The Wayback Machine: The Flash (1990)





With the news now well-circulated that a live-action Flash TV series will be spinning out of Arrow sooner rather than later, I thought it would be a great time to dial up the Wayback Machine to 1990 and take a look at a … well, a less successful effort.

The 1990 TV version of The Flash starred John Wesley Shipp, late of an Emmy-winning role on CBS’s As the World Turns, as our own Fastest Man Alive, co-starring Amanda Pays. The series was developed from the comics 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. Stan Winston Studios built the somewhat bulky costume for the Scarlet Speedster.

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!

Film and television veteran Robert Shayne appeared in several episodes as the blind newsstand owner where Barry bought his papers. Shayne has of course achieved a level of immortality decades earlier as Inspector Henderson on The Adventures of Superman. Shayne was by this time blind in real life and learned his lines by rehearsing with his wife until he memorized them.

Ultimately, big-name appearances on the show (mimicking 1966’s Batman) were too little too late to save the show, which struggled with a high per-episode price tag and stiff competition from NBC and Fox’s strong Thursday night lineups. With the series’ second episode, the one-hour program was shifted to the 8:30 p.m. slot (odd, eh?) to avoid the media blitz caused by The Simpsons scheduled opposite The Cosby Show at 8. The unusual 8:30 slot did not work and the series floundered when moved to 9 p.m.

The remaining episodes aired on Saturday nights where it faced cancellation after a single season. A brief attempt at rerunning the series in the summer on Fridays in hopes of finding an audience and reversing the cancellation also failed. 

Had the show continued, it was revealed the second season would have opened with the Flash’s rogues teaming up to take down the hero.

Another fine show down the drain because of those damnably clever and cute Simpsons!