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Shatner is the New Black.

As I begin typing this, the androgynous lead of Placebo is singing the lyrics things are not what they seem but I assure you, the heading of this post is no lie: William Shatner is the New Black.

I don't know when this happened, but apparently it was recently. I'm a mix of being a bit young and a bit uncaring to know and get caught up in the Shatner of the Star Trek years, so I haven't spent much time with whatever happened there. I'm vaguely aware of his Get A Life line--though it may indeed be something different--and the agonising horror of having had to listen to him speak Trek dialogue in whatever Trek film is the one with the whales. I don't know why, but whenever I ended up in front of the box as during High School and one of the Star Trek films was on, it was always the one that had Leonard Nimoy swimming in some vaguely animal erotic moment with a whale or three. I'd always wait for the moment when Nimoy would be eaten and the whales would orgasm in response, but I guess that was cut for the TV or in the director's cut or something cause I didn't see it. Still, all up, I never much got caught up in Early Shatner (though I guess you'd call that film Mid-Shatner--well, I wasn't caught up in that, either).

I am, however, finding myself caught up in Late Shatner. The Shatner in his 70's is proving himself to be fascinating. The first release of this was the album, Has Been, made with Ben Folds, but proving to be funny and honest and more raw that countless albums released by musicians in their teens and up to forties who pumping out whatever dry echo of tragedy that their easy lives have allowed them to come into contact with. It's hard to listen to a song about the loss of love these days and feel a thing, but when Shatner gives that haunting whispered performance in 'What Have You Done', there's no doubting the pain it in. It's real. And when it comes to doing covers you can groove along to and have that post modern mix of retro kitsch and cool, I don't think you can find a better example than the Shatner and Jo Jackson cover of Pulp's 'Common People'.

And last night, I caught the first episode of Boston Legal, a show that appears to be about good looking, rich lawyers who supposedly give a damn about the little people. Just writing that makes me want to puke, really, and I would if it wasn't for Shatner and a pudgy faced James Spader, bringing some ugliness to the show, and basically running around and being gleefully bad. Hiring hookers to seduce opposing clients and photograph them snorting cocaine of said hooker's breasts and then using those photographs for blackmail was Spader's crowning moment of the episode, but it's Shatner's portrayal of the living legend Denny Crane, nearing the end of his run and knowing that a legend can't fade away, and wanting to go out in a big, flashy way that is the show. You find yourself hoping that Shatner and Crane get to go out together in one big explosive way, perhaps in a orgy of beautiful actors and dynamite, but who could say.

I can't express to you how out of place Shatner and Spader are in Boston Legal, but since they're the centre of the show, you end up thinking that all the plastic pretty people around them are, in fact, out of place. You could replace every single actor on the show with naked mannequins and you'd have, firstly, a more interesting cast, but still the same attraction, which is that Shatner and Spader being bad.

Comments

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bodhichitta0
Jun. 8th, 2005 02:41 am (UTC)
I'll have to try and catch some of that this summer. I've always had a soft spot for Spader and Shatner. Well, except when Shatner was doing TJ Hooker. But it was a paycheck, I suspect.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 02:46 am (UTC)
wow, i'd forgotten about tj hooker. i never saw an episode, mind you, so i suppose that isn't too hard. but anyhow--it's worth checking. by all accounts, shatner won himself an emmy for the show, and over here, the commercials are saying things like, 'find out why shatner is the king of cool' and then shatner says, 'who's your daddy?'
bodhichitta0
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:38 am (UTC)
He won an EMMY? bahaha!

Here's the story on my TJ Hooker watching. At the time it was on I believe I was in high school and I was the last remaining "child" at home. My brother lived nearby though and in true bachelor fashion didn't really keep much food in his house and also did not own a TV. You may (or may not) recall that Heather Locklear was on the show wearing a tight black uniform with big blonde hair and almost every week they found some excuse for her to wear tight shorts and/or a swimming suit. (You see where I am headed with this don't you?) My brother would come over to eat dinner and watch TJ Hooker.

The best episode (in a bad kind of way) was when Leonard Nimoy guest starred and they made all these little Star Trek jokes that anyone who ever watched Star Trek would get.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:47 am (UTC)
yeah, an emmy or something, apparently.

i never actually remember seeing an episode of TJ Hooker. the closest my recollection gets is a scene in ROBOCOP, where a character is twirling a gun around on a tv show, and i think it is called tj hooker, but i might be wrong. otherwise... not a thing. i doubt i ever saw an episode.
chrisbarnes
Jun. 8th, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
The show in Robocop is called TJ Laser, I think. But it must have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to TJ Hooker, which I guess would have been airing at the time.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 01:15 pm (UTC)
right, then.

it only really sticks in my head cause of the gun twirling. i did like ROBOCOP itself, however. a nice little ultra violent thing.
buymeaclue
Jun. 8th, 2005 03:04 am (UTC)
The guy who played Odo on Deep Space Nine is on Boston Legal, too. It's where Star Trek actors go to die!
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 04:15 am (UTC)
i don't even know who that is. is it a blond guy?
angriest
Jun. 8th, 2005 04:26 am (UTC)
No, the older lawyer who was having to deal with Denny and the blonde chick who looked almost identical to every other female actor in the series. Rene Auberjonois - he was also in Benson back in the day, and used to act for Robert Altman.

