Slow-going 'Flash' goes nowhere fast in fall network lineup

September 20, 1990|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Look, let's not savage "The Flash."

The CBS series, which premieres at 8 tonight on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), has enough misery. It is scheduled to go against "The Cosby Show" on NBC and Fox' "The Simpsons" week in and week out.

That means there are not going to be many weeks in the lineup for "The Flash." It is aimed at kids, but there are not three kids in America who don't watch Homer Simpson or Cliff Huxtable's brood. Even if "The Flash" was any good, the nicest thing we could say to it is rest in peace. And "The Flash" isn't any good.

This hourlong action-adventure series is based on the comic book hero with superhuman speed. In the CBS version, John Wesley Shipp plays Barry Allen, a dedicated chemist in the Central City Police Department Crime Laboratory who is struck by lightning and drenched in chemicals during an electrical storm. After spending a few minutes on the floor of the lab looking like hisown electrical field, Allen wakes up a new man, so to speak. He can run real fast. He's the Flash.

This is lucky, because Central City, which he loves, is being terrorized by a gang of motorcycle thugs. Actually, it is a gang of people who were homeless in Central City and then were organized by the former chief of the Central City Police Department's motorcycle squad into a gang of thugs. Their mission: to avenge the former chief's dismissal for corruption.

(Note to CBS programmers: This is a really enlightened messagabout the homeless to send to kids -- that they are vicious and faceless criminals.)

It's going to take a super hero to stop these villains.

What else? Let's see. Allen's girlfriend leaves him and then comes back to him. His brother, the current chief of the motorcycle squad (this is apparently a coveted job in Central City), gets killed by the thugs.

And Allen meets a beautiful scientist who helps him understand his new powers which both frighten and fascinate him. (Sound like a sexual message here for teen-age boys?)

Tonight's pilot, which is two hours long, may set a new record for most padding in one pilot. "The Flash" is mighty slow going.

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