Dan Barrett

Dan Barrett is the Content Director of Televised Revolution. His musings on television have been heard across ABC Radio, on websites like The Guardian and Crikey, and drunkenly in pubs across the country. At night he spends too many hours watching repeats of Cheers.

Constantine, Alpha House – The Watchlist 19 October 2014

This week is somewhat quiet after the last month of US broadcast shows debuting. It’s probably a great time to evaluate which shows have debuted and catch up on some of the better ones.

Televised Revolution suggests The Affair, Jane The Virgin, and The Flash as new shows worth checking out. This past weekend has also seen the first season conclusions of Manhattan and The Knick. The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is one of the absolute best TV series to launch in recent years, while Manhattan takes a few episodes to find its voice, but offers considerable promise as it develops.

The Watchlist is a primer for shows that are debuting or have an episode of note. If you want more complete TV listing site, be sure to check out the Pogdesign Calendar. Please note that all dates cited below are in accordance with their local broadcast times/airdates.

Special thanks goes to Jen Knight for assisting in compiling the Watchlist.

Returning shows include:

  • Grimm (Season 4)
  • Web Therapy (Season 4)
  • The 100 (Season 2)
  • Baby Daddy (Season 4)
  • Melissa & Joey (Season 4)
  • The Millers (Season 2)

Shows concluding seasons:

  • Manhattan
  • Franklin & Bash
  • New Tricks
  • Project Runway (US)
  • Bad Education

Constantine
Airs: 24 October 2014 (NBC – US)
John Constantine is the cigarette smoking, bisexual, cursing, occult detective star of DC Comics Hellblazer series. Naturally, with the character starring in his own US broadcast TV series, he has been paired back to just investigating matters of the occult. The edgy graphic nature and adult themes of Hellblazer is part of what makes that book so much fun to read. With that all pared back for the TV series, we’re left with what is likely to be a fairly typical supernatural procedural drama.

 

Alpha House
Airs: 24 October (Amazon – US)
This series about a group of share-housing US Senators is a perfectly fine, mid-range single camera comedy that never particularly goes anywhere interesting or does anything revelatory. It’s a shame that the show isn’t a little more biting than it is, with a great cast that includes John Goodman (Roseanne) and Clark Johnson (Homicide: Life On The Street), and a solid premise, the show is certainly capable of doing more than it delivers.

HBO To be Sold Without A Cable TV Subscription. Because They Had To.

“All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them”
-Richard Plepler, HBO CEO

HBO have announced that they plan to start offering a web-only service from 2015. Speaking at an investor conference, HBO’s Richard Plepler provided little detail on the move that would see HBO upset their relationship with traditional cable TV providers by offering a service direct to consumer. There was no indication on whether the service would offer current programming, windowed releases, whether it would include original programming produced for sister channel Cinemax, or whether it would include just original programming or a mix with the Hollywood films HBO channels screen. Likely, the service will look not too dissimilar to HBO Nordic.

The announcement comes at an interesting time, with an Apple product launch taking place tomorrow. While no Apple TV hardware upgrades are likely to be announced, could there be an HBO announcement? It’s been way too long since Apple excited anyone with the Apple TV and outside of third party apps support, this could do it.

Establishing an online service was inevitable for HBO. Despite their cozy relationship with cable companies, HBO needed to offer a subscription video on demand service or risk irrelevance. The rising prominence of Netflix was too significant to wait much longer.

Netflix is has launched in 16 countries. Netflix has over 50 million subscribers. Netflix leads HBO in subscriber revenue ($1.146B vs $1.141B). HBO still leads with significantly greater profit, but it’s unlikely that could be sustained with US consumers eager to consume TV away from traditional cable television.

Orange Is The New BlackThe HBO brand is valuable, but for how much longer? The TV company that branded itself on its content as not being TV, that it was more than TV has found itself as just one of several TV providers dealing in premium TV. With Game of Thrones as their only bona fide hit, the rest of their lineup currently comprises of shows like Girls, Looking, and The Newsroom. Shows that have almost as many think pieces written about them as they do viewers. While that sort of buzz is great for HBO, it can’t be the be all and end all. After all, Netflix are garnering just as much buzz with Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, Bojack Horseman, and Arrested Development. And with their multi-series Marvel TV deal, Marco Polo, and Sens8 on the horizon, Netflix will be continuing to generate a lot of attention with new series.

