Thursday, March 12, 2009

Live Action: The Worst

It saddens me to acknowledge that Crimson Lightning’s reviews of The Flash television series are at an end. I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting this unique program nearly twenty years on. If this blog’s run of reviews hasn’t yet convinced you to pick up The Flash on DVD, let me offer one final push. To this day, the scarlet speedster’s series remains one of the most remarkable and entertaining superhero shows ever produced for television. Even during this golden age of superhero cinema, it’s a series worth remembering and worth revisiting. Before we finish with our bi-weekly Live Action feature, however, I thought it would be fun to take some time to reflect upon the show’s triumphs as well as its failures.

Airing twenty-two episodes during its single-season run on CBS, The Flash displayed remarkable versatility in its storytelling, but with this came some dramatic variations in quality. In the end, the series was something of a mixed bag. Tuning in each week, there was an equal chance that you would be seeing some sort of banal or clichéd police drama rather than a wonderfully inventive take on the superhero genre. This week Live Action will comment on three of the show’s more frustrating installments. When I rank the episodes of the television series, these are the three that settle to the bottom. Next time around we’ll look at the top three episodes, the best and the brightest.

Here, then, are the Flash’s most miserable misadventures…


1. “Out of Control,” only the second installment in the series, is an utter embarrassment. While most television series struggle to find their footing in those first few episodes to follow the pilot, The Flash nearly fell flat on its face right out of the gate. A horrific monstrosity built of two-dimensional characters, stale drama, stock social commentary, and ropey special effects, the episode is redeemed only by the fact that all of the scarlet speedster’s subsequent televised adventures were brilliant by comparison.

2. “Sins of the Father” features a poorly structured and relatively uninspired script but, more tragically, it also serves to prove that even a television series following the exploits of a superpowered costumed avenger can be just plain boring. Guest star M. Emmet Walsh is a constant annoyance as Barry Allen’s irritatingly irascible father, and the mission he undertakes with his son plays out on-screen as a sort of second-rate police or detective tale. The episode also features one of the series’ most forgettable villains, Johnny Ray Hix, a clichéd escaped con utterly unworthy of facing-off against our superhero protagonist.

3. “Be My Baby” tries desperately to deliver both drama and laughs but lamentably falls short. The Flash was capable of occasionally hilarious comedy, it’s true, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this particular installment. This is the episode that casts Barry Allen as babysitter to an imperiled infant, and the situational comedy that ensues is neither enjoyable nor funny--not even unintentionally funny. Even the exceptional Bryan Cranston, guest starring as one of the series’ more offbeat antagonists, can’t save the story.

Dishonorable Mention: “Tina, Is That You?” is perhaps the most absurd adventure of the entire series. Whether the story is intentionally mocking one of the show’s own recurrent absurdities--namely the utterly unconvincing romantic tension forced upon Barry and Tina--or simply pursuing over-the-top plot twists in a misguided attempt at comic book-inspired dramatic effect, the end result is an episode that ridicules both of the show’s protagonists and leaves the audience questioning how seriously we’re meant to take The Flash.

There’s sure to be a Quick Quiz poll relating to The Flash television series at some point in the future. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts regarding the show’s worst episodes using the comment facility below. Do you still carry any unfortunate, unshakable memories of the crimson comet’s televised exploits? What’s your least favorite installment of The Flash?


KentButabi said...

I agree on all choices for the worst except SINS OF THE FATHER. The story was ok; however, there were some great action scenes, including the car crash and the pool hall fight.

Instead, I would have chosen DOUBLE VISION.

Dixon said...

That's interesting, Kent... And I'll warn you now, you're going to be rather shocked when you see the follow-up column! "Double Vision" was one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. It's not going to make my top three, but I've decided that it will be given an "honorable mention."

It just goes to show how subjective these things are. To each his own! Thanks for posting your thoughts. When the next posting comes along, be sure to share your favorite episodes with us, too!

rob! said...

What was the one that involved a jazz musician? I remember watching that one on TV and thinking it was awful, the worst.

Anonymous said...

The worst episode for me was having to watch crap on ex-President George Bush Senior heart murmur! That was the worst episode for me. Because until it came out on DVD I had no idea what happened during the entire thing!