'Flash' is a comic hero dressed up for prime time


September 19, 1990|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Evening Sun Staff

TAKE "The Six Million Dollar Man," combine with th sensibilities of the modern comic book big screen film, leaven with the humor of a "Greatest American Hero," and -- voila! -- you have "The Flash.'

Actually, it's not such a bad combination. As with "Batman," "Dick Tracy" and the other examples of this now highly commercial genre, you're not going to be discussing its subtextual meaning at the water cooler the next day, but it looks like an amusing way to pass an hour.

"The Flash," which was CBS' great red hope to take on "The Cosby Show" before "The Simpsons" moved onto the block, gets a two-hour sendoff in its normal time slot tomorrow night at 8 o'clock. It stars John Wesley Shipp as mild-mannered Barry Allen, just another police lab technician in Central City until one day lightning hits the laboratory window, spilling chemicals all over him. When he comes to, Allen is able to run at about 600 miles an hour.

Well, it just so happens that Central City is under siege by a vicious motorcycle gang which threatens to turn the town into an anarchic mess. Moreover, Allen's brother is killed as he leads the police task force assigned to combat the menacing riders who, it turns out, just happen to be led by Allen's brother's former police partner.

Wow, what coincidences! To no one's surprise, Allen's new-found powers -- he can run, fight, do anything at superspeed, but it uses up a lot of energy so he eats enormous amounts -- come in handy in tracking down the bad guys.

In "Batman" and company tradition, the bad guys are really, really, really bad guys, mean, sadistic, all dressed in black and filmed in dark, mood-lit settings. The music track is pseudo-classical played at a volume that aims for full body contact even through tiny TV speakers. The effects are OK, a lot of blurred motion and good speeded up trips through the city shown from the hero's point of view.

To keep things from getting too heavy, Allen can't handle his speed when he first gets it. We see him take off to make a gallery opening of his girlfriend's art, lose control somewhere around Santa Monica and finally scare the bejeezus out of a bunch of beach goers as he plows into the Pacific.

Eventually, he teams up with an experimental laboratory where a woman named Tina McGee -- played by Amanda Pays who had a similar role in "Max Headroom" -- becomes his scientific patron. She outfits him in a sleek red suit that won't tear apart at his breakneck speeds and also makes his muscles look twice as big. He adds the mask, gloves and Flash logo and, presumably, gets an agent to start looking into merchandising deals.

"The Flash"

** A series based on the DC Comic character who can run real fast in his sleek red suit. CAST: John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays

TIME: Thursdays at 8 p.m.

CHANNEL: CBS Channel 11 (WBAL)

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