The Flash had been a hero in DC Comics for at least forty years by the time he got his own television series in 1990. Created by longtime comics fans Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, the series starred John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen, a mild-mannered chemist who was accidentally doused by electrically-charged chemicals when a lightning bolt struck the police lab where he works. As a result, he gained the power to move at hyper-fast speed. In fact, he discovered he could move fast enough to avoid being seen by others. And if you’re not jealous of Barry yet, you’ve obviously never been a kid.
When Jay, Barry’s brother and a police officer, was killed by a gang of bikers terrorizing their home of Central City, Barry decided to use his new powers to fight crime. He was aided by co-worker Dr. Tina McGee, who developed a special suit for him that could withstand the rigors of his supersonic speed. With this new suit, Barry became The Flash, setting out to fight any criminal that set their sights on Central City.
The Flash could easily run rings around his foes, but he soon discovered a catch to his powers: they were accompanied by an accelerated metabolism, meaning he burned energy as fast as quickly as he could move. Thus, he had to use his powers carefully and conserve energy to avoid “hitting the wall,” in runner’s parlance.
Each episode would feature the Flash battling a new costumed menace. Recognizable faces were frequently used to play these villains, including David Cassidy as the Mirror Master and Mark Hamill as the Trickster. In most cases, the guest stars rose to the colorful material with an appropriately over-the-top performance in true 1960’s Batman style. These super-foes were often tied to some sort of corruption in Central City’s government or police force. Other characters on the show included Julio, Barry’s lab assistant, and Megan Lockhart, a tough female private investigator who learned Barry’s secret and fell in love with him.
Although it toyed with some of the comic book’s details, The Flash still found a dedicated cult audience among comic-book fans who appreciated the show’s color and campy humor. Sadly, The Flash had its time-slot changed several times and was thus never able to build a mass audience. It was also prohibitively expensive, since those custom-made Flash suits tended to wear out quickly during filming. As a result, the show was cancelled in July of 1991 after one season.
The Flash remains a popular rerun item on stations catering to science-fiction fans, who appreciate the show’s splashy, theatrical style. The emphasis on good old-fashioned heroics ensures that The Flash will always be remembered as one of the better entries in television’s superhero canon.
USA / CBS – Warner Bros TV / 1×120 minute episode 21×50 minute episode / Broadcast 20 September 1990 – 19 July 1991
Creators: Gardner Fox, Harry Lampert / Devisor/Executive Producers: Danny Bilsen, Paul De Meo
JOHN WESLEY SHIPP as Barry Allen aka The Flash
AMANDA PAYS as Tina McGee
ALEX DESERT as Julio
VITO D’AMBROSIO as Officer Bellows
BILL MANARD as Officer Murphy
RICHARD BELZER as Joe Klein
MIKE GENOVESE as Lt Warren Garfield
DICK MILLER as Fosnight
KENNETH TIGAR as Dr Jason Rossick