Though the writers’ strike continues and the networks and industry professionals continue to feel the sting, there is still some good news coming out of Tinseltown. This week, Starz, a premium cable network, announced that it will produce its first original drama–a 13-episode television spin-off of Crash, the 2005 Academy Award winner for best picture and best screenplay. Lionsgate, the distributor of the film and co-produce of the series, recently signed an interim agreement with the Writers Guild, thereby allowing it and Starz to enter production on the series this spring.
A one-hour drama, production of the show is expected to cost $2.5 million per episode–an industry average–with casting decisions still pending. Starz and Lionsgate are expected to share all production costs and revenues.
An ensemble piece, Crash, the movie, explored racial and class tensions in Los Angeles. It starred a rich and multiethnic cast with outstanding performances by Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, Loretta Devine, Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, Larenz Tate, and Beverly Todd.
Lionsgate TV president of programming and production Kevin Beggs, reportedly told Variety.com that the TV version’s storytelling will mirror the film but will introduce new characters and stories dealing with race, class, and bigotry. This television series comes at a most interesting time in America: After all, an African American and a woman are making strong yet racially tinged bids for the White House and illegal immigration is a hot topic across the country.
Hopefully, the Crash series will generate healthy dialogue around the touchy topics of race and class in this country we so often avoid. It’s at times such as these when a former president–worshipped by many in the African American community–can make subtle and arguably not-so-subtle racially charged comments with regard to a candidate of Barack Obama’s stature that you see that there’s still much work to be done.
And African American viewers might certainly tune-in to a series dealing with such volatile topics. In fact, in 2005, Crash earned the NAACP Image Award for outstanding picture. It also won the Black Movie Award for outstanding movie. Such praise and recognition from the African American community seems to have reflected the filmmakers’ perceived honest and genuine pursuit of the truth. It felt authentic. The film helped us as a society see ourselves on the big screen perhaps in ways like never before.
Though it is too early to tell just what is in store for TV viewers with Crash the series, it is encouraging to see cable television once again step to the plate with potentially provocative and worthwhile content that makes the box in the living room a catalyst for discussion beyond the banal and vile.
George Alexander’s column on the business of entertainment appears weekly at BlackEnterprise.com. He is the author of Why We Make Movies (Doubleday Harlem Moon; $15.95), and Queens: Portraits of Black Women and their Fabulous Hair (Doubleday; $29.95).