NBC's 'Crash' is a disaster in the making

November 16, 1990|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

It's another weekend of disaster programming at NBC.

Last weekend NBC won a slim victory over "Call Me Anna," Patty Duke's story, with "The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake."

This weekend, it's a plane crash that is featured in "Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501," at 9 p.m. Sunday on WMAR-TV (Channel 2). The death toll in this one is 131 persons.

That is not counting any viewers who might die of boredom watching Cheryl Ladd schlepp through this clunker.

Like Joanna Kern in "Earthquake," Ladd plays a woman of character at odds with the system. Ladd is Diane Halstead, the wife of the pilot who crashed the plane with 133 persons on board.

Only one passenger and Captain Halstead (Doug Sheehan) survive the crash. Captain Halstead, though, dies in the hospital, a few days after the crash, just as investigators are about to conclude that pilot error was responsible. The bulk of the film is about Diane's fighting to clear the name of her dead husband.

There are villains everywhere in this cynical film. The CIA, the media, attorneys, bureaucrats -- everybody but the sainted Di Halstead. Yecch.

NBC has been promoting this film as a new genre: "realistic fiction." That means it looks like a docudrama (part fact and part fiction), but it is wholly made-up and has no basis in fact. So why not just call it fiction?

Why, indeed. Maybe because even NBC couldn't think of anything interesting to say about this film.

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