I loved Spader, loved Shatner, and hated the entire show.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC)
ah, right. gotcha. wasn't benson black, though? there was a decided lack of ethnicity in that show. i get what you mean about hating the show, but il iked the shatner/spader duo so much that i'll go back. it might not last, but right now, it's enough.
mariness
Jun. 8th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
Yep, Benson, played by Robert Guilliame, was black. He actually came over from Soap, where he was the only black character in an otherwise very white show.

After a couple of seasons, the Soap producers realized that although Benson was one of the funniest characters on the show, they really couldn't do much with him from a soap opera perspective (he and the gay guy were the only two sane characters, and the writers just couldn't do much with Benson) so they spun him off into a separate show, where he eventually became the lieutenant governor.
buymeaclue
Jun. 8th, 2005 04:49 am (UTC)
Yes! The one who looks like his face is melting.
buymeaclue
Jun. 8th, 2005 04:50 am (UTC)
(The blond guy is Mark Valley. I'm told he was actually quite good on Keen Eddie, but I never watched that one and so I cannot say.)
ironed_orchid
Jun. 8th, 2005 04:56 am (UTC)
I was looking at him thinking "is that the guy who played Odo?", but didn't bother to check. Thanks for confirmation.
ironed_orchid
Jun. 8th, 2005 05:00 am (UTC)
I was reasonably pleased with Boston Legal, I am still afraid to get my hopes up about anything on tv as it usually leads to disappointment and heartbreak. I'm hoping the characters that Shatner and Spader play will work without those in The Practice, who tended to be high moral ground types, to bounce off.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:14 am (UTC)
i suspect that everyone around shatner and spader will be high moral ground characters. you can already see it, i reckon.
girliejones
Jun. 8th, 2005 05:13 am (UTC)
Although, it *is* missing Rebecca deMorney.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:14 am (UTC)
no show needs a rebecca demorney ;)
girliejones
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:19 am (UTC)
Well she was in the version of Boston Legal in the Practice and she was a real bitch. It was good viewing. Now they have a pretend demorney.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:27 am (UTC)
which character is the pretend demorney?
girliejones
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:32 am (UTC)
I think the blond that asked the brunette to flirt with the old guy who wanted to tail his wife.

Hows that for paying attention to names?
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:51 am (UTC)
did they even have names?

all the women were essentially interchangable. good looking brunette walks in, good looking brunette walks out, good looking blonde, blah blah.
girliejones
Jun. 8th, 2005 06:52 am (UTC)
and its all about the Shat-man ... ROTFL


(the brunette was from The Practice)
angriest
Jun. 8th, 2005 08:34 am (UTC)
The brunette (Rhona Mitra) was also the original promotional model for Lara Croft, appearing on TV, at trade shows, etc. How's that for pointless trivia?

(And I know because I religiously follow the videogames industry, not because I religiously follow the modelling industry. I may be a nerd, but I'm not a pervy nerd...)

I want "Shatner is the new black." on a t-shirt!
girliejones
Jun. 8th, 2005 08:35 am (UTC)
It's desperately needed.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 09:57 am (UTC)
>I want "Shatner is the new black." on a t-shirt!<

can't you see i'm trying to write a section of my thesis byt he middle of next week? stop saying things like that!

(though i bet shatner's face is copyrighted. i mean, you know, it'd just have to be the words...)
angriest
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:20 am (UTC)
Oh it needs no face. No sirree, just the text, quite small, in a sans-serif white font on a black t-shirt.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:45 am (UTC)
it's a shame i don't know of any t-shirt place like cafepress that does black shirts. you think cafepress would--they'd make a mint more.
speshal_k
Jun. 8th, 2005 09:36 am (UTC)
He *is* the new black!!

I've never paid much attention to either Star Trek or Shatner himself, but my interest was definitely piqued by his cover of 'Common People'. He also does some fabulously kooky ads for All-Bran over here.

And, just recently, I purchased this!
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 10:00 am (UTC)
oh, man, that is going to be so crap :) legend has it that shatner's transformed man is absolutely awful--still, i find myself slightly envious that you bought that. i want one.

but i will wait.
speshal_k
Jun. 8th, 2005 10:15 am (UTC)
I've only listened to it once so far. I don't remember 'Transformed Man', but his screeching rendition of 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' is absolutely mental!

It was only 3 quid...

benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:11 am (UTC)
oh yeah, the price is perfect for it. i'm also kinda jealous that you got to say three quid. how british.
bodhichitta0
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:40 am (UTC)
His version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" should just be put on a pedestal and examined from all angles as an example of how to make something that both sucks and blows.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 10:02 am (UTC)
i've seen the ballad of bilbo baggins, the nimoy song, btw. it's really bad. heh. you should see the film clip though--it has these girls jumping around behind nimoy with elf ears or hobbit ears on or something. it's just awe inspiring in that badness way.
llbatt
Jun. 8th, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC)
Perhaps one of the reasons he manages to get real emotion into his rendition of "What have You Done" where the younger generations of yawnometers have failed is that they haven't come home one day to find their wives face down dead in the swimming pool, like he did. Real life has a way of investing depth like that.

benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
yeah, i knew that.

it's the kind of performance you can only do once, though. i mean, if shatner was to release a third album, what would it be like? if it was more of the same as HAS BEEN would i be in for it so much? it's hard to say, i think.
leatherdykeuk
Jun. 8th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC)
Off topic:

Just surfed in from reading 'Johnny Cash' on Shadowed Realms and had to applaud in person. Nicely done.
benpeek
Jun. 8th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
hey, thanks a bunch :) glad you liked it.
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