And that’s just Netflix. Consider also AMC with Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Turn, and the recently concluded Breaking Bad, Showtime with Homeland, Penny Dreadful, The Affair, and Masters of Sex, FX’s American Horror Story, Sons of Anarchy, The Bridge, Louie, The Strain, Fargo, and Archer, and other outliers like WGN’s Manhattan, and Sundance Channel’s Rectify, etc. There is now so much great TV on the air on a regular basis that we’re taking it for granted. HBO are no longer driving this viewing, but are instead just a part of the premium TV landscape.

Evolve or die. HBO understand this to be true. For them, there was a tipping point. How much longer could they continue to benefit from the established system before it would damage their longterm viability? In the US, it’s reached that point. But they also have international markets that still offer considerable profit.

Consider Australia. Here they have a deal signed with traditional subscription TV provider Foxtel. It offers an exclusivity window over all of HBO’s content in Australia. They don’t maintain a branded HBO channel in Australia, but HBO content is instead strongly aligned with Foxtel’s own channel brands Showcase and SoHo. The Australian market is under-served by SVOD services. Netflix is yet to officially launch, Amazon haven’t launched a local service as they have in the UK, and there are no local services that have made a significant dent in the market. In 2015, Australia will likely see a Netflix service open, along with a dominant local broadcaster launching their own SVOD service (Nine’s Streamco). HBO are still seeing value from the Foxtel deal, but there will come a point where they risk the HBO brand losing its cache and enters obsolescence. Of course, the counter is also possible – at what point amid competition from upstarts like Netflix does Foxtel decide paying so much for exclusivity for HBO content is no longer worth the cost? After all, what are Foxtel paying all this money for? 3 months of Game of Thrones and what else? “The Leftovers” has a whole new meaning in this context.

HBO are embracing SVOD because they have to. They’ve reached the tipping point between profitability and maintaining the continued value of the HBO brand. HBO may take some hits financially in the US and in International sales, but for the longterm need to establish a global distribution and consumption platform to compete with the savvy Netflix, HBO need to take this step.

Finally, HBO are ready to take our money.

Android TV Launches With The Nexus Player: Internet TV Is Now Ready For Primetime

Despite so much talk surrounding services like Netflix and their ever-increasing dominance, broadcast and cable TV services still remain the primary way the majority of people watch their TV around the world. Despite broadband speeds improving and penetration levels increasing, TV delivered over the Internet (IPTV), is still yet to be fully embraced by TV viewers as a whole. While some traction has been made by start-up companies like Boxee and Roku, these platforms were never quite seen as a gateway for your average viewer. Instead, they’ve remained the domain of the tech savvy and the adventurous. Everyone has had their eye on Apple and the next iteration of their Apple TV product, but with today’s news of a Nexus TV device, Google may have delivered a product that will take Internet TV mainstream.

Google’s Nexus Player is powered by their brand new Android TV platform. Android TV offers a simple grid interface that provides access to third-party content service providers like Netflix and Hulu, along with content available to purchase from Google’s “Play” store. Users can search for content verbally by speaking into the remote control – certainly far easier than navigating a cursor left/right/up/down around a screen trying to input in the title of a TV show or movie. The real killer feature for Android TV, however, is that it will bring access to play games. With the purchase of a video game controller, this will deliver access to many of the great games available to play on Android smartphones and tablets to the TV screen.

The Nexus Player launches this week in the US for pre-order with an on-sale date of November 3rd planned. An Australian launch date has not yet been announced. The Nexus Player will be priced at US$99 with its game controller costing an additional US$39. Manufactured by Asus, the Nexus Player offers a quad-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor with PowerVR Series 6 graphics, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage.

The hockey-puck shaped streaming device that's actually shaped like a hockey puck.

The hockey-puck shaped streaming device that’s actually shaped like a hockey puck.

Android TV will be similar to the Android smartphone/tablet version of the operating system in that it will be made available to manufacturers to install on their own products. The Nexus Player (as with the Nexus phones and Nexus tablets) offer a vanilla version of Android. Following the launch of the Nexus Player, other manufacturers will begin rolling out their own devices utilising Android TV. Unlike with phones and tablets, manufacturers will not be allowed to tweak the interface to give it a distinct look. While this may limit the number of manufacturers who want to establish a presence in this space, it does open up Android TV up as the go-to platform for companies wishing to offer add-on content products.

