Review: The Flash (TV Pilot)

Sometimes nostalgia is best left in the past.

Have you ever had fond memories of something you watched on TV when you were younger... maybe a live action or cartoon series that you remember being the coolest thing ever? Here's a little advice: Often it's better to leave those episodes as sweet memories. The first time I ran into this phenomenon was when channel surfing I came across an episode of Speed Racer, one of the precursors to Anime from back in the 1960's. When I was a kid I thought that cartoon was simply awesome, but watching it recently just killed it for me since I had no idea at the time how poorly animated and how ridiculous the plots were.

Unfortunately The Flash (just released on DVD) doesn't even start with memories of having been an awesome show. It suffers from having been produced hot on the heels of the first Tim Burton Batman film, and the producers made the terrible decision to use the ambience of that film for this TV series as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with the character (and there have been multiple incarnations of The Flash), we start with Barry Allen, a forensic scientist for the police force. While in his lab there is a freak bolt of lightning striking him and a rack of various chemicals, the result of which imbues him with super-speed. I haven't picked up the comic book in a while, but from what I remember the character was never "dark" like Batman. It was more of a take-place-during-the-day kind of comic book.

The show opens with a motorcycle gang terrorizing the city, throwing bombs at cars and such. It seems the gang is out of control and the police haven't been able to do anything about it. Barry Allen's brother and father are and were street cops/detectives and his dad seems to favor his brother due to his being a "real" cop. Hence eventually Barry will feel the need to prove himself.

We meet the gang in their hideout, and they're all biker dudes and dude-ettes, with a scar-faced creepy leader, who demonstrates how he deals with disloyalty by blowing up a traitor on his motorcycle. It's really seedy and I just felt it was all too creepy for this type of show.

Eventually we see Barry get whacked with the lightning bolt and discovering his powers bit by bit. At one point he travels 30 miles in less than 30 seconds and ends up passed out with his clothes shredded from the high speed of his journey. He has a girlfriend (Iris, same name as the girlfriend in the comics) who is an artist and doesn't want a commitment. Barry hooks up with a female scientist from Star Labs (ambiguous relationship to cause romantic conflict on the show) to try and figure out exactly what's happened to him.

At first he doesn't want the power but eventually he embraces it through the desire for revenge when his brother is killed. Like I said, they really borrowed too much from Batman here.

The gang wants to take over the city, blah blah blah, etc., etc. The pilot is just under two hours long but it felt WAY longer than that. If you want to rent The Flash I would recommend just fast forwarding through to the scenes where you get to see him use his powers. The few times you get to see him in action it's kind of fun to watch. BTW, at least on this first DVD there were no special features or commentary.

The writers/producers took the formula that worked for Batman and applied it to The Flash, but here it just didn't work. I remember thinking at the time the show originally aired that having stories take place primarily at night just didn't seem to fit. I rented it with the idea of watching it with my daughter, but the pilot was so creepy that I've decided that she won't be watching it. I also took a brief glance at the other two episodes on the first DVD and I won't even bother watching those. I'm going to try the last DVD of the series to see if the mood of the show will have changed any between the start and end of the series, but I doubt it.

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