How do I start this? Well, me being me – I guess I have to go back to 1985 and Crisis on Infinite Earths, one of the first, massive crossover events from DC Comics.
The Flash – Reborn
When you’ve been around as long as DC, you have a lot of characters, a lot of history and in 1985, they decided that they needed to clean everything up, get rid of all the crud clogging up the system and get their universe onto a cohesive track. In the story that ensued, heroes were lost and others stepped up.
One of the heroes that we lost was Barry Allen, The Flash. Wally West, nephew of Barry and Iris known as Kid Flash, stepped up and took on the mantle of The Flash and became a hero in his own right.
A new comic book series, simply titled The Flash, debuted in 1987 and was about Wally, whose power and personality were very different from Barry. First off, he could not run as fast – where Barry could approach the speed of light, Wally could only manage the speed of sound. Second, Wally was rich – he won the lottery. Third, Wally had a hyper-metabolism that required him to eat and eat a lot, all the time, just to keep going. The new series was very popular and, in 1990, CBS brought The Flash to television.
The Flash – The Television Series
As an avid reader of the comic at the time, I was very excited about this new show. As with all things in Hollywood, they had to change things. Sigh.
John Wesley Shipp was cast in the title role, playing Barry Allen. He was a forensic specialist with the police and had a girlfriend named Iris and that’s about where the similarity ended. The rest of the character was really Wally West. Barry had the hyper-metabolism that required him to constantly eat to replenish his body and I think his speed topped out around the speed of sound, not the speed of light. Some other changes – Barry was the youngest son of a family with a tradition of law enforcement, his older brother, Jay (named, obviously, after the original Flash, Jay Garrick), was also a police officer, and Barry worked with a scientist from S.T.A.R. Labs, which was also a Wally plot from the current comic storyline.
The Pilot Episode
Barry and Jay Allen are police officers in Central City; Barry is a forensic scientist, Jay a commander in the motorcycle police. Working late one night to try and solve a string of crimes being conducted by a motorcycle gang that seems capable of disappearing without a trace, Barry’s office is struck by lightning. The strike hits Barry and a shelf full of chemicals and grants Barry the gift of super speed. He has to go to a specialist at S.T.A.R.Labs to figure out what’s happened to him and how to control his power.
When his brother is killed, he takes on the persona of The Flash to bring down the motorcycle gang and avenge his brothers death.
This was one of my favorite shows when it originally aired. They put a lot of money into it, so the effects were decent and hold up well today. The acting was okay – not a huge fan of Shipp. I felt like he had the wrong body type – he was very muscular, like a body builder. I suppose that fits with the whole superhero archetype, but I never thought of Flash as being built that way.
The pilot was really well done, despite distracting me by being a mish-mash of Barry and Wally’s stories. Watching it today, those points didn’t bother me at all and I was able to just enjoy it. There are so few shows from my childhood that I’ve been able to enjoy, that it’s nice to find another one. (I can’t watch the Dukes of Hazzard, for example) I remember that it was one of the most expensive shows on television at the time, beating out Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is just amazing and is probably the main reason that it hold up so well 20 years later.
The boxed set
The set contains six discs and the entire series, which lasted – sadly, just the one season. There are no special features, no commentaries, no featurettes – none of the stuff we might expect from a boxed set these days, but that’s okay with me. I kinda get bored with that stuff. The inside of the box is covered with comic art though, which is kinda cool.
You can pick it up for around $35 at a brick and mortar or for $25 online.
I’ll be picking out some specific episodes to share later, so watch for that.