voice. Everything the Flash was not.

It was pretty much all downhill for Barry. The Flash stumbles around trying to figure out what was going on. Nightshade was an old man by this time, so he couldn't do a whole lot.

The villain was supposed to be obsessed with television, but in the end he connects himself to the Internet. Or, at least what passed for the Internet in 1991. Basically letting him control traffic lights. His big plan for killing Barry is to literally plug him into a television set and play explosions.

So, the only thing worth watching was Nightshade. Here's the opening scene.
 

1. The Flash Terrorizes a Pool Ball

The best scene in the series to me was also the most ridiculous. Again from episode 5, Barry searches for information by shaking down criminals. He comes off very dangerous and intimidating. Kind of like Batman.

One trivia note is that Native American actor Wes Studi played the craps player he freaks out. Studi went on to play the hilarious superhero "Sphinx" in Mystery Men.

In one scene he busts into a pool hall, takes an eight ball and spins it so fast it drills into the table. I'm not a physicist, but is that even possible? Can a round smooth spherical object drill into anything? Watch the video and let me know.



For all the show's flaws there are lots of cameos from up-and-coming actors in the series. Jeri Ryan, Voyager's Seven of Nine played Felicia in "The Deadly Nightshade." Denise Crosby from Star Trek The Next Generation played an attorney in the same episode.
It was one of the first attempts to make a serious superhero show and paved the way for others to follow.
 
To this day the special effects in the episode stand out as being some of the most dynamic on television. Too bad the show sucked eggs.

You the whole series on DVD. It's worth it for The Trickster at least.


What do you think? Would you have watched this show?
[Image Source: Rajadevilman74sramblings]
Update: Fixed typos and added image

5 comments:

Michael Offutt said...

I really like Flash as a comic book character. In Smallville, they used a different version of Flash called Impulse that really worked for me. He had several cameos and the actor that played Impulse (aside from being really cute) grew into the role more and more each time I saw him. All-in-all, I really like how the CW handled the Flash and wish they'd spin that off into his own show.

paul said...

Flash was my favorite comic book character when i was a kid.

naturally i think Flash is faster than Superman

cribs for twins said...

this is such a great post! I'm going to have to share this with my husband!!

Tony Laplume said...

For the record, this series was absolutely awesome. It didn't succeed because it was way too wildly ambitious for its time, either for the network or for viewers. It would probably be a pretty big success today.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I would have agreed with you Tony until I watched them again. It's still one of my top three superhero TV shows, but yeah. Its not that good.

AddThis

Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!