In France, where they do already have an evolved IPTV market with significant user penetration, companies like Bouygues Telecom are already set to roll out set-top boxes to its customers offering a broadcast TV and Android TV hybrid.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 8.41.19 am

One could expect to see operators in Australia take a similar approach. Here we see ISP’s like iiNet/Internode embrace services like Fetch TV where they provide a set-top box for a monthly subscription fee that will provide broadcast TV access, PVR recording, and access to streaming video services  (data quota free) as a product add-on. It’s more difficult for a customer to leave an internet service provider when they have additional services like mobile telephony services and pay television. It’s a big reason why we’re seeing Foxtel also making an effort to launch triple play (pay TV/home phone/mobile) services soon. It would certainly be in an ISP’s favour to launch a Fetch TV product powered by Google’s Android TV rather than stick with the existing Fetch service that is limited in the number of linear streaming channels it offers.

Much of what Android TV offers is already available on Amazon’s Fire TV product. It’s a similar grid interface, it supports voice search, and also offers a video game controller. What Android TV offers over the Fire TV is that its voice search isn’t limited to just Amazon store (and Hulu) content. Also, considering this is a Google product, we’re assured a depth of search that will extend beyond simple title recognition. Through the established Android smartphone and tablet market, Google already have an extensive number of developers working on Android games and game-like experiences who will be eager to reconfigure existing games and develop new games for the Android TV platform.

And then there’s Chromecast. Android TV has Chromecast built into the Android TV, meaning smartphones and tablets will all be able to send video and audio to the Android TV. Already a large number of content providers have built in Chromecast support to their apps on iOS and Android. Android TV is launching from a very strong position of content availability.

The one hurdle that Google are facing with Android TV is a content issue. They will never be able to provide access to all the content people have purchased from the iTunes store, but they will need to get Amazon on board. Amazon Prime Instant Video service is a clunky, poorly executed video service that has recently embraced original content. While it is no great loss if Google can’t provide access to movies and TV shows Amazon customers have purchased through their store, there will be many potential Android TV customers who will baulk at not being able to access the Amazon original series. Shows like Transparent, Alpha House, along with the upcoming series Red Oak and Mozart In The Jungle are among TV’s best right now.

Transparent

Jeffrey Tambour is the face of premium television in 2014.

While Amazon have made their Instant Video platform available to streamers like Roku in the past, it is conspicuously absent from the streaming services that support Chromecast. While this seems to be a play to keep Amazon Prime users consuming content through the Fire TV and their mobile tablets and phones, Amazon need to have faith in the quality of their original series and acknowledge that it’s enough of a lure to bring in more customers than they would otherwise have maintaining their mostly walled garden approach. A partnership between Google and Amazon would be of significant benefit to both companies as both seek to establish dominance with their respective services. Without it, both will struggle.

While content has long-been an issue slowing down the take-up of internet television services, a significant problem has been the awkwardness of the consumer technology needed to watch the content. After several failed starts, Google now have Android TV – a platform that has enough premium content to support it, which in turn is enough to provide manufacturers and other interested companies with the incentive to embrace the device. With the Nexus Player serving as its ambassador, Android TV offers sophistication with an easy to understand user interface. Finally we have a streaming product for the masses. This is the product the market has been waiting for.

Televised Revolution – Long Running TV Shows (Ep 365)

With this weeks episode, Televised Revolution officially becomes the longest-running Australian podcast dedicated to the general discussion of TV and TV cultures. It’s quite an achievement in perseverance. With this milestone reached, it seemed apt that on this weeks show we discuss long running shows. What does a show need to do to avoid cancellation? How does a long-running show stay fresh? And how loyal do viewers remain to a show that has been on the show for so long?

The panel also discuss the news of the week:

  • John Laws in talks with Seven
  • Ten set to launch a whole lot more branded content
  • Twin Peaks set to return
  • The hidden cost to 7th Heaven actors
  • US streamer Redbox shuts down its service
  • Clive Dickens to lead HbbTV drive
  • And much much more.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes (please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).

