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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

The Flash
by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo (*), Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore (***), and others. Based on characters created by Gardner Fox, Harry Lampert, and Carmine Infantino.

The Flash The pilot for The Flash is so lame and listless that the only way I could sit through it was to rewrite it in my head. In the pilot, we get a full screen shot of thunderclouds, lightening and thunder simultaneous, ominous music. Then a quick cut to the Barry Allen in the lab and the most famous scene in the entire story of The Flash. Lightning hits a shelf of chemicals and spills them all over Barry. Only the way it is presented is deadly dull.

How about shooting the same sequence this way. Beginning in the scene outside the lab, have something interesting going on in the foreground while almost subliminal flickers of lightening are reflected off a parked car. A beat later there is a low rumble of thunder. Then, in the lab, again with some interesting dialogue going on in the foreground, a window lights up. Half a beat later: thunder. Then, while we are distracted by something Barry is doing in the lab... WHAM, lightening and thunder together.

Then, in the next scene... oh, never mind. Next is the obligatory scene in which the villain establishes his evilness by killing one of his own henchmen. The only way to play that one is for laughs, as in Time Bandits.

To give credit where it's due, the pilot does have one good line: "I can't believe it was over so quickly." Use your superspeed to fast forward 1 hour and 6 minutes if you want to hear that line in context. It will look just like a Flash special effect.

The real problem with the pilot, which no script doctor could fix, is that any halfway decent police force would have taken down the bad guys in twenty-four hours. It should have taken The Flash twenty-four seconds.

So, why am I bothering to review this DVD at all? The answer is Howie Chaykin.

The Flash is DC's number four superhero. The comic book series is notable for the beautiful artwork of Carmine Infantino. The Flash had his own TV show, a guest spot on Smallville, and is a member of the Justice League. There is a great novel about Wally West: Stop Motion by Mark Schultz. But the best Flash stories in any medium are those Howie Chaykin wrote for the TV series.

Howard Chaykin politically is a little to the left of Noam Chomsky. Hell, he's to the left of Karl Marx. He is also a great writer/artist. From time to time, he makes a lot of money and swears he's never going to do manual labor (meaning writing and drawing) again. But he keeps coming back.

His first solo work was to adapt Fritz Leiber's great Fafhard and the Grey Mouser stories for DC. He went on to create Dominic Fortune and Cody Starbuck, then made his big splash with American Flagg. His most recent DC work was the Challengers of the Unknown miniseries. After writing for The Flash, he did TV scripts for Viper, Earth: Final Conflict, and Mutant X.

Chaykin & Moore wrote about half of the episodes of The Flash, the good half. Clever dialogue, quickly sketched memorable minor characters, and action that actually makes sense -- in one episode, The Flash attaches a fire hose to a fire hydrant and then races the water to the nozzle. The villain's character is established not by having him kill a henchman, but by having him disgusted when a henchman sticks gum under his pool table.

The DVD is strongly recommended, but watch just the Chaykin episodes.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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