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December 2, 2008


William Shatner: One Man Hyperbole

William Shatner and Jenna Jameson

William Shatner has a new talk show.

It's kind of unbelievable that he's gone all this time without having his own show to share his own intense, self-aware, detachedly-cool and possibly insane personality with the world, unfiltered through any fictional character. Maybe he had to go through all the 20 or 30 careers he's already had before getting to this level.

The show, Shatner's Raw Nerve, is on the Biography Channel at 10:00 tonight, and is automatically the most interesting thing that channel has ever done. His guests will include Jimmy Kimmel, Judge Judy, Valerie Bertinelli, and Jenna Jameson. I don't understand it either, but I think it's going to be great.

When people try to describe Shatner and the kind of celebrity he's made for himself, they often talk in expansive, hyperbolic terms, and end up some place that's almost mystical. In the Times review of the new talk show, Ginia Bellafante writes:

The range of Mr. Shatner’s cultural contributions sometimes seems incalculable, and his tenure on Star Trek, is, of course, really just a fraction of his national gift. If YouTube offered nothing but his spoken-word renditions of classic rock songs ("Rocket Man", "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"), it would still get thousands of hits, no millions and zillions of them. Google might have bought YouTube with no other content.

And later she really nails that ability Shatner has to operate on many different, progressively complex levels of comedy at once: he's serious; he's absurd; he knows he's absurd; he's in on the joke; he's become the joke and also somehow surpasses it.

His genius is a simulation of sincerity that makes it seem as though he is finding profundity wherever he looks. And yet he leaves enough wiggle room for his audience to wonder whether he really is faking it, or whether, in actuality, he isn’t: maybe he is just nuts.

And of course the Fametracker Fame Audit of William Shatner from back in 2005. An excerpt:

When the world zigs, he zags. When the world zags, he zigs. When the world zigs back, he records an album with Ben Folds. When the world chuckles, he pantses the world.

Some celebrities think they've got this whole image thing figured out, they can have fun with it, and they can make it their bitch. Sure, we like John Malkovich, and, sure, we thought it was cool and funny when he starred in Being John Malkovich. But for William Shatner, every day is Being William Shatner. Some celebrities get it, but Shatner so thoroughly gets it that "it" no longer exists. He's consumed "it." He's crawled up inside celebrity and made it explode, the way that Neo finally crawls into Agent Smith and makes him explode.

categories: Celebrities, TV
posted by amy at 4:14 PM | #

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