"The Flash: The Complete Series"
Review by James Harvey

To comic book fans, the scenario is familiar. Police scientist Barry Allen’s body is radically altered by a reaction from a lightning bolt striking his lab during an experiment. Now he can run faster than anyone else on the planet. Initially reluctant to use these powers, he slowly begins to accept this gift. Donning a red suit that helps him control his powers, he hits the street as Central City’s vigilante The Flash. Airing for one season during the 1990 – 1991 year, this show managed to gain a cult following that has lasted for well over a decade.

The pilot for the series kicks off the series by introducing a reoccurring villain, Pike, and establishing the supporting cast for the series. A couple wouldn’t survive the initial outing, but the remaining episodes does a good job at handling the dynamic between Barry Allen’s vigilante and police work as well as his personal life. John Wesley Shipp (“Dawson’s Creek”) actually fits the role quite well, and is even able to pull off the goofiness of the costume quite well. It’s quite hard to look intimidating in his suit the entire time, but he pulls it off. The two main supporting characters Tina McGee, played by Amanda Pays, and Julio Mendez, played by Alex Desert, help keep the show on its feet. I found them to be pretty enjoyable and crucial to the series.

For anyone who’s watched even just the pilot of the series knows this show draws heavy inspiration from 1989’s “Batman.” Music, style, design, etc, all seem to be heavy influenced by Warner Bros’ blockbuster from the previous summer. Both Danny Elfman and Shirley Walker, both heavy-hitters in the Batman music department, help the show with its “timeless era feel.” Not only that, but from the first frame it’s easy to tell that this is one expensive show. Sure, the visuals and design may look very dated now, but it’s obvious this was a very expensive production from day one. The special effects, details and elaborate sets, all of it looks costly.

Now, the show isn’t perfect by any means. I found it to be better than I expected, and pretty fun. However, like many shows, it falls into the same routine week after week. The opening threat is established, the cool opening theme plays, and then we’re introduced to the B-plot and eventual resolution. Throw in some usually bad jokes, and we’re off for a 45 minute installment. If the producer’s could’ve dropped a lot of the lame humor and tweaked the concept just a beat, it would’ve improved the series. The series also winks heavily at the audience, be it comic-book references or jabs at itself. It keeps the tone pretty light-hearted. And yes, like with any show such as this, there is some unintentional humor, whether it’s Flash’s rather weak punching abilities or ‘Future Julio’ in the “Fast Forward” episode.

It’s interesting to note how close this show plays to the comic’s roots, considering how popular it is these days to much with the concept until it’s barely recognizable (I’m looking at you, “Bird of Prey”) or ridiculously boring as sin (and you, “Smallville”). It’s nice to see a show willing to stick with the formula no matter how goofy it may be, and that helps in the show’s charms. Despite it being a hard suit to pull off, the Flash costume looks great and I’m glad they stuck with it. I’d hate to see them take a different route where the costume is just Barry Allen in jeans and a red t-shirt instead of the actual costume. The show embraced its comic book roots, and you have to give it credit (even if we had to sit through those damn “you’ve been reading too many comic books” groaners).

The audio and visual is pretty standard for reproducing a show from over 15 years ago. The audio is rich, making the dialogue clear and the music loud and boisterous. It’s especially great to listen to the opening theme, starting with that large crack of thunder, on such clear audio. The video is suitable for the release, though a bit dark (but that just may be the design of the show itself). There is a bit of dark and pixilation, but the show video is pretty high quality for a release such as this.

Warner Home Video collects the entire series in a nice six-disc set. There are no extras to speak off, but the design used for the packaging and discs themselves is well done. John Byrne’s artwork mixed with production images are scattered all over the red-hued inner digipak, the six discs collecting the complete series housed in double mounted holders, resulting in disc overlap. A complete run down of the episode titles and synopsis are included as text on the inside package fold out. Each disc contains a shot of assorted cast members of the show, though Alex Desert is oddly absent from the set. Given Desert plays one of the main characters for the series, it’s an odd oversight for him to not be included on any of the disc art.

Fans of the character will probably enjoy this little nostalgia trip. While the show can be a bit uneven and repetitive, it was more enjoyable than expected. It’s a show that’s easy to revisit and goes down pretty smooth. For comic book fans, specifically that of The Flash, “The Flash: The Complete Series” a highly recommended purchase.

Note: On early versions of the DVD set there have been problems with the first disc, the feature locking up during the pilot episode. For any consumer experiencing this problem with Disc 1 and needs to obtain a replacement disc, please contact Warner Home Video at 1-800-891-1311 so that a self-addressed stamped envelope can be sent to you for return and exchange of your current Disc 1. Later pressings of this collection have since solved the problem. Further information can also be found at the official site.