Crash

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Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17 (Starz)

As we have come to learn, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who adored the Oscar-winning 2004 feature "Crash" and those who loathed it.

I happen to fall into the latter camp, having found it an outrageously heavy-handed, gratingly simplistic allegory on the purportedly simmering hellhole of violence and rage that is Los Angeles. But I have to grudgingly acknowledge at least a certain poetic symmetry to the presentation. However, that lyrical quality is fully missing from "Crash," the new TV series version of the film that premieres Friday night at 10 as the first hourlong scripted drama series on the cable network Starz.

If you have trouble finding Starz on your cable system, well, that's the reason why Starz has gone to the expense of resurrecting "Crash" as a high-profile 13-episode cable entry. Starz Entertainment would like this show to do for it what "Mad Men" has managed to do in helping brand and define AMC. And though it surely will draw attention to Starz, I'm not at all sure it deserves to.

While Paul Haggis, the co-write/director of the "Crash" theatrical, often has said he originally saw his creation as a TV drama rather than a big-screen flick, and he's listed as one of four exec producers on the new project, this can't be the show he had in mind. Even more stupefyingly one-dimensional than the film, this series blasts out a collection of crude, disturbing images without a true unifying theme. No longer an allegory, it has devolved into an excuse to shock and repulse as demonstrated in the pilot script from Glen Mazzara, Ted Mann and Randy Huggins. Despite two directors, three writers, four executive producers and seven co-executive producers, it opens as an off-putting, disconnected series of vignettes about rage and evil and insanity and money. The only big name is Dennis Hopper, who portrays an angry hip-hop producer prone to bouts of fury whose first scene finds him talking to his penis in the back of a limo. Yes, his penis.

The fact that "Crash" was shot in New Mexico -- because the tax incentives are better than those in L.A. -- perfectly encapsulates an hour that struggles mightily to be something it's not. Like the film that preceded it, the series wants us to believe there is race-baiting danger and mayhem lurking around every corner of our fair metropolis but lacks even the courage of these convictions. The racial fire is oddly muted, the characters disturbingly undefined, the interaction frustratingly nondescript. The truth is, I'm not really sure what this show is supposed to be other than chaotic and boorish. On those counts, sadly, it succeeds brilliantly.

Production: Lionsgate and Starz Entertainment. Cast: Dennis Hopper, Clare Carey, Luis Chavez, Ross McCall, Jocko Sims, Brian Tee, Arlene Tur, D.B. Sweeney, Moran Atias, Michael Fairman, Nick E. Tarabay. Executive producers: Glen Mazzara, Bob Yari, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis. Creator: Glen Mazzara. Producers: Stacy Rukeyser, John B. Moranville. Writers: Glen Mazzara, Ted Mann, Randy Huggins. From the film "Crash": Story by Paul Haggis, screenplay by Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco. Directors: Sanford Bookstaver, Terrence O'Hara. Co-executive producers: Don Cheadle, Tom Nunan, Mark R. Harris, Jorg Westerkamp, Thomas Becker, Frank Renzulli, Ted Mann. Associate producer: Elizabeth Kling. Director of photography: Russell Lee Fine. Production designer: Paul Peters. Costume designer: Amy Stofsky.
Editors: Elizabeth Kling, Eric Sears. Casting: Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas, Jo Edna Boldin.

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