Albuquerque is certainly well-represented this television season, with no less than three weekly series shooting here in town: AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” The CW’s “Easy Money” and the soon-to-premiere Starz series “Crash.”
Crash, the movie, would appear to be an unlikely source for weekly TV adaptation. At this point, most people are willing to admit Paul Haggis’ 2004 drama was one of the more overrated Oscar winners of recent years. Haggis’ preachy melodrama followed an ensemble cast of random characters through modern-day Los Angeles for the sole purpose of proving that people from the City of Angels are all racist assholes in desperate need of anger management classes.
“Crash,” the TV series, follows a whole new ensemble cast of random assholes in need of anger management classes. The story is still set in L.A. Albuquerque just performs stand-in duty here, relying on lots of L.A. insert shots (Look! The Hollywood sign!) to sell the illusion. Unable to pony up the dough to match the film’s star power (Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ryan Phillippe and—lest we forget—Tony Danza), producers of “Crash” only manage to dig up Dennis Hopper and D.B. Sweeney, giving the show roughly the same wattage as a Sci-Fi Channel Original film from 2001.
Our cast for this go-around includes some cops, some gangsters, a developer, an EMT and a psycho record executive (that would be Hopper). The acting is shaky as a wooden roller coaster, with only Hopper making any lasting impression, and his loony character is too inconsistently conceived to make any actual sense.
Like the movie that inspired it, “Crash” imagines L.A. as a curdled melting pot in which Blacks, Koreans, Mexicans, Indians and uptight white people are all terrified of one another and compensate by dispensing as many racist and sexist comments as possible. Dropping chestnuts like “Asians drive slow” and “Blacks hang out in barbershops” doesn’t do much to bolster the show’s appeal for racial harmony, either.
Perhaps it’s simply that every character in the cast is a whiny, annoying jerkweed dealing with problems either unrelatable (my sister got murdered by a corrupt cop under the employ of a Korean crime lord) or insignificant (my grumpy father-in-law just moved in). But I don’t have the slightest interest in finding out what happens to any of these people on a weekly basis.
In an attempt to be edgy and justify its place on pay-per-view television, “Crash” includes lots of dirty words, some bloody violence and a bunch of unmotivated sex scenes. The premiere episode, for example, features what is undoubtedly the most unintentionally hilarious attempt to turn a cop, a drunk driving suspect and a Breathalyzer into a pantomime of erotic seduction.
There’s no doubt racism exists in America. But “Crash” does nothing to further understanding of the situation, relying on tired clichés to drive home its rather obvious point.