[SPOILERS] Crash does for medicine what Bonekickers did for archaeology. A BBC HD exclusive from creator Tony Jordan (EastEnders, Life On Mars), the premise finds a interdependent group of recently-graduated doctors thrust from the classroom into a real hospital. There they face the pressure and life-or-death decision-making no amount of books can prepare you for. It's a decent enough slant to the standard medical drama setup (even if it'll surely become part of the crowd when the green-eared docs gain experience), but something tells me Crash won't last long enough to tackle that particular problem...
The problems are everywhere, but it's mostly a lack of believability and unintentional hilarity that quickly unravels the show's sense of realism. There's undoubtedly something to be explored in the idea of young doctors thrown into the deep end after five years of medical school, where a lack of experience finds them doubting their own abilities, but Crash needed a much stronger and smarter tone to make it work. This pilot episode, while pleasantly brisk at a lively half-hour, just felt unsubstantial and laughable.
The cast are a group of fresh-faced young things: Rhian Matthews (Elin Philips), the energetic youngster; Ameer Mowad (Simon Rivers), the egghead who freezes when he's called to his first "crash" and later cries in a toilet cubicle; Cath Llewelyn (Kezia Burrows), the feisty hottie; Simon Strettle (Gareth Milton), the pathologist who prefers working on cadavers; and their de facto leader Rob Williams (Gareth Jewell), the dependable Welshman.
As an introductory episode, it was relatively successful at explaining the premise and sketching the characters, although only Ameer and Rob really registered as anything approaching rounded human beings. And most of that was purely down to the fact they got the best of the trivial subplots, and thus most of the screen time. One niggling issue, perhaps particular to me, is that I find it difficult to hear a Welsh accent and take the speaker seriously -- which is a problem when there are entire wards full of Welsh people dealing with serious problems. The same thing drags me out of Torchwood on many occasions, as I just associate the Welsh accent with humour not drama.
But accents are the least of Crash's problems. Clearly intended to be quite lightweight and soap-y (at least I hope that was the intention), Crash sped through its thirty minutes delivering clichés, broad caricatures and limp comedy (two men hugged in a toilet and were mistaken as "gay".) Classic.
Undoubtedly the most memorable part of Crash's premiere was the stunningly misjudged and hilarious ending, which aimed to surprise and shock the audience by killing off one of the main characters. To that end, likeable Rob, the group's rock and implausible girl-magnet, was fatally stabbed by a man his superior's had refused to send to the psych ward. To be fair, this event definitely grabbed my attention (how could it not?), but my reaction was one of disbelief that the episode had suddenly ditched its frothy tone for "serious" drama. But the tonal shift was so extreme that it just felt extremely funny. Rob wasn't around long enough for us to actually care if he died, and Russell T. Davies beat Tony Jordan to the punch by killing a main character in Torchwood's pilot, anyway.
Overall, Crash was a mildly entertaining failure, but a failure nonetheless -- its title ironically descriptive of the quality, but missing the words "And Burn" in parenthesis. The part of me that craves so-bad-it's-good TV will ensure I tune in next week to see how things progress, but I can't see Crash doing anything interesting with its premise given the vibe presented here. It's too preposterous and hackneyed to be anything more than a guilty pleasure, at best. Imagine Scrubs with the jokes taken out, only not as hard-hitting.
9 September 2009 BBC HD, 8.30pm
written by: Tony Jordan directed by: Ashley Way starring: Kezia Burrows (Cath Llewelyn), Gareth Jewell (Rob Williams), Elin Philips (Rhian Matthews), Simon Rivers (Ameer Mowad), Gareth Milton (Simon Strettle), Mark Lewis Jones (Mr. Hill), Nia Roberts (Mary Finch), Ian Virgo (Alun Gethin), Kezrena James (Nurse Penny), Dewi Rhys Williams (Mr Boyd), David Smith (Tommy), Chris Reilly (Doctor) & Menna Trussler (Gwen)