AUDIO:

VIDEO:

Australia's Greatest Mystery: "Holt"

The disappearance of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967 is fascinating. Vanishing one day while swimming at Cheviot Beach, his body was never recovered. While the circumstances surrounding his death were interesting (the common conspiracy theory being that he was taken by a Chinese submarine, ignoring the more likely scenario that it was an accident or he took his own life), but it’s also noteworthy how little an impact his disappearance has had on the Australian psyche. Usually the death of a world leader will leave a significant mark on the community and its culture. Meanwhile the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt nowadays seems nothing more than a curious footnote in history.

Filmmaker Scott Mannion is seeking to raise funds for “Holt”, a long-form short film that explores the idea of what really happened to Harold Holt. Described as a live-action espionage short film made in the spirit of films like ‘The Conversation‘,’Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘, and ‘Day of the Jackal‘, Holt examines the days leading up to Holt’s disappearance and Holt’s efforts to retain power despite covert forces seeking to undermine it.

Mannion claims to have been inspired by a 35mm video sent to him of Harold Holt in Russia several months after his disappearance.

Thrillers exploring Australian politics are rare, let alone one exploring such an intriguing and little discussed major event in Australian history. Currently Mannion and his team are nearing the midway point in their Kickstarter funding efforts. They need $65,000 to get over the line. This is a project worth supporting.

Support the project HERE.

Review: Brekky Central

Melbourne University Press have rushed the Adam Boland book Brekky Central into bookstores in an effort to prevent an injunction being placed on the books release by Channel 7 / generate publicity. Having read Bolands book, an exploration of his career that included Executive Producing Ch 7’s Sunrise and Ch 10’s Wake Up, it’s a shame that they didn’t spend more time crafting the book. It’s a little under-cooked.

For TV wonks, Brekky Central is a must-read. It offers some insight into Adam Bolands personal life and professional history, while also offering a backstage glimpse into the well-known events that defined his tenure on Sunrise. The chapter on the Sunrise Justin Bieber live broadcast is particularly entertaining. It’s a light and breezy read and those enthused about reading a book like this will come away from it satisfied.

Brekky CentralWhere it doesn’t quite work is that it doesn’t quite go deep enough in explaining who some of the identities discussed are, nor does it offer enough of a personal glimpse into how the people in Boland’s life impacted upon his work. Considering how intwined Boland’s professional and personal life was, it is an omission that makes the book a little unsatisfactory. Brekky Central mentions Boland lived with four other Sunrise staffers while EP’ing the show. That’s an unusual living arrangement, yet the book doesn’t go into any detail about how that worked and impacted on the lives of those in the home.

Boland introduces his former partner Yoko Shimuzu (a staffer on the show) into the book, but offers very little in the way their relationship functioned or how it came to an end. He introduces the subject of his sexuality, but offers nothing in how his coming out affected the relationship with Yoko personally or professionally. Considering that Yoko plays a significant role in a professional decision Boland comes to towards the end of the book, it’s important for the book to better define their relationship and its status for us to appreciate the impact that a lunch-meeting they shared had on his decision-making.

Similarly the book offers almost no real examination of the relationship Boland shared with his former boyfriend, former co-worker, and now current Sunrise EP Michael Pell.

As Boland goes into considerable detail on the failing health of his father and his own bi-polar issues, it seems almost disingenuous to not provide greater personal details on his relationships. Not for reasons of voyeurism, but more because these relationships had such a direct influence on his professional world.

Further to this, there are people introduced are established as important, but their introduction is rarely elaborated upon. A notable example is a production assistant named Dacien Hadland. Boland goes to great effort to explain that Hadland was important in thinking outside the box and was crucial in their coverage of the Beaconsfield mining disaster, but Boland doesn’t really detail exactly what it was that Hadland provided and where it was of benefit.

It’s as if the Editor of the book simply didn’t push Boland enough on some of these points. Greater elaboration on these relationships would have made the book one hell of a read.

Where the book really shines is with some of the throwaway details offered about the production process. Knowing that Boland and team viewed the typical Sunrise viewer as a woman in her forties with a couple of kids named Irene was a great nugget of information that reveals so much about the identity and form of Sunrise.

Brekky Central is an engaging read. Yes, it falls short in not providing the personal context that would place value on many of the identities featured in the book, but it still delivers where it needs to. It’s certainly a lot more colourful than other similar looks at breakfast TV. Boland’s book is certainly a lot more vibrant than Brian Stetler’s look at US morning television “Top Of The Morning” – a dry and passionless read. Brekky Central is not the dirt-revealing glimpse of Sunrise that many had been hoping for. Nor is it that close an examination of Boland’s bi-polar condition (though, it is covered quite well in the books closing chapter). Instead it offers more a series of snapshots of the career of Adam Boland. It makes for a satisfying, but not entirely nourishing read.

