That's the thing about good ideas- sometimes the timing just isn't right. Take, for example, the Flash, a television show that was at LEAST ten years ahead of its time. To better understand what I mean, just break it down to the core components: the story concerns a SUPERHERO who, for a day job, is a CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATOR. If that isn't a dynamite recipe for creative synergy, I don't know what is. Had the Flash been conceived in, say, 2003 or 2004, it would have tapped into a HUGE fan-base established by C.S.I. and the emerging superhero movie boom. Instead, it came out in 1990, trying (and failing) to ride the wave of hype generated for Tim Burton's Batman, and was ultimately felled in one season by another new program running in the same time slot: namely, the Simpsons. But the Flash, while it wasn't horrible, wasn't a perfect show, either, as is perfectly exemplified by the pilot movie that launched the series. It displays more than a few shimmers of inventiveness and creativity, and it's an entertaining way to spend two hours, but it's bogged down by a cheese factor and a lack of subtlety that crops up unexpectedly and kind of kills the mood, making it something of a mixed bag. The story concerns Barry Allen, a forensic criminologist caught in a freak lab accident (the chemicals he is working with are struck by LIGHTNING and explode in his face) who finds himself suddenly able to move with incredible speed. At first seeking a cure for his "ailment" (enlisting the aid of metabolic specialist Dr. Tina McGee), Allen decides to use his abilities to fight crime after a motorcycle gang led by a psychotic ex-cop murders his police officer-brother (in an obvious attempt to re-use the revenge theme of Batman for another superhero). Portraying our hero, Barry Allen, we have John Wesley Shipp, who plays the character as a likable everyman (despite his soap-opera good looks and rippling muscles) with a chip on his shoulder. Born into a family of cops- his dad was a cop, and his brother is a cop (well, for a while, anyway)- he has something of an inferiority complex about "only" being a police scientist, which drives him into workaholic tendencies and, eventually, vigilante activity. The problem with Shipp's Allen is that he's never really believable as a studious, intellectual scientist, mostly because he behaves so melodramatically emotional that it's difficult to see him as a rational person sometimes. As a superhero, though, he does seem to fit the bill, even if he's more stoic and angry than the Flash usually is, and the ripped musculature of his costume looks preposterously bulky on his already athletic frame (another touch of Batman- the dark, brooding hero in the sculpted muscle suit). This implausible outfit is provided for Barry by his specialist and accomplice, Tina McGee (played by Amanda Pays), a British scientist working for state-of-the-art S.T.A.R. Labs who happens to be the only person that knows of Barry's condition. Pays plays McGee as a much more believable scientist than Shipp does, even if the science she practices is more sci-fi than anything else. The two have a good, subtle chemistry, but Pays comes off as just a bit hollow in her part, despite the writer's attempts to give McGee some depth with a personal tragedy that influences how she works with Barry; it just seems like she's playing more to a British stereotype than to the idea of a real character, but she ultimately seems natural enough in the part. One character who does NOT come off naturally would have to be Michael Nader as bad guy Nicolas Pike, a scarred and grizzled ex-cop who would seem to be doing his best Stephen Seagal impression for the whole movie. The script suffers badly from the weakness of its villains- the theme of urban decay isn't really explored deeply enough to make these outcast biker-punks interesting characters, and they all play like cardboard cut-outs anyway (plus, I can't help but laugh when, in one scene, they reveal the names of two of the bikers to be "Bill" and "Steve"- badass mofos, to be sure). Other than this, though, the script is a surprisingly strong one, with good character development, interesting dialogue (despite a few patches of clichés), and a good (if occasionally wicked) sense of humor; it also introduces some fascinating concepts to the character, such as Barry's voracious appetite (he has to replace the calories burned when running with copious amounts of food) and the explanation for the suit (so that he can run without friction tearing his clothes to bits). The cinematography is kind of overly colorful sometimes, using gel-colored lights and neon to get that comic-strip look popular in the early nineties (most noticeably in Dick Tracy), but it stays classy during the character moments, and the compositions are actually pretty good for a TV movie. The effects, which cost a pretty penny at the time, modulate between the corny and the utterly fantastic (the multiple-exposures and blur effects are phenomenal, even by today's standards). The music, specifically the theme by Danny Elfman, strongly recalls the music of Batman, but with a much more adventurous streak that makes it sound quite good on its own. I can't say that the Flash was a sure-fire hit that just got shafted by a time-slot disadvantage; the pilot would never have passed muster as a feature film, and almost as often as it hits on moments of greatness, it sinks to lows of unoriginal thinking (thankfully, there are more highs than lows). But despite this, I still love the Flash as a great bit of light entertainment that had the potential to be something a lot better, even if we never saw that potential fully realized (either as a successful T.V. show or as a self-contained movie). Besides, it's a perfect fit with the superhero films of the day- Superman and Batman, that is- in its sense of fun and adventurousness, a style that has gone out of fashion in the current world of ultra-realistic, angst-ridden superheroes. It may not have been a superhero C.S.I. (and how cool might that have been?), but considering the time it was released, the Flash is a good, solid bit of fun, as a lead-in to the show or as a movie on its own; I honestly believe that the only reason it didn't stick around longer was because it just happened to show up on the wrong night at the wrong time.