September 20, 1990, was a big day for me. Not only was it 8 days before my 12th birthday, but was also the premiere date of The Flash. 24 years before the CW’s “runaway” hit (I am not proud of the pun, but I am not changing it either), CBS became the first network with a show featuring the Scarlet Speedster. Starring John Wesley Shipp, the series ran for only one season. This is mainly because it was on Thursday nights, right at the dawn of Must See TV on NBC. On top of that, The Simpsons, before they settled into their Sunday night recliner, also ran at the same time.
Since most of us watch TV, we know that it’s not necessarily the quality of a show that keeps it around, but the ratings. Now while the 1990s Flash didn’t have the ratings to earn a second season, it was still a great superhero TV show.
The same can be said for the CW version that premiered on October 7, 2014. For the first time in quite awhile, we saw a DC superhero that was generally in good mood. Unlike his partner in crime Oliver Queen, Barry Allen doesn’t pull a muscle when he attempts a smile.
Two Flash TV shows, 24 years apart. Which show is better? Let’s try and figure it out. I’ve broken the shows down into a few categories. By the end, we should have an idea as to which Flash is best.
I am a sucker for opening theme music, and when that theme music has a Tim Burton Batman vibe to it, I have to declare it the winner. Don’t get me wrong, “My name is Barry Allen, and I am the Fastest Man Alive” is straight out of the comics, but they could also say that AFTER a cool opening theme.
1990: John Wesley Shipp
2014: Grant Gustin
Winner: Grant Gustin
While John Wesley Shipp was good as Barry Allen for his series, Grant’s Barry fits more in line with what I imagine the Flash to really be like. We also see a lot more of the forensic science work in Grant’s version that we did with John’s. Plus, a younger Barry will let us see him grow into a hero more than someone who is older. (Having said all this, John Wesley Shipp is FANTASTIC as Henry Allen, Barry’s father in the current series. So technically he wins as well.)
This one may cause some debate, but the 1990 costume looks more like a comic book superhero costume than the current version. The real deal-breaker is the white on the chest emblem. Since neither costume have the yellow boots, the insignia was the next thing to look at. This category may have to be revisited down the road, as we know that Grant’s Barry will eventually wear a costume more similar to the comics.
1990: Tina McGee and Julio Mendez
2014: Cisco Ramon, Caitlin Snow, Iris West, Joe West, Eddie Thawne, Henry Allen, Harrison Wells, Ronnie Raymond, Martin Stein, Felicity Smoak, John Diggle, and Oliver Queen
The 2014 supporting cast wins out because, since everyone knows everything, the dynamic can be more natural. As you watch the season, one of the most consistent things about the show is that EVERYONE seems to be pretty happy with their lives. No one is brooding. Yes, sometimes they get sad or angry, but they are smiling more often than not. When everything else has to be dark and gritty, this was a welcome change. Let’s not forget that there are other superheroes in this show as well (Arrow, Firestorm, and Atom), leading to a more growing universe.
2014: Weather Wizard, Multiplex, Mist, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Plastique, Girder, Blackout, Rainbow Raider, Reverse Flash, Pied Piper, Peek-A-Boo, The Trickster, Golden Glider, Bug-Eyed Bandit, and Gorilla Grodd.
Hands Down the 2014 wins the supervillain category. A lot of the villains in the 1990 show were original characters. Even the ones they DID have didn’t match their comic-counterparts. Captain Cold was NOT an albino assassin, and we missed the “respect” aspect of his relationship to the Flash. I could go on and on, but there’s really only one word that explains why 2014 wins: GRODD.
Overall Winner: 2014, 3-2
It was closer that I had expected, but the 2014 series wins out. With a more diverse supporting cast, a younger Barry, and the actual Rogues, it’s no wonder this show was picked up for a second season, and hopefully beyond.
So what do YOU think? Which show is better? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.