"The Flash" rates a solid 9.5 on the zowie-wowie scale. CBS's action fantasy about the well-known superhero premieres as a two-hour movie at 8 tonight on Channel 9, probably the most lavish TV production ever to be based on a comic strip.
Despite the origins, the situations and dialogue are less infantile than a lot of shows that aren't based on comic strips, and the hero is given enough complexity that adults can
conceivably be as engaged in his shenanigans as kids.
One of the highlights is a moment that appeals to mature audiences, in a merrily immature way. We find Mr. Flash in bed with his girlfriend, whose first line is a breathless "I can't believe it was over so quickly." Oh, but it's only a fake-out, albeit a cute one. We won't give away the punch line, either.
Of course, in a show like this, there are as many punches as lines, but the violence is mild, at least by action movie standards, and there's no gore. The special effects are very special, and include arresting shots of the Flash as he blurs by in his red muscle suit.
Special effects can't save a show, however, and if there's nothing at its heart, it's just another "Manimal" or "The Six Million Dollar Man" or "Misfits of Science."The "Flash" script by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo is notches beyond that kind of stuff, and director Robert Iscove achieves as much as possible a happily pulpy comic book look.
But the real plus is John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen, the crime lab technician who becomes the Flash when a stray bolt of lighting strikes the building one stormy 3 a.m. Shipp makes the Flash a viewer-friendly hunk; he's personable, he's approachable, and he doesn't have boringly perfect chiseled features.
It does take a while in the opener for Flashy to discover his super powers. First he tries to pick up a coffee cup and, swoosh, it flies across the room. "I'm switchin' you to decaf, man," says the funny, hang-loose Alex Desert as Julio, the lab assistant.
Flash zzzzzzips through the park into a bush. The treadmill at the gym blows up when he passes 347 miles per hour. And when this guy raids a refrigerator, this guy raids a refrigerator.
For all this, the producers are careful to maintain the human side of "superhuman." Flash says things we all say: "What's happening to me?" And "I can't believe I ate all this food." Nor is he invincible. He can be vinced -- at least if he happens to have a blood sugar attack after an especially strenuous streak of zizzing and zoozing around.
The women in his life are not very exciting, however. Amanda Pays, who seemed so enigmatic on "Max Headroom," has developed into an inexpressive stiff, and she still has that precious, prissy Olivia Newton-John accent. Super man deservum super woman. Her no good.
In the premiere, a revenge mechanism clicks in when the hero's cop brother is gunned down by the leader of a biker-bomber tribe. "The Flash" never quite degenerates to camp, but it maintains a buoyant sense of humor, as when the hero, about to punch out a sniveling little punk, tells him, "I realize how an unhappy childhood led you to all this, but that's really no excuse."
Rumors are that this pricey pilot cost Warner Bros. $6 million (of all the coincidental figures) to make. How could the company ever hope to recoup the investment? Simple: through merchandising tie-ins, should "Flash" click.
There'll be Flash cards and Flash cubes and, who knows, you might be out buying cookware and look down to see a Flash in the pan!!!
Any viewer will recognize echoes of big-screen comic strip features such as "Batman" and "Dick Tracy," and the music does sound a lot like Danny Elfman's -- but then, Danny Elfman's sounds a lot like Bernard Herrmann's. None of the derivativeness really hurts, and there's enough fresh stuff to compensate.
Indeed, other than the competition on NBC and Fox -- "The Cosby Show" and "The Simpsons" -- there doesn't seem to be much on this earth that could slow "The Flash" down.
'American Dreamer' NBC's "American Dreamer" is just another of the season's many expendable sitcoms except for one saving, raving grace: Carol Kane as Lillian Abernathy, a most endearing bundle of nerves who signs on as assistant to a former TV journalist now trying to write a human-interest column in a small Wisconsin town.
The series, which NBC will preview in the catbird seat following "Cheers" tonight -- at 9:30 on Channel 4 -- before moving it to Saturdays, stars Robert Urich, Mr. Toast Face, as the journalist, and if you can believe Robert Urich as a journalist, you can believe Andrew Dice Clay as Gandhi.
Instead of lightening up the maudlin parts of Susan Seeger's script, Urich tends to underline, circle and highlight them in yellow. Most of these occur when he speaks directly to the camera in soliloquy or ambles into a flashback from his past a` la (a bad production of) "Our Town."
A dramatic climax is supposed to occur when he teleports himself back to St. Louis on prom night to visit the girl he stood up. These fantasy sequences are the one thing about the structure of the show that makes it different, and they are also the one thing that ought to be dumped immediately.
Precisely what's so American about this American dreamer remains a mystery, though the wailing sax shrieking "America the Beautiful" over the closing credits leads you to think you've just been the recipient of a true Message Sitcom.
As American dreams go, the yen of a highly paid TV newsman to stash himself away in the Midwest and compose prose poems about his private feelings ("I am filled with the wonder of life. ...") ranks pretty darn low on the empathy scale.
Kane brightens all her scenes to the blinding point, however. She does specialize in playing ditses, but they all seem distinctive from one another. The moment she shows up, the show seems to go from black-and-white to color. She's gladdening, and touching, and embarrassingly overqualified for the job. 'Cheers' A ninth season for "Cheers"? There's no good reason why there shouldn't be. And a 10th and an 11th and a 21st. Maybe "Cheers" could be a franchise for NBC, like "Saturday Night Live" or the "Today" show. It's the kind of show a loyal viewer hopes will go on forever.
In the season premiere tonight at 9 on Channel 4, just about everybody's at a gleeful peak -- except maybe Kelsey Grammer, looking haggard after his drug bust last summer (Emmy winner Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith is not, alas, in tonight's episode).
But Kirstie Alley, who seemed to be trying too hard to be funny when she played the testy "Cheers" boss, is much more attractive as the season begins because her character, Rebecca, has been demoted to waitress now that Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson, has retaken control of the establishment.
Wisely, the subplot involving Robin Colcord, that squirrelly corporate raider played by Roger Rees, is wrapped up early in the episode, and the guy hies off to the hoosegow for what one hopes is a long stretch (he can have the cell next to Charles Keating).
MEANWHILE, and it's a very big meanwhile, what have Sam and Rebecca been up to in the back office?! Could it be at long last love, sort of?! Did they really do it, and will Sam brag about his victory to the resident batch of barflies?! And is it all right to end a sentence with both a question mark and an exclamation point?!
All these questions except the last are answered in wonderfully funny "Cheers" style.
Other questions are answered too -- the kinds that only get asked in bars, and having to do with how history would have changed if certain world leaders had fish parts for faces. Never mind; you have to be there. "Cheers" is back, God's in His (or Her) Heaven, and all's right with the world -- for half an hour, anyway.