Alibi V.17 No.51 • Dec 18-24, 2008 

Idiot Box

Shat Stew

“Shatner’s Raw Nerve” on BIO

Q: How weird is it watching William Shatner interview porn star Jenna Jameson? A: Very weird.

Either biologically or contractually unable to not work, William Shatner recently landed himself a new TV show, its premiere timed almost to the day he stepped off the set of his last series, the now ended “Boston Legal.” For those keeping count, Shatner has appeared in a grand total of 94 television series, dating all the way back to when he played “Ranger Bob” on the Canadian version of “Howdy Doody” in 1954.

Finally, after decades of fighting crime, Klingons and quirky legal battles, William Shatner has scored himself a sit-down gig. The Shat is hosting his first talk show, the curiously titled “Shatner’s Raw Nerve.” The title and the claim from producers that Shatner will probe fellow celebrities about their deepest, darkest secrets involving love, sex, alcohol, addiction, family and fame promise a bit more than the show actually delivers.

So far, Shatner’s “fellow celebrities” have been a D-list lot at best: Valerie Bertinelli, Kelsey Grammer, Judge Judy and the above-named Jenna Jameson make up Shatner’s first salvo of episodes. Settled comfortably into a mod-looking love seat in his cramped, penthouse living room-like set, Shatner quizzes guests with the peculiar intensity we’ve come to know and love from the man who gave us Captain Kirk. In this setting, Shatner’s whisper-to-a-scream delivery style displays either deep interest in what his guests have to say or more overacting. Probably the later.

Surprisingly, Shatner takes this gig quite seriously, showing off none of the self-parody he’s trafficked in for the past couple decades. On the one hand, it’s a little disappointing. How could you not love the faux-egotistical (but not completely faux) host of the History Channel’s “How William Shatner Changed the World”? Here, his halting, sotto voce non sequiters actually seem to disarm subjects, putting them at ease. Unfortunately, Shatner doesn’t really push the advantage, probing his subjects to their core. Sure, he hinted around a few sexual questions with Jenna Jameson, but she’s the world’s most famous porn star! Surely you could dig something more out of her than the fact that she likes sex, is cool sleeping with men and women and loves her boyfriend.

Ah well, do we really want to know Valerie Bertinelli’s innermost thoughts about divorcing husband Eddie Van Halen or do we just want Shatner to dispense a few gentle wisecracks?

A curious but as-yet inessential addition to TV’s endless parade of celebrity chat shows, “William Shatner’s Raw Nerve” feels more raw than nervy. If Shatner can hook a few more interesting guests, unleash his crazy side (something he had no problem doing on his Emmy-winning “Boston Legal” stint) and start dishing some real dirt, this show could become the made-in-TV Land equivalent of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” Or at least decent fodder for a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

“Shatner’s Raw Nerve” airs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the Biography Channel