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Transporter malfunction? William Shatner is showing up everywhere
Seattle Times TV critic
Some celebrities we take to heart. Others we clasp to our broad, soft and equally vulnerable midsection, which is where you find William Shatner.
He's earned that place through a fine-grained sense of irony about fame and a huge work ethic cultivated over a half-century. Like other workaholics — Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney come to mind — he's always doing something.
Lately, Shatner's achieving ubiquity. On March 12, the Emmy-winning star of ABC's "Boston Legal" hosted a History Channel documentary called "How William Shatner Changed the World," based on his book. He's also been out promoting his latest album, "Has Been," through a series of appearances with (ahem) slightly more established singers.
And at 11 p.m. Wednesday, TV Land cable channel unveils the special "Living in TV Land: William Shatner in Concert."
The one-hour show is a loopy compendium of interview snippets, vintage clips and musical numbers. Shatner performs his tunes with considerable backup from fans like pop star Ben Folds, country singer Brad Paisley and opera legend Frederica von Stade.
These selections won't displace Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra. The closest to legend that Shatner gets is his rendition of the title song, "Has Been," which has a strong resemblance to the late Lorne Greene doing "Ringo."
But the numbers elicit the sort of affection we reserve for sheer persistence, that key to a long show-business life.
The objective ear confirms what critics have said since Shatner's debut album, "Transformed Man": He can't sing. Then our guts take over and urge him to keep right on singing.
How can you react otherwise? William Shatner, like my 20-year-old cat, clearly has an enormous appetite for life.
A sense of perspective honed over a half-century of peaks and valleys doesn't hurt, either. This is the man who once rebutted his make-believe persona with the statement: "And when I speak, I never, ever talk like every. Word is. Its own. Sentence."
I do think TV Land misses a chance to offer insight into what makes Shatner tick and widen our appreciation of the things he does well.
The clips are confined to the familiar — "Star Trek," "T.J. Hooker" and "Boston Legal" — and don't quite capture the flavor of a career that ranged from "Howdy Doody" through many, many guest appearances encompassing Shakespearean drama and slapstick.
The unseen interviewer might also have elicited deeper reflections from flinty-eyed colleagues such as Leonard Nimoy and Candice Bergen.
Instead, Shatner offers pointed observations about himself, making this more of an autobiography. There also are requisite sappy moments saved by his humor.
Of his fourth wife, a horse trainer from Kentucky, he says, "Elizabeth and I are passionately in love." Pause. "Passionately." Pause. "I can't keep my hands off her." Pause. "And I keep putting her hands on me."
The special does raise a metaphysical question: Do people ever get out of TV Land?
William Shatner, who turns 75 Wednesday, must have enough television signals bouncing around in space to have reached galaxies that Capt. Kirk never knew.
But he keeps adding to them, and his new album is an extended coda.
"What are you afraid of / Failure? / So am I," he sings. "Has been / Might again."
Even if audiences had the capacity for another police procedural — and maybe they do — I'm ready to convict based on "The Evidence."
Airing at 10 p.m. Wednesday, this badly constructed police procedural has the task of competing with "Law & Order" and "CSI: New York."
The hook for the new series is that viewers allegedly are given pieces of evidence at the top of each episode and invited to help solve the whodunit as the investigation proceeds.
But the novelty is undone by fraudulence. The script holds back on the information we really need and viewers will know they're being kept in the dark on purpose.
With audience participation a moot point, the entertainment burden shifts to co-stars Orlando Jones and Rob Estes, who play San Francisco police detectives and have no convincing chemistry as partners.
ABC might just as well have plugged a short-run reality show in this slot until May. Then again, considering the tacky and mean-spirited "American Inventor," maybe not.
Kay McFadden: email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company