The Walking Dead, The Affair, and Jane The Virgin – The Watchlist 12 October 2014

As we reach the mid-point of October, it’s become clear that there have been very few new shows that have proven themselves as must-watch series in the new US broadcast TV season. This week see’s the launch of the promising Marry Me and Jane The Virgin. It’s US cable TV that is delivering for us this week, with the series return of The Walking Dead. And along with it, chat show The Talking Dead. The series to watch, however, may well be The Affair – a show that’s expected to have a number of twists and turns in its tale of an extra-marital affair.

The Watchlist is a primer for shows that are debuting or have an episode of note. If you want more complete TV listing site, be sure to check out the Pogdesign Calendar. Please note that all dates cited below are in accordance with their local broadcast times/airdates.

Special thanks goes to Jen Knight for assisting in compiling the Watchlist.

The Walking Dead – Season 5 Debut
Airs: 12 October 2014 (AMC – US)
It’s a quiet achiever. The Walking Dead has never quite been the big culture defining series that Breaking Bad, Mad Men, or Game of Thrones has been in recent years, yet it blows those shows out of the water ratings-wise. Most viewers of the show would be hard-pressed to name most of the main cast members of the show. And general investment in the characters is low. Yet, we all continue to watch.

The show returns following the great season finale cliffhanger from last year in which the survivors have been rounded up into a cargo container by a group of (most likely) cannibals.

The Affair
Airs: 12 October 2014 (Showtime – US)
Don’t let this series get past you. Critics have raved about the series premiere episode. The Affair tells the story of an affair between a school teacher and a waitress, with the series telling the story from both the man and woman’s perspective. Dominic West (The Wire, The Hour), Ruth Wilson (Luther, Saving Mr Banks), Maura Tierney (ER, Newsradio), and Joshua Jackson (Fringe, Dawson’s Creek) star.

Jane The Virgin
Airs: 13 October 2014 (CW – US)
Based on a telenovella, Jane The Virgin is one of the few shows this year to wow most of the critics. The series is about Jane, a woman saving herself for marriage, who is accidentally inseminated in a hospital. The donor just happens to be her new boss – a man she has a crush on as a teenager.

Marry Me
Airs: 14th October 2014 (NBC – US)
This comedy stars Ken Marino (Party Down) and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) as a committed couple who are looking to get engaged. It’s a good pairing cast-wise and with David Caspe (Happy Endings) serving as showrunner, it’s worth checking out. Even if this trailer doesn’t instil much confidence.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyIuHEfNmYM

About A Boy
Airs: 14th October 2014 (NBC – US)
The first season of this series flew under the radar, but very quickly established itself as a reliable and charming sitcom. It’s not ground-breaking, but one never feels worse of for having spent half an hour being charmed by it. Sometimes with TV shows, that’s enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYBenc-fG3I

REVIEW: The Flash

My name is Dan Barrett. I love The Flash.

This show unashamedly embraces itself as a superhero TV show, showcasing tales of adventure, super-powered heroics, romance, villainy, and lots of really attractive people. While the recent glut of Marvel superhero films may have audiences tiring of tights and capes big budget adventures to a degree, the manner in which this show embraces television as a medium really has the show feeling like nothing else on TV right now, while also feeling comfortable in its old-fashioned TV-ness.

With the exception of the ongoing story arc that does link the series together, viewers are watching story-of-the-week heroics that feel little more evolved than watching an episode of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman back in the 70’s. It’s a contemporary series to be sure, but it’s just so episodic and familiar.

The Flash concerns police scientist Barry Allen. He’s brainy CSI-type whose head is often in the clouds to the ire of many of the police he works with. A freak accident involving a lighting strike, chemicals, and a particle accelerator gone awry result in Barry developing super speed. With minimal motivation, Allen puts on a costume to fight crime as The Flash.

By all rights this series should be trite. It does absolutely nothing new and is treading what seems to be tired ground. But it’s actually a surprising bit of fun that doesn’t let up. The Flash is a show that will appeal to adults and kids alike.

