Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Flash: 90's Reunion

What is it about the good ol' 90's and special Christmas episodes of TV shows that just make you feel good?  On this week's The Flash, fans of the original 1990 show were treated to a bit of nostalgia as stars of the former CBS series John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays both made appearances.  This is hot on the heels of news that Mark Hamill, who played the memorable Trickster on the former show will be appearing as an older version on the 2014 series.  If that weren't enough nostalgia, this week's installment was directed by Ralph Hemecker, a veteran of TV shows like Renegade and Silk Stalkings and helmer of one of Michael Biehn's greatest Direct to Video flicks, American Dragons (aka Double Edge depending on country of release).  The Biehn himself was in Phoenix, Arizona this week for a convention that yours truly was supposed to attend as press but instead played tour guide to a visiting friend from out of town.  You can still check out Biehn talking about Tombstone, Terminator and loads of other cool things with this video.

So far, 2014 The Flash has been a hit with viewers and critics alike while I've been tuning in each week as well.  It's a fun show dripping with comic book references, thanks in no small part I'm sure to writer and DC dude extraordinaire Geoff Johns.  Johns wrote some of the best Flash tales in recent years and along with Jim Lee is helping to spearhead DC's vast library of comic book character's penetration into pop culture via animation, TV, video games, etc.  Up to this point, young Barry Allen has struggled with the knowledge that some strange "yellow blur" killed his mother but his father was sent to prison for the crime.  After a freak accident involving lightening and a particle accelerator at STAR labs, Barry becomes the crimson streak aka The Flash, taking out crooks and other "meta-humans"; individuals given power from the science charged explosion.  I'm surprisingly ok with this "freak of the week" approach more so than I was with Smallville as at least The Flash comes right out and says it's a superhero show and everyone draws their powers from a similar source as our protagonist.  Unlike Smalls where the mandate was "no flight, no tights" because they were ashamed of the source material or didn't want to compete with any big screen versions.  To be fair, the superhero genre on film and television has come a long way since 2000, for better and for worse.

I had just gotten finished re-watching a handful of 1990 episodes where Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) and STAR labs scientist Tina McGee (Amanday Pays) fight the likes of Captain Cold, The Deadly Nightshade and Mirror Master.  With a nice mix of action, drama, humor and super heroics set in an art-deco pulp world with a big, moody, orchestral soundtrack, it's easy to see that The Flash was truly ahead of it's time.  Episode 18 features former The Partridge Family crooner David Cassidy as Mirror Master, a crook who has gotten his hands on a set of batteries that project lifelike holograms to confuse and terrify people with images of snakes, cowboys and hostile police officers.  During a botched sting/meeting, Barry poses as the eccentric criminal mastermind Professor Zoom, alleged creator of The Flash in a random nod to the comics villain.

Cut to this week's episode of the new series and Amanda Pays shows up as Tina McGee only now working for MERCURY labs, a competitor of STAR's with $500 billion in funding and some nifty new tech.  It's nice to see Pays looking so regal 24 years later and her distinctive voice still lends her performance a memorable quality.  Meanwhile, Shipp has been playing Henry Allen, father to new Barry (Gustin Grant) and all we know about him is that he seemingly loves his son and is sent to prison for the murder of his wife after mumbling about a man in a crazy whirlwind of lightening actually doing it.  There's been no indication that Shipp would be revealed as a former Flash himself and it was kind of meta-confusing to know that Pays was playing her former character yet Shipp was not. Or is he? A visit to dad in prison along with an ambiguous performance from Shipp had me wondering if he was going to turn up as Professor Zoom somehow even though it's alluded to and then confirmed that Barry's mentor Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanuagh) is actually the villain.  At the end of the episode it's revealed that young Barry actually saw two super high speed beings doing battle over his mother.  Which, along with Mark Hamill's Trickster being brought back, can only lead me to believe that Shipp will actually be the former Flash which will then lead to me throwing my arms up into the air, cheering and knowing that I've always had good taste.  It just took the world 24 years to catch up.

Keep runnin':

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