Another day, another new TV show starring William Shatner. This time its “S#*! My Dad Says“, a comedy based on Justin Halpern’s Twitter feed (!). Yeah, the late James Brown was “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business”, but Shatner is hustling for a “Honorary Mention”. Hustler. Hmm, that’s a good word for dear old Bill, isn’t it?
Judging William Shatner objectively is problematic for me even during the worst of times. I can’t casually dismiss him as a pompous fraud because, to be fair, he’s not. Not all the time, anyway.
Alright, as a dramatic actor, he’s shamelessly served up fat, greasy, overcooked ham sandwiches for years. What he does and how he does it isn’t a choice anymore; it’s genetic. Remember his cringe-inducing primal scream in The Wrath of Khan? (Shatner as James T. Kirk: “KHAAANNNNNN!!!”) Compounding his thespian follies, Shatner’s dramatic interpretation of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” should have been reported to Amnesty International as a war crime.
However, as a comic performer, I believe Shatner is seriously underrated.
The few episodes of “Star Trek” that stay fresh and timeless are the ones where Kirk gets to be funny, and–amazingly–he is. There’s nuance, timing, discipline, and suppleness. He’s relaxed; he’s not dialing it to “11”. In short, Shatner is everything that’s glaringly absent from his hambone performances.
When Shatner does drama, he’s a slab of Canadian Bacon. He’s selfish, and an out-of-control scenery-chewer who swallows his fellow actors. In comedies, he’s remarkably generous, invites everybody to the party, and buys the beer.
Watch Shatner’s past work with Spader and Lithgow. There’s a sly ease and camaraderie which you usually see only in the pairings of legendary comedy teams that have a history. When Shatner has the clown make-up on, he’s a team player. When he has Yorick’s plastic skull in his hand, he thinks he’s the team. As long as the producers of “S#*! My Dad Says” don’t confuse Mr. Bill’s two personas, Shatner is the comedic heavyweight that his new TV sitcom needs.
Let’s hope Shatner’s toupee isn’t funnier than the scripts.