Grant Gustin (Glee) makes for an appealing lead, delivering his lines with the right amount of whimsy and casual charm. He’s not a dark and broody guy, nor does he attempt to deliver weight to the role where it doesn’t exist. Most shows like this collapse with leads playing the role either too seriously, or in delivering a thoroughly wooden performance. It’s too early to say that this kids going to be a star, but he’s pretty note perfect for the tone of this show and carries it perfectly well.

The supporting cast are also mostly on the money. Jesse L Martin (Law & Order) plays Detective West, a police detective who has looked after Barry Allen since his mother was murdered and his father incarcerated for her murder. In the pilot episode, Martin doesn’t have much to do beyond playing a warm authority figure, but his presence is a bedrock among the younger unknown performers. Candice Patton plays Barry’s potential love interest, Iris West – the daughter of Detective West. And rounding out the cast is Tom Cavanagh.

It’s interesting seeing Tom Cavanagh in this series, playing the head of S.T.A.R. Labs who are responsible for performing medical checks on Barry. Cavanagh delivers the exact same level of casual performance as Grant Gustin in this show. Cavanagh became an audience favourite from starring in the TV show Ed and always comes across as effortlessly charming. It will be interesting to watch these two in scenes as the show evolves – especially with the show hinting that Cavanagh’s “Harrison Wells” may have sinister motivation.

Something that shouldn’t be ignored is the special effects surrounding The Flash himself. The 90’s Flash TV show was saddled with a really lame looking blur that emphasised much of the hero’s movements. Here the character looks better rendered as he runs, with many of the visual flaws that should be evident hidden by a very cool looking lightning effect that surrounds him.

Beyond just feeling like solid, good old-fashioned TV, the bones of the show offer considerable potential as the show moves forward. The pilot does everything right in establishing a deep and strong network of supporting characters who each have a clearly defined relationship with the lead. These characters all have motivations of their own and have been imbued with enough depth as to maintain and evolve those motivations as the series progresses.

the-flash-cw

The Flash also feels true to itself. This is a show that spun out of the DC Comics-inspired series Arrow (base don the Green Arrow comic). Arrow suffers in almost the same way that The Flash TV series from 1990 suffered in serving as a pale imitation of the Batman films of the time. Where 1990’s The Flash sought to emulate the tone and texture of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, Arrow is trapped as a facsimile of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of films. The Flash, meanwhile, is allowed to be a bright and upbeat series that has its own identity.

Where The Flash fails in the pilot episode is in having such a tremendously dull villain driving much of the action. Almost feeling tacked on, The Flash needs to stop a villain who can control the weather. Yes, this weather wizard is able to create a giant tornado, but it’s difficult to care that he does. The character is a non-entity as far as the pilot is concerned. With what will likely evolve into a monster-of-the-week series, the show will have to get much better about finding something interesting in the weekly villains. And if they can go a step further and make those characters human and relatable, that will go a long way.

The Flash is a traditional superhero show that will emphasise weekly villains and superhero action that is high on adventure and romance. This is a show that zips.

5 Things To Know About The Flash Before You Watch 'The Flash'

Superhero films have dominated movie theatres in recent years and we’re starting to see the same happen to TV series. The Flash, which launched on TV in the US this week, is the most traditional take we’ve seen on a superhero TV series since Lois & Clark in the mid 90’s.

Despite the prominence of The Flash in comic books and the characters continued exposure in DC animated series/movies, many viewers coming to The Flash TV series will be largely unfamiliar with the character. So, who is The Flash and what do you need to know about the comics to get the most out of the TV series from its first episode?

He runs fast. Is that it?
Well, yeah. But he runs really, really fast. His powers are move about movement than just running. The Flash can run fast, lend his momentum to nearby objects, speed read/learn, and can vibrate his molecules to enable himself to pass through solid objects.

The Flash Is A Multi-Generational Hero
The Flash debuted in 1940 as a college student named Jay Garrick who gains the ability to run really fast after inhaling some water vapours in his laboratory. Hi comic book series was cancelled in the late 40’s with superhero comics on the decline.

