The Flash (TV 1990)

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'The Flash' was a 1990 live-action TV series based on the comic book character of the same name, starring John Wesley Shipp in the title role.

Central City police scientist Barry Allen is caught in a freak lab accident involving a bolt of lightning and several random chemicals on a shelf; the bizarre combination alters his body chemistry, allowing him to move at incredible Super Speed. Shortly afterwards, his older brother Jay is murdered by notorious gang leader (and ex-cop) Nicholas Pike, prompting Barry to seek the aid of STAR Labs scientist Dr. Tina McGee in order to bring Pike and his gang to justice. To that end, Barry dons an experimental high-pressure diving suit, modified with lightning-bolt designs, and sets out on a one-man war on Pike, and eventually on crime in Central City as a whole.

The series lasted for one season, 22 episodes in all, and was eventually canceled due to poor network time scheduling. It was produced by Warner Bros in association with Pet Fly Productions.

See also The Flash, a 2014 Spin-Off from Arrow which was rather more successful.


Tropes used in The Flash (TV 1990) include:
  • Abandoned Warehouse: The Nightshade's secret lair is located in one, as a heroic example. For a villainous example, the Trickster commandeers one as his own personal base of operations in his debut episode. See also Never Recycle a Building below.
  • Adaptation Dye Job: Traditionally blond Barry Allen sports a head of brown hair here.
  • Agent Scully: Officer Murphy refuses to believe the Flash exists. Even after seeing the speedster running around a bus to defrost it right before his eyes.
    • His just missing the Flash so many times eventually leads to him being suspected of being the hero.
  • Artificial Human: The titular cyborg in "Alpha."
  • Ax Crazy: The Trickster.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: This series' version of Captain Cold and Mirror Master.
  • Badass Longcoat: This series' version of Captain Cold.
  • Batman Gambit: A criminal mastermind gathers a team to supposedly steal a foreign treasure. While the police sit on the treasure, he sends them out to pick the city clean. As it turns out they're just distractions to pull the police away so he can steal the treasure.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Barry and Tina.
  • Berserk Button: Prematurely canceling a contract with Captain Cold when he's failed a mission you hired him for is not a wise thing to do, especially because his offended feelings won't show openly.
  • Big Eater: Barry, by necessity due to his powers.
  • But for Me It Was Tuesday: This is Pike's attitude in the pilot, when Flash confronts him about Jay's murder.

The Flash: You made me when you killed my brother.
Pike: I've killed a lot of men's brothers.

  • Captain Ersatz: The Nightshade was essentially a combination of The Shadow and Green Hornet, with his outfit based on that of the Golden Age Sandman.
  • Cassandra Truth: A toddler in an episode calls Barry "Flash" as she's begun talking. Fortunately since she is a baby nobody takes her seriously.
  • Cloning Blues: Pollux was a clone of Barry Allen. He didn't take it very well when he found out.
  • Composite Character: Barry Allen's costume, eating tendencies and connection with Tina McGee are all taken from Wally West's run as the Flash.
  • Continuity Nod: Some of the later episodes would reference events from earlier episodes. One example would be Nicholas Pike, the Big Bad of the pilot episode, returning for revenge in "Fast Forward."
  • Corrupt Cop: Pike used to be this.
  • Criminal Amnesiac: A rather interesting variation in "Tina, Is That You?"--due to an experiment gone wrong, Tina becomes convinced that she's the leader of a dangerous all-girl gang, but she still remembers her own real name and Barry's secret identity, and threatens to use the latter knowledge against him if he tries to interfere with her plans.
  • Da Chief: Lt. Warren Garfield.
  • Damsel in Distress: Megan Lockhart in "The Trickster," though she defies the status.

Megan: I'm no damsel in distress! I'm a detective!

