“Crash” (TV Show)
Fridays at 10 p.m.

1 out of 5 stars

Watching the first two episodes of the new Starz series “Crash” was a sad, defeating experience for me. As a (vastly outnumbered) defender of the controversial, Oscar-winning film upon which the series is based, it would seem as though I would be tasked with defending this chaotic, misguided and simply obscene TV production. Yes, the show parades as an expansion on the themes explored by the film of the same title, but that’s a poor defense for a TV trainwreck that just can’t be defended.

The series is set in Los Angeles and features a racially diverse cast that spews plenty of profanity, but that’s where any similarities to the film end. The characters may come from different cultural backgrounds, but it simply doesn’t matter; rather than exploring complex racial identities and the fierce, confrontational interactions that occur because of these identities, the show is just a litany of stereotypes, standoffs and empty, deadening dialogue.

The apparent main character is Ben Cendars (Dennis Hopper, “Swing Vote”), a music producer who is practically insane. When he’s not whipping out his knife (among other things) in the backseat of his limousine, he’s smoking pot with his black chauffeur and espousing faux profundities. From him grows a web of disparate characters with their own burdens and misconceptions, which lead them to constant conflict and strife.

Critics might argue that such nonsensical, miserable exaggerations are precisely what was wrong with the film. In the face of the show, the film becomes increasingly harder to defend because the show borrows and perverts so many of the film’s original themes.

Initial evaluation said that the film embraced the worst of human nature without ever pausing to make sense of it. Critics argued that it played sophistication but was really a sophomoric hack-job given way too much credit. Those arguments aren’t true; the film was an ingenious creation because it managed to depict racial strife in contemporary America while still keeping everything controlled and coherent enough to allow for understanding. That’s where the show fails. It’s a pointless, sprawling mess — one that will probably get bigger with each episode.

Part of the problem is the trend in TV writing that encourages ever-growing, purposeless plots (“Heroes,” “Lost,” etc.). But a much bigger problem in “Crash” rests with how the writers and directors of the show (all different from the movie) don’t seem to understand why the film was so well-received in many circles. It wasn’t aimless violence and cheesy theatrics that won the film acclaim. Rather, it was the complex, yet coherent and accessible, message behind the madness. None of that is present in the TV show.

“Crash” has already been named among the worst Best Picture winners of all time by some critics, and this show certainly isn’t going to help overcome those sentiments.

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