Wednesday, July 3, 2013

TV on DVD Review: The Flash (1990)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Real characters keep show grounded
Cons: Some cheese and camp, mainly from the villains
The Bottom Line
The Flash gets fun show
Yes, it has some cheese and camp
But still fun for me

"If You Got Off This Sugar Train, Maybe You Could Slow Down."

I have a good friend who is attempting to collect everything superhero ever committed to TV or film.  If it weren't for him, I wouldn't even have known about The Flash, a TV show that aired on CBS from 1990-1991.  After a couple years of seeing the set sitting on his bookshelf, I borrowed it, and for the most part I enjoyed it.

The series is set in Central City and focuses on Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp).  Barry is a police scientist who is working late in the lab one night when he is struck my lightning through a window and knocked into a bunch of chemicals.  When he wakes up, he finds himself with super speed.  It's a skill he tries to keep secret from everyone around him, including his partner in the lab and best friend Julio Mendez (Alex Desert).  Meanwhile, he starts working with Dr. Tina McGee (Amanda Pays) to try to understand the changes to his body.

But it's a good thing he has this sudden speed because Central City is about to be overrun with criminals.  From a motorcycle gang to a criminal from the 50's and an invisible man, The Flash will have his hands full.

The show was an interesting mix stylistically.  While the city streets were obviously sets, they are populated with a mix of classic and more modern cars.  It gives the series a bit of a timeless feel.  What doesn't feel so timeless are the fashions.  Can we say late 80's?  I thought we could.

Now my friend has yet to make it through the entire series because he finds it gets too cheesy as it goes along.  Personally, I felt the cheese level stayed pretty much the same.  There's some of it here and there, but usually coming from the over the top villains.  The main cast certainly keeps things realistic, and I'm including the cop characters they include in most episodes in that.  The most over the top guest star is Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame who appears in two episodes as The Trickster.  His over the top antics are pretty bad - more benefitting the 60's Batman than this show.  I'm sure that's how he was told to act, but it was a bit distracting.

The episodes themselves are certainly entertaining.  While not always the most suspenseful, I often found myself wondering just how Barry/The Flash was going to save the day.  They were certainly entertaining enough to keep me watching the next episode.

One thing I will praise the show for is the special effects.  While occasionally you can spot some trickery, for a TV show of 20+ years ago, they look good and hold up well today.  The Flash's speed running especially was well done.  I've also heard that the effects cost quite a bit of money, and that helped lead to the cancelation of this show after only the one season.

This boxed set represents everything that was made for the series.  (There are some movies out there formed from cut together episodes of the series.)  There are a total of 22 episodes, including the double length pilot.  They're all preserved in standard picture and stereo sound, which is how they originally aired.  There are no extras in the set.

While the cheese and camp got out of control a couple of times, for the most part The Flash is a fun show that can still entertain today.

For an updated take on the character, check out the series that premiered in 2014 on the CW.  And yes, it has a few superficial ties to this series.

1. Pilot
2. Out of Control
3. Watching the Detectives
4. Honor Among Thieves
5. Double Vision
6. Sins of the Father
7. Child's Play
8. Shroud of Death
9. Ghost in the Machine
10. Sight Unseen
11. Beat the Clock
12. The Trickster
13. Tina, Is That You?
14. Be My Baby
15. Fast Forward
16. Deadly Nightshade
17. Captain Cold
18. Twin Streaks
19. Done with Mirrors
20. Good Night, Central City
21. Alpha
22. The Trial of the Trickster

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