Friday, December 9, 2016

Kung Fu and The Flash

In this age of Netflix, streaming, YouTube and dozen other video download applications it’s hard to find anyone who appreciates classic TV shows and the impact they had on society at the time they aired.

I’ve often stated before that I am a child of the 1960s.  I was born in the early 1950s, spent most of my youth and teenage years in the 1960s and fully matured as a man in the 1970s and 1980s/1990s.

I admit I am a man of my time.  I was practically raised on TV and many of its characters became heroes and idols, they influenced me as I grew up.

The range of TV programs I enjoyed encompassed every genre from Westerns to Dramas.
The 1950s/1960s TV series taught me the meaning of being a man: tough, resilient, resourceful and yet kind, gentle and compassionate. 

The 1970s brought new changes as I embraced the new tide of TV series that challenged my pre-conceived notions about justice, social responsibilities and what it meant to be a part of a larger whole.

The 1980s television shows reinforced much of what I had learned in the previous decades while still encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone and explore new frontiers.

If all goes as planned I will be reviewing several classic TV shows in a series of reviews as DVD collections become available.  Here are two what I hope will be a larger selection of reviews. 

In 1972 I was 19 years old and in my second year of community college.  Like many young people of that day I had began to question the validity of societal norms, traditions and values.

The Viet Nam War was still in full swing, Nixon was in the White House, Women’s rights had come to the forefront, racial equality was a hot topic and the young ‘Me Generation--Baby Boomers’ were shaking things up with their music, lifestyles and general disregard for authority.

I began to explore.  I never took drugs or drank or smoked but I did examine, although I did not participate in Eastern mysticism or alternate lifestyles but I did look for the meaning of life.

The country was in a time of change and turmoil and I, and my generation, were in the middle of it.

Ironically a generation that rejected commercialism and the ‘Man’ were being manipulated by both.

Manufacturers and businesses recognized a good thing when they saw it and began catering to a new generation of ‘drop-outs’.

One TV network: ABC, green lighted an unusual TV show unlike anything seen at the time.  As I mentioned earlier Eastern mysticism and religions were huge with young people.  The martial arts saw a huge upswing of popularity.

What better way to cater to young people than to incorporated Eastern philosophy and martial arts into one TV program?

In 1972 Kung Fu, starring David Carradine as Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine, a White/Asian half-breed raised as monk took the airwaves by storm.

The story of his turbulent life was first introduced as a TV movie, and then a TV series that lasted three seasons.  Twenty years later would reprise his role, albeit as Caine's grandson bearing his same name.

In the series Caine is on the run for a crime he committed in China.  Traveling to the United States he kept on the movie while looking for his father and half-brother. 

During his journeys he encountered various social injustices, mete out Eastern witticisms and proceeded to kick behind when the need arose.

Warner Bros. has collected all three seasons on DVD Collections that follow the saga of Caine as he searched for justice, not only for himself, but others as well.  Kung Fu made Carradine a star.

For a slice of the 1970s be sure to pick up all three seasons.  Extras include featurettes on the cast and crew, a look at the series, a commentary by David Carradine and much more. 

When the 1990s arrived Ronald Reagan was no longer President and his predecessor George Bush Sr. failed to maintain the bullish, the-buck-stops-here attitude Reagan deployed over his eight years as the Chief Executive.

Materialism and the acquisition of wealth was the mainstay.

Prosperity blanketed the U.S. and people were content.

U.S.S.R. Communism had floundered and fallen.  People were feeling good and it showed in their attitudes and pursuits.

Nowhere else did society’s attitude display itself more than on TV.   Shows were resplendent in their flaunting of wealth and fame and yet, many of the new series started to take a dark turn and examine the hidden shady comers of society.

TV was becoming more sophisticated.  With the advent of bigger budgets, new technology, the advent of computers and the birth of computer-generated effects, TV shows became more daring.

Superhero shows are incredibly popular today.  It seems like almost all the networks and cable have some kind of superhero show or a derivative of one.

One of the most popular superhero shows is The Flash.

But did you know it was not the first Flash TV series?

Coincidentally the man who played The Flash in the 1990’s version of the series now plays the father of the new Flash and his doppelganger, the original Golden Age Flash: Jay Garrick.

Many of the villains seen in the new series were first introduced in the old series.  In fact much of the inspiration for new series is derived for the first.

Warner Bros. has compiled the complete, original ‘The Flash’ TV series into 22-episode collection starring John Wesley Shipp. 

Although somewhat dated by today’s standards the original ‘The Flash’ TV series is notable for its visual and physical special effects and adherence to its comic book namesake.

 Here’s an interesting fact.  Mark Hamill played the Trickster in the original TV series and recently reprised his role in the new series.

It’s a light-hearted and loads of fun TV series to watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Another interesting fact: Dave Stevens—the creator of The Rocketeer, designed the first Flash’s costume.

Both Kung Fu and The Flash are interesting reflections of the times in which they were aired.