Crash 

L.A. Stories: Starz’s Crash isn’t great TV, but it’s good enough for right now.

click to enlarge Crash - STARZ
There’s a reason or 12 why you rarely read anything about Crash (Starz; season finale Friday, Dec. 18). This being the only TV column you frequent (riiight?), you’ve seen it mentioned here maybe twice, while the rest of the Critical Television Intelligentsia has ignored it almost completely. It’s on Starz, fergawdsakes!

Furthermore, Crash (loosely based on the 2004 film that, in retrospect … well, sucked) is a hot mess of crisscrossing Los Angeles storylines and characters that changed up so dramatically between Season 1 and the now-concluding Season 2, they could have been two (hell, three) completely different shows. You’ve got veteran name actors (like Dennis Hopper, Eric Roberts and D.B. Sweeney) mixing it up with abject nobodies (Ross McCall, Moran Atias, Jake McLaughlin and others), and hairpin WTF? plot turns that probably didn’t even make sense on bar napkins.

And did I mention that it’s on Starz?

But, Crash works, in spite of itself—at least in Season 2. Last year’s debut season can be summed up thusly: Crooked cops killed and screwed; old record producer got loaded and screwed; various minorities robbed and got screwed. All of the male characters were reprehensible dirtbags; all of the female characters whores, shrews or needy doormats. There was one nice guy, but he was either deported or ripped apart by coyotes, can’t remember.

Not that Season 1 was a complete loss: McCall was surprisingly sympathetic as a dirtbag cop, and Atias was the most impossibly gorgeous whore, like, ever. Hopper chewed scenery like a shark, but that’s what you want from him—asking Dennis Hopper to do “understated” is like asking your cable/ satellite provider to not throw in a free Starz package with every re-up. It just isn’t done.

These three actors, along with Jocko Sims (as Hopper’s limo driver/protégé), were the only holdovers into Season 2 of Crash—everyone else, and pretty much all previously established storylines, were thrown to said coyotes. Hopper’s Ben, fresh out of rehab, is apparently now a pseudo-detective consumed with tracking down his daughter’s killer (best to just roll with it). Atius’ Inez has gone semi-legit, working as a hostess in a gentleman’s club while saddled with a drug-dealer/gambler boyfriend. And McCall’s Kenny, kicked off the police force for his beyond-sordid affair with Inez and myriad other offenses, began the new season working as a strip-mall cop—until he lucked into a security gig for a billionaire entrepreneur (Season 2 Crash addition Roberts).

But wait! It gets more effdup: Roberts’ billionaire, who was going to bring an NFL franchise to Los Angeles, reconsiders after a “vision from God” (which later turns out to be a brain tumor that gives him a Jesus complex … hmmm) and decides to build a utopian city for the homeless instead. Meanwhile, Mrs. Billionaire (Linda Park) is an alcoholic—and pregnant!—children’s-book author. Creepy new character Bo (McLaughlin) runs a hobby shop with his overly dependent mom—when he’s not stalking young boys, having weird sex with and then humiliating girlfriends, shooting up small animals, and generally flying into psychotic rages.

Oh, and while on a break from his revenge manhunt, Ben euthanized his ill hippie pal (Keith Carradine—who was already killed on Dexter this season; rough year) and then contemplated moving in on his widow. And there’s also a new Charles Manson-worshipping cult in town, which Ben suspects murdered his daughter. Somewhere in the midst of all this, Inez has been discovered by a film producer (because, well, look at her), much to the weasel-y concern of her loser boyfriend, and Bo has gone completely off the rails and will most definitely attempt to gun down Mr. Billionaire—and not just because he reneged on the football team.

That’s a whole lotta storyline closure and three violent showdowns looming for the season finale: Ben vs. Manson Cult, Loser Boyfriend vs. Film Producer, and Bo vs. Mr. Billionaire. It may not be quality, but Crash sure as hell deals in quantity.

Have to admire that level of ambition—especially from Starz, a budget-movie channel known almost exclusively as “not Encore.” Critical darlings HBO and Showtime got into the original-programming game all those years ago with nothing nearly as realized as Crash: Remember The Hitchhiker? Or The Red Shoe Diaries? They’d probably rather you didn’t.

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