In 1990, CBS aired The Flash – a live-action television series based on the DC Comics super hero of the same name. The series starred John Wesley Shipp in the role of Barry Allen/The Flash, alongside a cast that included Amanda Pays and Alex Désert.
The series focused on the adventures of Barry Allen, a forensic scientist who is granted superhuman abilities in a laboratory accident. Able to travel at vast speeds, Allen adopts the disguise of the Flash in order to fight crime and protect his city.
In this post, I am taking a look back at the series to serve up some key details about The Flash. Below are 15 facts about the show, to provide you with everything you need to know about this fan-favourite series.
The Flash ran for one season, comprising 22 episodes. The show initially aired on CBS, beginning on September 20th 1990 with a two-hour Pilot and concluding on May 18th 1991 with The Trial of the Trickster.
The Flash was developed by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, who initially pitched the show as an ensemble piece called Unlimited Powers. Unlimited Powers was set in a dystopian future, where supervillains run the world.
Speaking in the book, Age of TV Heroes, by Jason Hofius and George Khoury, De Meo, said: “The script featured the Barry Allen version of the Flash, along with a young Dr. Occult, the daughter of the Green Arrow (we killed him off in the pilot), and Blok, who was kind of like a cross between the Thing and Paul Chadwick’s Concrete.”
Although there was some interest in the concept, Unlimited Powers was deemed too ambitious by CBS. The concept was therefore reshaped, becoming The Flash solo series in the process.
60 to 1
Around 60 actors read for the part of Barry Allen, before the 60 was whittled down to two – John Wesley Shipp and Richard Burgi. According to Ship in Age of TV Heroes, during the final stages both he and Burgi had to “read through a couple of scenes for about fifteen, twenty people at CBS.”
The million dollar hero
The Flash was a costly show to produce, becoming Warner Bros.’ most expensive television series at the time it aired. According to Les Daniels in the book DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favourite Comic Book Heroes, each episode was budgeted at over $1 million.
The Batman influence
The Flash was brought to television screens in large part due to the success of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) – a movie which would also help inform the show’s more serious tone. Batman had proved to be a smash hit for Warner Bros. and the company was keen to develop more heroes for both the big and small screen.
The write stuff
While The Flash skewed more towards real-world characters and scenarios, many elements of the comics we worked into the series to maintain its comic book routes. These elements included maintaining the Flash’s origin, introducing comic book villains such as Mirror Master and Captain Cold, and utilising S.T.A.R. Labs – a science facility regularly featured in stories from DC Comics.
The show’s comic book roots were also helped along by John Francis Moore and Howard Chaykin, who were story editors on The Flash. Both Moore and Chaykin were familiar with the character, having come from the comic book industry themselves.
The suit makes the man
The Flash’s suit was designed by comic book artist and Rocketeer creator, Dave Stevens, and was constructed by Batman ‘89’s Robert Short. The suit included foam rubber muscles and an internal cooling system to ensure lead actor John Wesley Shipp didn’t overheat.
In total, four suits were constructed at a cost $100,000 – two for Shipp to wear and two for the stunt men. The suit had to be fitted around the actor every time he wore it, and it was both uncomfortable and difficult to wear.
A number of well-known actors appeared in The Flash. Notable guest stars/actors in the series included David Cassidy, Jeffrey Combs, Denise Crosby, Billy Mumy, Jeri Ryan, Jonathan Brandis, Bryan Cranston, Corinne Bohrer, Vito D’Ambrosio, and Mark Dacascos. Perhaps most famously, Mark Hamill played the role of the Trickster.
Read all about it
Actor Robert Shayne played the recurring role of a newspaper vendor in The Flash. This wasn’t the first time Shayne appeared in a show based on a DC Comics character, the actor previously played the recurring role of Inspector Henderson in the George Reeves-led, Adventures of Superman (1952 – 1958).
Composing a hero
The music for The Flash was provided by two composers: Danny Elfman and Shirley Walker. Elfman – who also composed the score for Batman ‘89 – provided the show’s theme tune, while Walker – who would later score Batman: The Animated Series (1992 – 1995) – provided the music for each episode.
Despite proving popular with fans, and getting support from CBS, The Flash struggled to find an audience. The series found itself up against fierce competition from the likes of The Simpsons and The Cosby Show, and The Flash simply couldn’t compete.
Had The Flash returned for a second season, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo had plans for a big season opener. The two-part story would have seen the Flash at the mercy of the Rogues’ Gallery – a collection of his most fearsome foes who group together to take down the scarlet speedster.
Multiple episodes of The Flash were edited together and released on VHS as ‘movies’. The movies included The Flash (1990), The Flash II: Revenge of the Trickster (1991), and The Flash III: Deadly Nightshade (1992).
The first movie was simply the pilot episode of the show repackaged as a film, while Revenge of the Trickster combined the episodes The Trickster and Trial of the Trickster. Deadly Nightshade combined the episodes Ghost in the Machine and The Deadly Nightshade.
Back in action
Decades after they finished playing their characters on The Flash, John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays, Alex Désert, Mark Hamill, Vito D’Ambrosio, and Corinne Bohrer, all appeared on the 2014 Flash TV series. Across the course of the series, Shipp played three different characters, Henry Allen, Jay Garrick, and Barry Allen/Flash from the ‘90s series.
Thanks for stopping by I’ll Get Drive-Thru to read this post about The Flash. For more DC-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below, and don’t forget to take a trip around the blog for even more posts.