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Crash emerges as wreckage in weekly Starz version

Dennis Hopper adds another psycho to his portfolio in Starz's Crash.

Premiering: Friday, Oct. 17th at 9 p.m. (central) on Starz
Starring: Dennis Hopper, Jocko Sims, Nick E. Tarabay, Arlene Tur, Moran Atias, Ross McCall, Brian Tee, Clare Carey, Luis Chavez
Produced by: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco, Glen Mazzara, Bob Yari among many.

Crash's featured passengers are mostly twisted metal, ready to be totaled.

Dennis Hopper of course wants to be a big part of this. Notching another wacko on his bedpost, he has top billing as record producer Ben Cendars, whose first act is to expose himself to his female limo driver before laying a little heavy-duty profanity on her.

What fun. "Inspired" by the same-named, 2006 Oscar winner (in a controversial upset over Brokeback Mountain), Crash re-emerges as the Starz cable network's first original drama series. None of the movie's stars have returned. Neither have any of its characters -- at least not by name.

The closest resemblance is Ross McCall in the role of "charming, irresponsible street cop" Kenny Battaglia. He's an obvious carryover of Officer John Ryan, terrifically played on the big-screen by Matt Dillon.

Near the close of Friday's premiere episode, Battaglia figuratively has oral sex via a Breathalyzer test. "No teeth," he instructs a beautiful woman driver. "Just the tip, baby."

Paul Haggis, who both wrote and directed Crash the movie, tosses his name in the mix as a co-executive producer of Crash the series. That makes him one of 11. Haggis otherwise has steered clear of this, leaving Friday's opening hour at the mercy of two directors and three writers.

The setting again is L.A., "a city that throws people together" whether they like it or not. Haggis stretched credibility in some of these random collisions, but in the end showed us the humanity.

Crash's TV offshoot seems much more thrown together. Maybe it'll sort itself out during a planned 13-episode run. But Friday's premiere is off-putting to the point of spoiling its audience's appetite for any more of this. Hopper's unhinged music mogul -- "I carry a lot of damage with me" -- amounts to a sour milk appetizer preceding a main course of rotted sea bass. The immediate inclination is to push yourself away from this table.

Axel Finet (Nick E. Tarabay) is a "cocky lieutenant with no respect for the law." Or to put it another way, he's Crash's Vic Mackey, only nastier. Mackey, for all his excesses on The Shield, probably would draw the line at unblinkingly murdering a pair of young Asian crooks, one of them a woman. Finet has no problem pulling the trigger.

Brentwood mom Christine Emory (Clare Carey) is the spawn of a belittling, contemptible father who takes delight in verbally assaulting her husband, Peter (D. B. Sweeney). She's already starting to snap by episode's end.

Inez (Moran Atias), who's given no last name, is a "dangerous, manipulative adulteress." Anthony Adams (Jocko Sims), hired as Cendars latest limo driver, seemingly has a shot at becoming a halfway sympathetic character. Still, Starz describes him as a "street-smart" hustler who obviously needs to stay on Cendars' "good side" -- which Cendars doesn't have.

Starz is a premium network without commercials, as are HBO and Showtime. This provides a wide berth for profanity and nudity, so consider that done.

Advertiser-supported AMC's Mad Men, nearing the end of a super-terrific second season, keeps showing how an adult drama should be done. Crash looks like yet another wearisome, pointless wallow. Will you care a whit about any of its aggressively imperfect characters?

That answer should be clear from this end. On the whole, I'd rather watch my car overheat in rush hour traffic. Not to tempt fate.