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The Flash 1.17 – Captain Cold

Well, speaking of Dick Miller, as I was in the previous entry, back in 1990-91, he had a small recurring part as Fosnight, an informer who occasionally dropped helpful hints about Central City’s criminal underworld in CBS’s quirky version of The Flash. It was a show that owed a whole lot to the success of Tim Burton’s first Batman movie, and gave John Wesley Shipp his first starring role as the Scarlet Speedster. Well, since I’m paying for DC Universe, I might as well take advantage of it and show the kid another thing or two, right? (We also watched one of my favorite episodes of the 1990s Batman cartoon, Paul Dini’s “Almost Got ‘im,” this afternoon.)

Maybe the more obvious pick for a look at The Flash would have been its pilot, or the two with Mark Hamill as the Trickster, or the two with Jason Bernard as Nightshade, the retired hero from the 1950s, but I’ve always enjoyed Gail Morgan Hickman’s “Captain Cold” more than all the other episodes. It guest starred Michael Champion, who was always playing toughs and cops on television in the 1980s and 1990s, as the supervillain, and I correctly guessed that the mix of dopey puns about snow and ice and the sense of “how will the Flash win” menace would keep our favorite eight year-old critic amused. Naturally, he enjoyed the climax the most. There’s nothing like seeing the villain hoist on his own petard when you’re a kid, is there?

On the other hand, this took such a long time to get moving. The Flash – and Lois & Clark, to a large degree – came from that time when television executives seemed terrified to throw too many wild ideas at the screen for fear of whether the audience could swallow them. At one point, they spend nearly a minute discussing how the hitman might have come into possession of a gun that does what it does. Were there really any viewers in their fifties and sixties watching this who needed to have “he has a freeze ray” spoonfed to them like this? And yet I remember reading a critique of the series once that wondered whether casual viewers could have understood a character as outre as Nightshade, as though “he was a superhero, he got old, he retired” was some kind of radical concept.

Anyway, our son certainly squirmed as the character development was limited exclusively to another guest star, wondering why he’s supposed to be caring about the journalistic ethics of somebody he’ll never see again when there’s perfectly good super speed and freeze ray stuff to be seen. But the problem with The Flash, both then and now, is that they have an hour of TV to fill and this guy’s scraps tend to be finished in seconds. I liked the show’s supporting cast, and its crazy timelost design, with art deco buildings and Tamara de Lempicka prints in everybody’s apartment, but I honestly prefer the modern TV incarnation, where there is so much more going on every week, and where members of the huge regular cast develop instead of one-off characters.

On the other hand, Grant Gustin’s Flash is known for making catastrophically bad, universe-threateningly poor decisions several times a season. John Wesley Shipp’s Flash may have run out of steam getting from one side of town to the other and back in sixty seconds, but he was no dummy. It’s nice to see a superhero with as much common sense as this Barry Allen.


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Eerie, Indiana 1.4 – The Losers

I have to say… as wonderful as it is to have this fun show on DVD, I’m less than thrilled by the quality of the prints they used. I remember the series being much more vibrant and colorful when it was shown, and the prints, at least the ones of episodes three and four, have been cut by about thirty seconds. They lack the “Elvis / Bigfoot / man’s best friend” spoken section of the title sequence*. Perhaps these were copies prepared for syndication? Hopefully if some company ever decides to reissue this on Blu-ray, they can find the original masters and work from those.

Anyway, our son cheered when we told him we were watching another episode tonight. He really enjoys the young protagonists, but he simply sums it up by saying “It’s just so weird!” Joe Dante was back to direct episode four, and he brought along a pair of fabulous character actors: Henry Gibson and Dick Miller. Astonishingly, we’ve been doing this blog almost daily for close to four years and I don’t think that we’ve run into Miller before.

Gibson and Miller play employees of a top-secret government project called the Bureau of the Lost. They’re out to keep the economy stimulated by making sure people keep having to buy replacements for the things they misplace. But the hapless citizens of Eerie aren’t actually misplacing anything; Miller’s just creeping around swiping socks, lug nuts, pen caps, random pages from the phone book, and so on. The Tellers get selected for a run of bad luck, and Marshall’s dad’s briefcase vanishes. Dad’s in a state because it contains the formula for a petroleum-based banana flavoring, and Mom’s furious because he’s forgotten that it was an anniversary present.

Marshall and Simon’s scheme to deliberately lose something and see what happens leads them to Eerie’s bike gang, a laundromat stocked with the old Warren Eerie comic, and to the goofy bureau itself, where the word “found” causes Gibson’s character to get antsy. It reminded me of one of the lands from The Phantom Tollbooth! Our young heroes don’t quite save the day, the economy keeps ticking, and now we’ve got a very good explanation for the next time our son loses an important brick from a Lego set. Everyone wins!

*I might have got ahead of myself… the title sequence wasn’t quite formalized this early in the show, and later episodes on the set have the full version.

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