Sunday, July 26, 2009

Flash vs. Trickster

So I've been watching this anime series called Aquarion on Hulu, which I'll probably talk about tomorrow, but got bored with it just before the final climactic episodes (never a good sign) and somehow ended up on VEOH. And while I was browsing the sci-fi episodes to see what they had, I noticed they had the entire run of The Flash, the live action series from 1990.

Well, I'd never seen Mark Hamill's Trickster episode which everyone says is the best of the series, so I figured, what the hell?

Turns out, there were two Trickster episodes and I watched the other one.

Not that I didn't enjoy it. I did, but more for nostalgia value, not because it was any good. This was the last episode of the first season, which is to say the last episode of the series, and I wonder if they knew they weren't getting picked up for another season, because the entire episode has a "what the hell" feel to it.

The episode is titled "The Trial of the Trickster," and it was written by Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore. The Trickster is going on trial for the events of a previous episode, in which he kidnapped private detective Megan Lockhart and tried to brainwash her into becoming his girl sidekick, Prank. Trickster escapes from custody during the trial thanks to the help of a spoiled rich girl named Zoe Clark, who wants to be the new Prank. Trickster and Prank then kidnap Flash and the Trickster brainwashes him into helping him start a reign of terror over Central City, including putting the judge and attorneys on trial for crimes against the Trickster.

Mark Hamill mugs and giggles as The Trickster, channeling Frank Gorshin's Riddler from the 60's Batman series at times. And just listening to him, you can hear why he got the role of the Joker in the Batman animated series a couple of years later. Of course, any appearance by Hamill anywhere gets geek interest points because of Skywalker, so there's nostalgia point one: Mark Hamill.

Megan Lockhart, the detective who won the Flash's heart but has no time for him now that she's famous, is played by Joyce Hyser, who's mainly remembered by 80's movie geeks like me for her starring role in "Just One of the Guys," a comedy about a high school girl who poses as a boy to try to win a journalism competition. She was also in "This is Spinal Tap," so she will be a hero forever. So nostalgia point number two: Joyce Hyser, playing a woman.

Joyce's high point in the episode, BTW: during the trial, the Trickster escapes his handcuffs, and she decks him. We then see our only glimpse of Hyser leg, because she switches to slacks for the rest of the show. Joyce's low point: when Prank throws a bunch of sharpened steel chattering teeth on her, and she has to lie on the floor covered with chattering teeth and pretend this is really threatening. Career note: people got paid to come up with this idea and perform it.

Prank is played by Corinne Bohrer, who has played a hundred different love interests and housewives on TV series and commercials. I developed a crush on her years ago when she played Herman's girlfriend on the pilot episode of Herman's Head. But then they never brought her back, which is probably why the show got canceled so quickly. Don't fuck with Corinne. Nostalgia point number three: Corinne Bohrer.

This is not Corinne's best work, unfortunately. Not to get all drama-criticy about a throwaway comic episode of a TV series about a cartoon character, but the big problem with her performance here is that she was having too much fun, like Burt Reynolds in "The Cannonball Run." You can tell she's having real trouble keeping a straight face, like Harvey Korman on Carol Burnett (and if you want to throw cold water on a nostalgic crush real quick, try comparing your dream girl to Burt Reynolds and Harvey Korman; brrrr).

Then again, she did rock the cleavage a couple times, so I forgive her.

Although check out the big 80's hair. And yes, even though this was technically 1990, tell me those checks and polka dots on Hamill's breastplate there don't scream 80's, as well.

Oh yeah, the Flash was in it, too. He ran fast.

Although that was the main problem with the Flash as a live action character. He moved quickly, but in order to let the audience see what he was doing, he never moved that fast. He was the slowest super-speedster I've ever seen, and certainly not fast enough to merit that long red blur behind him. Smallville does a much better job of portraying super-speed, although to be fair, they've got much more advanced technology to work with, as well as the conceptual leap of "bullet time," which was not a glimmer in anyone's eye in 1990.

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