THE FINISH LINE
“I think we wrapped the season and they made the announcement a week later,” Shipp says. “I know I left LA and was back in New York when the announcement was made. It was kind of like, good news, bad news. You don’t have to go through that again and there’s so much more story to tell.”
The Flash was well reviewed, and its ratings would be considered astronomical by 2020 standards. But it was also one of the most expensive shows ever produced at the time, and one that found itself bounced around the schedule, first because of the 1990 MLB playoffs, then the arrival of the first Gulf War, and then ultimately as it competed with legendary series like Cheers, The Simpsons, and The Cosby Show.
“We finished shooting the last episode, and I think either we found out we were canceled while we were shooting or it was shortly after that,” Bilson says. “So there was no starting down the path for next season. We knew we were on the bubble, I’m sure. I think it was even a close one that we got picked up for the back nine, so we weren’t even close to a sure thing. It didn’t feel like a death march at all. It just felt like you knew what the numbers were, and I guess we knew we weren’t going to make it.”
But was it really just the ratings?
“There was a lot going on behind the scenes that I think contributed to us not getting a second season,” Shipp says cryptically.
Bilson is more blunt.
“It was network politics,” he says. “I heard the next year that the boss’ bonus was tied to rating share points and that he traded our 16 for a show that had a 17. I remember hearing that the next year, but I’m not naming any names or anything.”
Despite this, Bilson still thinks the best was yet to come.
“We were figuring it out as we went along, and we thought we were hitting our stride there,” he says. The arrival of genuine supervillains seemed to point the way forward, and the hope was to come back for a second season with another two-hour episode teaming up Trickster, Captain Cold, and Mirror Master.
“I really hooked into this ordinary guy caught in extraordinary circumstances,” Shipp says. “This is what I always say to people at conventions, we all have our own vein of gold. We all have that thing that lights us up and draws us out that we do as well or better than anyone else. We’re all extraordinary in our own way.”
Despite being a one season wonder, Shipp looks back fondly on his time in Central City, and of course has remained a part of The Flash legacy with the current CW series, first as the father of Grant Gustin’s Barry, then as original Flash Jay Garrick, and then returning to his version of Barry to give the Flash of Earth-90 a fitting final bow in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
“I certainly feel 30 years later that The Flash has been more of a blessing in my life than I ever expected it to be,” he says. “I have an enormous sense of gratitude towards the people that have kept this show at sort of the forefront of the comic genre. I’m just deeply moved and deeply grateful for that.”