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Illustration for article titled Crash: Episode One
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Illustration for article titled Crash: Episode One

Talking over the upcoming T.V. Club assignments during this week's A.V. Club editorial conference call, we started speculating on what the TV spin-off of Paul Haggis' Oscar-winning movie Crash would be like. Would each episode feature a different car crash that set off a chain of events that first opened then worked to heal Los Angeles' racial wounds? And, if not, what would it feature? We didn't have an answer and yet no one was particularly keen to find out.

I don't think this staff has too many fans of Crash, in my opinion one of the weakest Best Picture winners ever. And I even like it better than most A.V. Club writers. It's got some remarkable effective scenes. (I'm thinking specifically of racist Matt Dillon's rescue of Thandie Newton.) I also appreciate that it talks about race. How many movies actually do that these days? But the problem with Crash is that goes to the other extreme: Everyone talks about race at all times in every scene, which feels as phony as not talking about it at all.

But enough of Crash: The Movie. What's Crash: The Series like? Well, based on one episode, it owes a lot to the movie that shares its name. Race-talking cops make a return, as does the film's depiction of a Los Angeles where tensions simmer when they don't boil. Oh, and there's a car crash. Trouble is, watching this pilot episode made me appreciate the movie that much more.

Why? Well, how about this: The crash sub-plot involves a cop-with-attitude (Ross McCall) colliding into a tough-talking Latina woman (Moran Atias). Drawn by her, in his words, "tight little jalapeño," he starts up an angry flirtation that, in a later scene, find him making sexual innuendo while administering a Breathalyzer test. (Sample line: "Just the tip now, baby.")

The rest–involving an upscale family caring for an ailing, assholish elder, a Korean-American gangster-turned-EMT, and other sketchily developed characters pulled from a cross-section of Los Angeles–isn't as bad, just dull. Except, and this is no small exception, for the scenes with headline star Dennis Hopper, who plays a beyond-koo koo music producer. Introduced talking to his penis, Hopper has seemingly been given free rein to go over the top and then go a little further. He's never less than fun to watch and his scenes with new driver (Jocko Sims, also good) have a racially charged tension that feels genuinely edgy in a way the rest of the episode never does. Is it too late to scrap the earnest racial discussion–rounded out with pay cable-friendly sex, violence, and swearing–and make a show called Dennis Hopper Plays A Crazy Knife-Wielding Music Producer What Other Reason Do You Need To Watch? Alas, it probably is.

Grade: C-

Stray observation:

- Not really an observation as a fact: This is the first original series from the Starz network.

- Representative dialogue: "You Asians drive so slow Stevie Wonder could tail ya."

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