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The Flash

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We gave it a C+

Baby-boomer comic-book fans will remember the latest TV superhero as the sleek, fleet-footed figure that artist Carmine Infantino made memorable in the pages of DC Comics in the ’60s. In the comics, the Flash got his powers when a bolt of lightning hit police scientist Barry Allen, dousing his blond crew cut with all the chemicals on his lab table and thus turning Allen into ”the fastest man alive.”

In the television version of The Flash, John Wesley Shipp plays Allen; there’s still the lightning bolt and the same red body-stocking costume, and he’s still very fast. But there’s no blond crew cut (Shipp’s a curly-haired brunet) and this over-muscled hero isn’t anything like the whippet-thin ordinary fellow that Infantino drew. This is a Flash with the body of Michael Keaton’s Batman (and that movie’s composer, Danny Elfman, wrote the Flash theme).

The Flash parts of this show are fun: Trick photography is so sophisticated these days that the high-speed running is exhilarating to watch. But so far, the villains are dumb, run-of-the-mill punks and hoods instead of colorful old Flash foes like Captain Cold and Gorilla Grodd.

But here’s the biggest disappointment of all: In the comics Allen kept his costume, shrunken down and super-neatly folded, in a ring he wore on his left hand; when he wanted to turn into the Flash, he pressed a little button on the ring and — boingg! — the costume popped out for Allen to pop into. If you don’t think 10-year-old boys would find this really neat, you’re crazy. Anyway, in the TV show, where does Allen keep his costume? In the trunk of his car. Sheesh.

The dialogue in this show is banal, but for some reason utterly charming whenever it’s coming out of the mouth of costar Amanda Pays (Max Headroom). Pays’ amazing lips are color-coded to match the Flash’s costume; she plays a research scientist, the only person who knows Allen is the Flash. The Flash‘s strong initial ratings suggest that Thursday will be a tight race. Let’s see, Bill Cosby used to run track at Temple; maybe Bart Simpson should take up jogging. C+

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