Crash: Season 1
There appears to be a trend that executives in Hollywood have been attempting to start for a long time. The thing is only a very few examples of it have come anywhere close to success. The goal is to take a popular, critically acclaimed movie and turn it into an equally popular television series. Okay, they did score a hit with ‘M*A*S*H’ and to a much lesser extent with ‘The courtship of Eddie’s Father’ but other than only a true aficionado of film and television would be able to come up with other examples. It seems scaling up from TV series to movie affords a greater statistical chance of success. Perhaps one contributing factor at play here is it easier to come up with a single two hour story than something that will hold up week after week. One thing that has made it simpler for the transition is the increase number of weekly series produced by the premium cable networks. Freed from the restrictions imposed by the broadcast standards and practices departments this new age of series is able to be cutting edge, targeted towards more mature audiences. The earliest forays into original programming by a previously movie oriented cable network was HBO. They hit the big time in popularity with series such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Sex and the City’. This not only greatly increased the number of viewers it was responsible for a large number of new subscriptions adding to the cash flow of the network. This led to the other large premium cable network, Showtime, to follow suit producing intense series like ‘Odyssey 5’ and ‘The L Word’. Now the big last of the big three movie networks has joined this well proven business model with their weekly series, ‘Crash’. As with series on the other cable network this show is unshackled by the usual guidelines regarding language, sexual content and more adult oriented story lines and themes.
One of the problems translating a movie into a television series is finding a realistic way to keep the story moving forward and staying interest on regular basis. This was extremely important in the case of ‘Crash’ since the film took home academy awards for /best Picture and Best screenplay setting the bar extremely high for a series that would carry the name. In this case the result was a very mature themed, highly emotional drama that can stand on its own. There are some flaws in the production but it is evident that an earnest effort was made to establish the same commitment of Quality with Starz as already been well established with HBO and Showtime. There is going to be a lot of comparison not only with the film but also other prime time premium network series. To some extent such comparison are valid but ultimately this series will have to be considered on its own merits.
One common downside inherent with bringing a film to weekly television is it is extremely rare for the creative people responsible for the success of the movie make the move to TV, this is the case here. The film was written and directed by Paul Haggis but for the series those roles were given to Glen Mazzara as the lead writer and Glen Mazzara taking the credit for series creation and a large portion of direction. Previously Mazzara worked as executive producer for the extremely intense cable series ‘The Shield’ so he knows what it talks to grab an audience and keep them coming back for more. One of the strong points for this series is it doesn’t attempt to pick up the story lines from the film; it starts with as blank page populating it with a cross section of society much as was done for the movie. The series comes across well because it doesn’t depend on a single set of characters with a limited story arc. The colliding stories here largely remain separated allow for the series to become a rich tapestry with a variety of threads blending together for an overall effect. One of the dominate characters is Ben masterful played close to over the top by Dennis Hopper. He is a record producer somewhat past his glory days. He still tries to maintain his hedonistic life style of sex and drugs. He frequent rides around in his limo and has just hired, Anthony (Jocko Sims) as his new driver. The young man soon learns that his job description includes keeping his boss from stabbing a business associate in the back seat and introducing his new boss to a pot connection. The next thread involves police officer Kenny (Ross McCall) who winds up overly infatuated by a young woman, Inez (Moran Atias). Basically he becomes a stalker with behavior the rapidly goes way over any line of conduct. The third arc concerns Christine (Clare Carey). Her father, Lou (Michael Fairman) is facing a prolonged recuperation and is staying with her and her and her husband Peter (D.B. Sweeney). This has resulted in numerous arguments over the need for renovations to make the house more accessible. Peter is worried about the rising price tag in this slow economy but Christine is determined to make this work out for her father.
The series takes on a lot but overall it works. The major story arcs are a little intimidating until you get all the characters and circumstances straight in your head. The effort is well worth your while though. The performances have a greater emotional punch than possible on broadcast TV but the more mature presentation never panders to the obscene. It is an platform for some excellent performances and the underlying format can allows for cast changes down the road to avoid any obe thread getting stale. It looks like Starz entrance into original series program worked out.