Is Crash Train Wreck TV?

The pay cable channel Starz has dabbled in original fare like the comedy show Head Case, but it still lags behind cable giants like HBO and Showtime in terms of homegrown productions.

HBO has Entourage and The Sopranos. Showtime can boast The L Word and Dexter. AMC has Mad Men.

Starz has nothing of the kind in that scale. Until now.

Crash, Starz's first dramatic series, is meant to start closing that gap (trailer here). The series' first episode, which debuts at 10 p.m. EST tonight (Oct. 17), is gunning for the same lofty terrain populated by The Sopranos and its ilk -- adult-oriented fare which leverages the freedoms inherent in cable television.

The early returns won't change the pay cable pecking order, but with a story this broad subsequent episodes could exceed first impressions.

The ensemble story, based on the Oscar-winning film, features Dennis Hopper as a racist record mogul. The rest of the cast is far less recognizable -- and memorable.

The original Crash jammed plenty of melodrama into its running time, so it's only natural for the series of the same name to follow suit. Sure enough, the show opens with Hopper's character, Ben Cendars, delivering a bizarre toast to his private parts and then exposing himself to his female limousine driver.

Early HBO series like 1st & 10 delighted in pushing past network boundaries, and it's clear the minds behind Crash have similar freedoms firmly in mind.