Cult TV

Cult TV Essentials: The Flash (1990)

The Flash was a 1990 American television series that starred John Wesley Shipp as the superhero, the Flash (created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert), and co-starred Amanda Pays. It ran for twenty-two episodes. The series was developed from the DC Comics characters by the writing team of Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, and produced by their company, Pet Fly Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. Composer Danny Elfman wrote the show’s title theme, and Stan Winston Studios built the costume.

The series’ pilot episode features an accident in which Central City Police forensic scientist Barry Allen’s crime lab is struck by lightning. Allen’s electrified body is flung into and shatters a cabinet of chemicals, which are both electrified and forced to interact with each other and with his physiology when they come into physical contact with his body. He soon discovers, with the help of S.T.A.R. Labs scientist Tina McGee, that the accident has changed his body’s metabolism and as a result he has gained the ability to move at superhuman speed. To avenge the murder of his brother, motorcycle police officer Jay (Tim Thomerson), Barry demands that Tina modify a red S.T.A.R. Labs prototype deep sea diving suit, designed to withstand tremendous pressures, into his costume, to which she reluctantly complies. Thus, Barry Allen becomes the Flash.

Fun Flash Fact: Film and television veteran Robert Shayne appeared in several episodes as the blind newsstand owner where Barry bought his papers. Shayne has achieved a level of stardom years earlier as Inspector Henderson on The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. Shayne was by this time blind in real life and learned his lines by rehearsing with his wife until he memorized them.

The series initially had a dark and gritty tone, and focused on having the Flash confront decidedly human villains, like corrupt officials and mobsters. Midway through the show’s run, however, a few of the Flash’s familiar “Rogues Gallery” of colourful super-villains began making appearances.

The most famous Rogues in the series were the Trickster, played by Mark Hamill, and his sidekick, Prank, played by Corinne Bohrer.

Fun Flash Fact: The series is replete with references to the comic books and their creators. In addition to the “Garrick Ave.” reference mentioned in another item, episodes have referenced “The Hotel Infantino” (a nod to Silver Age Flash co-creator Carmine Infantino), “police captain Julius Schwartz” (a nod to Silver Age Flash co-creator Julius Schwartz), “the intersection of Gardner and Fox” (a nod to Golden Age Flash creator Gardner Fox), “Professor Zoom” (a recurring villain in the Silver Age Flash stories) and “Gorilla Grodd” (another recurring Silver Age Flash villain).

Captain Cold, played by Michael Champion, and the Mirror Master, played by David Cassidy as a disgraced expert in holograms, also appeared in their own episodes. Although the series included DC characters, the interpretations were radically different from the source material, with the exception of Hamill’s Trickster, though even he was altered somewhat – turned from a con-man and a largely benign criminal into a delusional mass murderer. Captain Cold, for instance, was turned into an albino hitman who murdered his victims by literally freezing them to death; while the Mirror Master was little more than a common thug with a nickname and advanced hologram technology.

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