Flash_Garrick_h2

Jay Garrick

The version of The Flash that is probably best known is Barry Allen. Allen was a police laboratory technician and made his first appearance in 1956. Allen bore no connection to Jay Garrick (beyond reading about Jay Garrick’s The Flash in comic books) and gained his super speed after an incident where he is hit by lightning and doused with chemicals. Allen was portrayed as a really square guy who was renowned for always being late to things. Soon he took on a kid sidekick named Wally West who went by the superhero identity Kid Flash. West was the nephew of Barry Allens girlfriend and eventual wife Iris West. The Barry Allen version of The Flash was killed off in the comic books  in 1985, but brought back to the comics in 2009.

Faster than Superman

Barry Allen – faster than Superman

The third version of The Flash was Wally West. After DC Comics killed off Barry Allen, Wally West became the first of the teen sidekicks to grow up and replace their older mentor hero. From 1987-2007, comic readers watched Wally West grow up as a spoiled lottery winner who eventually matured, found love, and built a family of his own.

Wally West - running keeps him in good shape.

Wally West – running keeps him in good shape.

Others have worn The Flash costume at times, with many of these characters descendants of Barry Allen, including his own grandson Bart Allen who time travels back to the modern era to take on the identity of Impulse/Kid Flash.

This Is The Second TV Series Based on Barry Allen As The Flash
Despite being killed off in the comics in the mid 80’s, both TV series to star The Flash have been based on Barry Allen as The Flash. The first series ran just one season in 1990/91 and starred John Wesley Shipp – best known for playing Dawson’s dad in Dawson’s Creek. C0-starring was Amanda Pays (Max Headroom, The X-Files) as Dr Tina McGee, a minor character in the comics of the time who was developed in the show as a source of romantic/sexual tension. Both John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays will play recurring characters in the new series. Shipp will play the role of Barry Allen’s father, while Pays is (interestingly enough) again playing the role of Dr Tina McGee.

We’re yet to hear of a role in the new series for the third cast member of the show, Alex Desert. Desert (best remembered for the series Becker) played Barry Allen’s work colleague Julio.

The series was heavily influenced by the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie, bringing a very dark visual style to the series. It’s an approach that kind of works for the show, but never quite feels true to the spirit of The Flash who has never really been depicted as a dark or moody character.

The Flash Has An Impressive Range of Enemies
Second only to Batman, The Flash has an impressive number of notable villains to fight. Much like The Flash himself, many of these villains are multi-generational also, with relationships that change in accordance with whoever is wearing The Flash mask. Known as the ‘Rogues Gallery’, The Flash’s enemies include Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Gorilla Grodd, The Top, Weather Wizard, Abra Kadabra, Captain Boomerang, The Trickster, and Golden Glider.

the flash rogues

Notable among The Flash’s enemies is a character named The Pied Piper who can hypnotise people through music. The Pied Piper, eventually went straight and became a close confidant of Wally West. Piper was also one of comics first openly gay characters.

Professor Zoom, The Reverse Flash
The most important of The Flash’s villains is Professor Zoom, The Reverse Flash. Zoom is Eobard Thawne, a time travelling villain from the future who has obtained the abilities of The Flash. In the comics he was responsible for killing Barry Allen’s wife Iris. Barry Allen later breaks Zoom’s neck.

A recent inclusion into the story of The Flash has it that Professor Zoom time travelled back to when Barry Allen was a kid, framing Barry’s father for the murder of Barry’s mother. The new TV version of The Flash appear to be taking a very similar route to the comics as seen in the flashback to the murder of Barry’s mother. A yellow speed blur is seen in the scene, indicating Professor Zoom’s involvement.

The TV series pilot introduces a new hotshot police office named Eddie Thawne. Don’t immediately expect him to be revealed as Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom however as it may be a red herring.

Instead look to the scientist character played by Thomas Cavanagh who appears to serve as a distant echo of a Flash villain named Hunter Zolomon. In the comics Zolomon was a police profiler who was paralysed during an attack by Flash villain Gorilla Grodd. Zolomon gained super speed also, taking on the Zoom mantle. Could Cavanagh serve as the surprise ‘big bad’ this season on the show?

It’s likely no coincidence that in the scene we discover Cavanagh’s character is now in a wheelchair that they pass a damaged cage with the name Gorilla Grodd on it. There’s your visual cue.

The fact that he’s got a newspaper from 2024 and seems to be lying about the paralysis also indicates something may be up.

