Whilst the Flash has had a successful return to our screens recently with the show fronted by Grant Gustin as the titular character, the 90’s show wasn’t as lucky. Starring the current Flash’s jailed father John Wesley Shipp, The Flash joined a list of shows with great potential that was axed far too soon; in fact it only lasted one full season on CBS.
Developed by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, the pilot zoomed onto the small screen on September 20th 1990. The pilot laid the groundwork for the potential of what could’ve been a great show. One of the main highlights was mixing composer Danny Elfman’s music mixed in with the dark and gritty style of director Tim Burton’s Batman. Clearly the developers of the show and CBS were trying to recreate the style placed by Burton’s Batman, which was a box-office smash the year before.
As with the latest series of The Flash, the 90s pilot followed Barry Allen, a forensic scientist who is in his older brother Jay’s (A nod to Jay Garrick) shadow. As is common in the Flash cannon, Barry attains his powers after he is struck by lightening in his lab. With the help of Scientist Tina McGee (Amanda Pays), Barry learns to hone his newly developed powers to become the Flash. The two actors shared great chemistry, which would develop further throughout the series.
The main antagonist for the pilot is gang leader Pike (Michael Nader), who is causing destruction across Central City. It is up to Barry and his newfound powers to stop the gang from taking over the city. It’s a typical hero vs. villain story: the bad guy is angry about being mistreated, the good guy gains powers, and then he must stop the bad guy as no one else can. It’s cliche, but it works well enough to keep viewers entertained.
At a runtime of 94 minutes and with big special effects that still for the most part hold up 25 years later, the pilot felt as though it was a standalone film. It was certainly better than most efforts that were released around the same time (Steel and Captain America to name but a few).
The first half of the series saw the Flash battling all different types of monsters, thieves, and hoodlums, many of which were largely forgettable and often laughable. It wasn’t until later episodes in the series began to incorporate characters from the Flash’s rogue gallery including the memorable Trickster played brilliantly by the pre-Joker Mark Hamill in figure-hugging spandex. These episodes ranked as some of the best of the series, the two leads sharing great chemistry. Other episodes that stood out include the two-part Nightshade series, featuring the late Jason Bernard as Dr Powell/Nightshade.
After 21 episodes, the show was cancelled due to numerous issues, such as the expensive budget that led to each episode reportedly costing $1.5 million to produce (the costume alone cost an eye-watering $100,000 to make).
he show was definitely before its time, one that would fit in perfectly with the current trend of superhero TV shows. There were certainly signs that the show had enough going for it to carry on for another season at least. It took over 20 years for another live-action Flash series, and thankfully, the new show has proved popular with audiences. Hopefully, the popularity of that show will bring this little gem to the attention of the public once again.
Did you ever check out the 90s version of The Flash? What did you think of it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.