Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ask Me a Question: A Tribute to The Flash

I don't frequent The Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theater nearly as much as The Egyptian or New Beverly, their programming usually just isn't my style. But when I saw they were doing a tribute to The Flash television series from 1990, you can bet your ass I purchased right away. It's been 25 years since the groundbreaking show came and went for one awesome season. The show could never overcome competition The Simpsons or The Cosby Show but has lived on due to it's elaborate production design, likable cast and a tone that mixed drama with superheroics and a touch of romance. We started the night over at Canter's Deli before grabbing a drank at Rosewood Tavern. By 6:00PM, a line had already started to form for the sold out event. Barry Allen and The Flash himself John Wesley Shipp walked by the line and greeted everyone and others trickled in like writer/creators Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, co-star Vito D'Ambrosio and writer Howard Chaykin.

Just about everyone besides Mark Hamill was there beforehand and watched the episodes. That included Lt. Warren Garfield aka Mike Genovese, director Bruce Bilson, writer Gail Morgan Hickman and so, so many others. We viewed both Trickster episodes in glorious full screen, was funny to see the Cinefamily programmer pull in the "wings" to take away the typical wide screen. Episode 11, The Trickster opens with Barry's love interest and hothead reporter/detective/repo woman Megan Lockhart (Joyce Hyser, also in attendance) being captured by the insane magician turned murderer James Jesse (Mark Hamill) before being saved by The Flash. Jesse goes crazy with jealousy and sets out to win Lockhart back by killing the speedster. Then you get a nice love triangle thing going on between science-hot Star Labs scientist Tina McGee (Amanda Pays), Barry and Megan. Meanwhile James escapes the police by killing them and heads to Central City. I was surprised at the implicated violence as James actually is a killer with a dozen bodies over several states to his name. There weren't any scenes of Barry speed eating but you do see him toss and turn a bunch, running of course, then dunked into a water tank upside down and vibrating his way out. Street cops Bellows (D'Ambrosio) and Murphy (Biff Manard, View In Peace) get a funny subplot when one thinks the other is The Flash. Oh and we get a nice The Shadow reference with a street called Margo Lane along with a random waiter with the most spectacular blonde mullet you have ever seen!

The second episode of the night was actually the final show of the season and series, The Trial of the Trickster. James is on trial for all the death and crime committed but is rescued by Zoey Clark (Corinne Bohre, also there!) an obsessed fan with deep pockets. The batty duo capture The Flash and brainwash him into a childlike state, only with super speed. Shipp doesn't get to do too much as Allen in this episode beside be shunned by now big shot Lockhart, act goofy and sport a mild mullet. Good stuff though and a shame it would be their final outing. After fighting crooks and randoms, The Flash introduced some cool villains like Captain Cold, Mirror Master and The Trickster along with the heroic Nightshade and his more hardcore imitator, The Deadly Nightshade (some of my favorite episodes). After the two episodes it was time for the immense reunion panel:

- Bilson and DeMeo working on another show for CBS, not picked up. Pitched The Flash but studio wanted a guy in a tracksuit with LED lights in shoes.
- Suit designer Robert Short explained that initial meeting he was told the suit was to have no seams, like the comic book. Wasn't sure how to accomplish and went through many variations. Final suit had an electric current run through it to give material texture.
- Mark Hamill joked how the origin of the comic book Trickster is a guy who dons rocket shoes to hijack planes and that they wanted to hire him because character was literally a Sky Walker.
- Shipp says he was one of the first guys to audition and beat out 60 some hopefuls. Was also told that studio exec thought his face would look good on a lunchbox.
- Many of the cast and crew remembered the long hours of shooting. One show started at 3:00 AM to which the director thought they were joking. They weren't. Star Labs usually shot last.
- Hamill loved the off hours as he could get to Malibu in 40 minutes without speeding.
- Relationship of The Trickster and sidekick Prank more or less paved way for Joker and Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series.
- Guys behind new show loved the old and have many references to it. Now make Shipp The Flash already Damme it!
- Current show producer Andrew Kriesberg had met Shipp on original show as he was an assistant on the lot. Shipp immediately asked if he was nice back then and said you never know who could be your boss.
- Show canceled due to some deal about points and demographics. Head of CBS apologized to John Wesley Shipp at The Tony awards on how they mishandled the show.
- Writer Howard Chaykin felt he had outgrew comic books but his agents pitched him show anyway and got him a very cheap deal. But it was the best professional experience he ever had.
- Show took up 1/3 of the Warner Brothers lot.
- On last shot, Shipp ripped off his Flash ears, Hamill quickly grabbed one and still has it.
- Hamill got to keep his Trickster suit, producers thought they had given him one of the The Flash suits as well but Hamill didn't think so.
- Early computer FX on the show, looked great on monitor but then had to print back to film which washed colors out.

It was truly a fun night and everyone attending reflected very warmly. There were so many people in the audience who worked on the show and several of the guests up front didn't get a chance to speak. I think it could have gone on a little longer as there wasn't another movie playing but ah well. Wish I would have arranged this myself!

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