August 2, 2014

THE SKED Fall Pilot Report: CW’s “The Flash”


THE FLASH:  Tuesday 8PM on CW starting October 7 – If Nothing Else Is On…

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PLAYERS:  Series Creators/Executive Producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, the first 2 of whom are also creators of Arrow, from which this Flash is a spin-off (he was introduced in an Arrow arc, and Stephen Amell makes a cameo in the Flash pilot).  Star Grant Gustin and supporting players Jesse L. Martin, Tom Cavanaugh, Danielle Panabaker, Candice Patton, Rick Cosnett and Carlos Valdes.  Pilot director David Nutter.  Warner Bros Television and DC Entertainment (owned by the Warners empire).

PREMISE:  A guy gets really, really fast–namely, mild-mannered Central City assistant crime-scene technician Barry Allen (Gustin).  He has a mystery in his past–the death of his mother, which appeared to come as the result of a lightning-driven murder but for which his innocent father (John Wesley Shipp, who played The Flash in the 1990 TV series) has been arrested–but Barry mostly lives an ordinary life, working with a police team headed by Detective Joe West (Martin), who took him in after his father’s arrest, and helplessly longing for Joe’s daughter Iris (Patton), who is naturally involved with untrustworthy Detective Eddie Thawne (Cosnett).  Then one stormy night, Barry is struck by a bolt of lightning driven by an exploding particle accelerator created by Dr. Harrison Wells (Cavanaugh), and when Barry wakes up from a 9-month coma, he discovers that he can move with superhuman speed.  But the accelerator also created other “metahumans,” some not nearly as nice as Barry.  Working with Wells and scientists Caitlin Snow (Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Valdes), Barry vows to help stop the evil metas.

PILOT:  There’s normally a gap between the production values of a pilot and those of a series’ regular episodes, but that gap is likely to be a chasm on The Flash, unless Warners and CW are going to throw money into the series (which is unlikely, given CW’s economics).  The pilot may not have feature-film CG, but the quality is certainly better than the primetime usual, especially on CW, and there’s a ton of it in the first hour, as Barry fights a bank robber who can control the weather.  There are gigantic storms and tornadoes, crashing cars, and of course Barry whizzing everywhere.  It’s all quite entertaining, but it’s unlikely to last.

TV series, unlike comic book movies, have no choice but to be about character and plot over spectacle.  The Flash only gets off to a so-so start on those levels.  The problem is built into the conception:  unlike Arrow, which was set up from the outset to have a dark edge, as Oliver Queen returned from his mysterious island to kill villains as a vigilante, Barry Allen is little more than a nice guy with a gift.  That gives The Flash a much more old-fashioned feel than recent superhero series and movies.  Barry pining for the girl of his dreams who just doesn’t see him that way, and who instead gets involved with guys who aren’t worth her time, is a lazy storyline, as is the one that has Barry searching for whoever or whatever killed his mother.  The by-now requisite last-second twist is exactly the twist experienced viewers will expect from the moment the good-guy-who-turns-out-to-be-bad character is introduced.  The cast, while adequate, doesn’t lift any of this to a higher level.

It’s only fair to note that Arrow was underwhelming in its pilot and early episodes, and only found its tone in the latter part of its first season, so The Flash, with the same creative team, deserves similar patience.  The pieces here, though, seem less promising, mostly because Barry so far isn’t a character with much depth.

PROSPECTS:  Although arch-competitor Marvel is the unquestioned owner of the current movie world (especially this weekend, as Guardians of the Galaxy takes over multiplexes), DC has been doing nicely on the small screen–where Agents of SHIELD has only lately been coming together for Marvel–with the success of Arrow and now the new arrivals Gotham and Constantine as well as this oneThe Flash shouldn’t have to worry about getting the time to work out its creative issues.  It’s a pre-sold property, and no doubt there will be plenty of interaction with Arrow to shore it up if necessary.  Although it’s leading off a night, it has Supernatural as its lead-out, and the same slot where The Originals had its successful premiere season last year.  In addition, its genre makes online and international success likely.  It may be a hit (by CW terms) before it’s very good, but the hope will be that its quality will catch up with it.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."