Wally West v Eobard Thawne

Wally West v Eobard Thawne

Linda Park Is A Working TV Journalist
TV series and movies tend to take liberties with material from comics. In the pilot to the 90’s The Flash series a TV journalist named Linda Park appeared. Just as she does in the pilot episode for the new 2014 Flash TV series (seen on the TV reporting on the particle accelerator). In the comics, however, she is the girlfriend and later wife of Barry Allen’s nephew Wally West. Obviously this creates a discrepancy in the ages between Wally West and Linda Park now, but one shouldn’t be too surprised to see Linda Park reintroduced as a potential love interest for Barry Allen as this show develops. Just as in the comics, Linda Park appears to be Korean-American.

flash_92

 

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For anyone interested in reading some The Flash comics, a great jumping on point is The Flash: Rebirth, a six-issue mini-series that reintroduced Barry Allen to the modern era of comics. It can be bought digitally at Comixology. Another jumping on point is The Flash: Year One four-issue arc from the 90’s Flash comics which show how Wally West became Kid Flash. It’s less relevant than the Rebirth series, but does introduce the core characters in the world of The Flash nicely. Year One can be bought at Comixology also.

 

The Flash (US), Strange Empire (Canada), and Party Tricks (Australia) Launch – The Watchlist 05 October 2014

The heavy volume of new and returning US shows continue as we enter October. This week heralds one of the best new shows of the season, The Flash, along with the eagerly anticipated Canadian western drama Strange Empire, and the Australian political series Party Tricks.

Returning shows this week include: Homeland, Bob’s Burgers, Bar Rescue, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, The Originals, Murdoch Mysteries, Supernatural, Arrow, American Horror Story, and Lewis.

Mulaney
Airs: 5 October 2014 (Fox – US)
This show has unified critics who were all eager to like this show, but were all exceedingly disappointed. Built in Seinfeld’s image, Mulaney stars US stand-up John Mulaney as a comedian who is hired as a writer for a well-known game show host. Mulaney’s life then becomes a tug-of-war between the stress of his new job and his guilt over not being there for his two best friends and roommates. Hilarity ensues. Or doesn’t, as the critics suggest.

Party Tricks
Airs: 6 October 2014 (Ten Network – Australia)
Following the campaign of Premier Kate Ballard (Asher Keddie) who is on track to win the next state election. Her campaign is upset when the Opposition put up a popular radio & TV personality (played by Roger Corser) against her. What people don’t know is that they once had a secret affair. It’s a great premise for a limited run series and should serve as one of the Australian production highlights of the year.

Grantchester
Airs: 6 October 2014 (ITV – UK)
When one of his parishioners is killed, Vicar Sidney Chambers investigates adding to the longtime tradition of clergy-driven detectives on TV. A sub-genre that has far more entries in it than you immediately think.

Strange Empire
Airs: 6 October 2014 (CBC – Canada)
A massacre finds three women left in the hands of a man who wants to use them in his brothel. Strange Empire is set in 1869, near Alberta and is very much a female-skewed take on the western genre. Series star Michelle Creber also voices Apple Bloom in My Little Pony.

The Flash
Airs: 7 October 2014 (CW – US)
This is the one new TV series from the new US broadcast season that has an identity and potential that is evident from the pilot episode. None of the superhero-inspired TV series launched in recent years have felt like anything more than a shallow effort to exploit a known comic book brand. The pilot episode of this is a lot of fun. Some viewers may remember the Flash TV series from the early 90’s. That show was burdened by an effort to bring a Tim Burton Batman vibe to a TV superhero series. The new take on the character gives The Flash more room to be its own thing, while giving the character greater scope to embrace greater romance with a stronger personal investment in being a hero.

Fans of the show Arrow would be well advised to tune in for a special appearance by that shows character as the show beds itself into a TV DC universe in the style of the Marvel big screen film universe.

Kingdom
Airs: 9 October 2014 (The Audience Network – US)
A family drama set in the world of MMA competitive fighting. There is a very specific, male-driven audience for a street level series starring raw, urban fighters and the struggles they are facing. The cast for the show indicates some potential moving forward with Frank Grillo starring, alongside Kiele Sanchez (Nikki of Nikki & Paolo fame on Lost), Nick Jonas, and Matt Lauria.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGIjEKrMeQM

Cristela
Airs: 10 October 2014 (ABC – US)
Cristela is a Mexican-American woman whose family believe is being overly-ambitious by trying to establish a career in the law. Critics have received the show warmly, indicating the preview for the series may not be entirely representative of the show entirely.