  • Darker and Edgier: Most of the episodes portrayed Central City in a manner more akin to Gotham City. Plus, the Flash wasn't afraid to kill (unlike his comic book counterpart, who only ever killed once out of desperation).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lt. Garfield.
  • Electric Torture: In the episode "Fast Forward", Barry Allen is transported ten years into the future where his brother's killer Nicolas Pike runs Central City. He uses an electric chair in the old STAR Labs to give whoever opposes him an electric lobotomy. However, when Nicolas had Barry strapped up to the chair and given a full measure of the chair's powers, it briefly restores Barry's superspeed allowing him to escape
  • Evil Albino: The show's version of Captain Cold.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The dog does not like the disguised Trickster, while nobody else can tell who he is.
  • Executive Meddling: There was a constant shifting from one time-slot to another, eventually causing the show's cancellation after one season. Explained more fully on the show's Wikipedia page.
  • Expy: Pollux, Barry's clone in the episode "Twin Streaks," was essentially the show's Reverse-Flash. He also has roots in Speed Demon and the Blue Trinity, all early speedster foes of Wally West who got their powers via lab experimentation.
  • For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: Happens in "The Trickster," where Barry goes to a police costume ball as his alter ego...and a number of the guests there are clad in similarly-colored costumes, since nobody knows what the real Flash looks like beyond the red-and-gold speed blur. Amusingly, Barry is told that his costume is bland.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Nightshade, the Ghost, Mirror Master, and Deadly Nightshade.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "The Trickster," when Barry brings Megan back to his apartment while Tina's there:

Megan: (to Tina) Barry mentioned to me what happens to you when you don't get enough sleep. All-girl gang, huh? (referencing the previous episode, "Tina, Is That You?")

  • Handy Cuffs: The Trickster was handcuffed with his hands in front of him. While sitting in the middle of a police car with 3 officers, he grabbed a gun from one officer and shot all 3 dead. Oh, and Trickster is also an escape artist so he was out of the handcuffs seconds later.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Barry has a dog, Earl.
  • Honor Before Reason: Captain Cold will finish a contract, even if the employer cuts the contract short without paying him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Captain Cold's demise.
  • Hot Scientist: Tina, of course.
  • Invisibility: Brian Gideon and his invisibility cloak.
  • Kick the Dog: In "Twin Streaks," Pollux complains to his creator, Dr. Jason Brassell, that he doesn't know who his parents are, whether he's a good or bad person, or what his true identity is supposed to be. His creator's response?

Brassell: You're nothing. Absolutely nothing. A random accumulation of molecules grown in a lab. An experiment. A lab animal who at the moment is getting on my nerves!

Flash: I don't believe you! All you care about is your money and your career. You almost got us killed!
Terri: N-no, I-I-I didn't mean to--
Flash: You didn't mean to what? To be an unprincipled, manipulative brat who thinks the truth is something to be twisted to get what you want? If you really wanna be a good reporter, you have to learn to care about the truth. And about people.

  • Second Coming: The Flash became a Messianic Archetype when he was accidentally blasted ten years into the future where his brother's killer Nicholas Pike runs Central City as his personal kingdom and its citizens are looking for his return to set things right.
  • Secret Keeper: Tina, to Barry. Megan Lockhart and the Nightshade as well.
  • Screwed by the Network
  • Super Speed: Well, of course.
  • Taking the Bullet: Pollux does this to save Barry and Tina in "Twin Streaks."
  • Those Two Guys: Officers Murphy and Bellows.
  • Time Travel: In "Fast Forward," the combination of him running at super-speed and the explosion from a homing missile somehow causes Flash to get sent ten years into a Bad Future.
  • The Unfavorite: In the pilot Barry was this for his father Henry, in stark contrast to his brother Jay; Henry always praised Jay's accomplishments as the leader of the local police department's major crime task force while dismissing Barry's work in the police lab. However, Barry never held it against Jay himself (and it helped that Jay supported Barry's lab-work).
  • The Vamp: Megan Lockhart.
  • Villain of the Week: Many of them were mostly normal mobsters. Among those who used costumes or special gimmicks: the Trickster, Sam "Mirror Master" Scudder, Captain Cold, the Ghost (archenemy of the hero Nightshade who utilized television broadcasts), the Deadly Nightshade (an Evil Counterpart to Nightshade), Brian Gideon (who used an invisibility cloak) and Pollux.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Henry Allen, Barry's father and a former street cop, looks down on Barry's work as a scientist in the police lab, believing it to not be "real" police work.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The Flash himself, apparently. Lampshaded by Lt. Garfield in "The Trickster."
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed in "Twin Streaks."
  • Would Hit a Girl: Most of the villains, but Trickster stands out in particular.
  • You Killed My Father: Pike murders Jay Allen, Barry's older brother, in the pilot.
  • You're Insane!: What Barry Allen says to Nicolas Pike after he's seen what his nemesis has done to Central City during his ten-year absence through accidental time travel.