Br. TJ has a great piece on the meaning of the proliferation of superhero reboots, especially in film but also in musicals and television. It made me think back to a little watched but now cult-classic live-action tv show of The Flash which aired in 1990. It centered on the Barry Allen version of The Flash. My pre-teen self (and current self) loved that show. Sadly it never got a strong audience and ran for one season only (22 episodes in total). I've been thinking about it recently with word that The Flash is likely to come out as a movie in the near future.
Here's the trailer for the show:
Now a couple of things jump out right away. First you can see the influence of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman (itself a film reboot of the Batman-verse). Danny Elfman, who did the music for that film, also scored The Flash show. The sets, backdrops, and modern scientific technology show influence from the '89 Batman film while the old style cars harken back to the radio-era days of heroes like The Green Hornet. There was even an episode (in 1990!) with a Day of the Dead festival with people walking around dressed up like ghouls remiscient of the recent zombie walk craze (check it out, first minute).
As Wikipedia states,
"The show originally had a dark and gritty tone, and focused on having The Flash confront decidedly human officials, like corrupt officials and mobsters. Midway through the show's run however a few of the familar Flash Rogue's Gallery of colorful superheroes began making an appearance."
I personally favored the dark and gritty tone of the first half of the show. As the show later progressed to some of its more fantastical elements, it balanced out the serious with the campy most of the time but did leave a legacy that showed up as the later '90s Batman films (the bad ones).
The gritty tone included a time-travelling sequence (a hallmark of the Flash lore and the first superhero to bring the now ubiquitious time travel theme into existence) which sends Flash to an apocalyptic future run by his nemesis Nicholas Pike (the murderer of Barry's brother), where Pike leads a crypto-fascist terror regime. The episode is a kind of superhero version of It's a Wonderful Life where The Flash is shown what life would be like if he dies (Pike has fired a missile at The Flash which has propelled him into this alternative future).
Occasional cheesiness aside, the show was really ahead of its time, especially when compared to the sitcom dominance of the 90s television scene.
Here's a fun scene involving the near-death of Flash and his confrontation with his enemy Captain Cold. He also stands up for truth and justice (and against the entertainment-based media industry).
Other elements that I think led to The Flash's cult-status:
--The clothing and look were really showed off many of what would become classic 90s looks (esp. causal chic).
--An awesome turn by Mark Hamill as the villain The Trickster (video here).
--The influence I think the show can be said to have had on the rise of crime-investigator dramas during the 2000s. The show does stick to the comic book history of Barry Allen a forensic scientist. Think all the CSI shows, Bones, even Dexter. It was way ahead of its time on that one.
--The technology was quite primitive by our CGI standards so it comes off looking low-budget but again in a cool, B-movie kinda way.
--And of course a series cancelled after one season of pure awesomeness.