Daily Lists, TV

The 9 Awesomest Things that William Shatner Has Done That Have Nothing to Do with Captain Kirk

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Shatner rules.jpg

By Chris Cummins

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Even though James T. Kirk was killed back in 1994’s Star
Trek: Generations
, Trekkies have held out hope that William Shatner would
return one day to the captain’s chair. Given J.J. Abrams penchant for secrecy,
there’s always a chance that old Kirk will show up in the new Star Trek
for a cameo. (Just don’t count on it). If Shatner never voyages into the final
frontier again, he’s still given fans plenty of awesomeness outside of the 23rd?century. A rundown of the facts: he’s Canadian, he gives recording studio
engineers a hard time when they inappropriately correct his delivery, and his
acting style is so remarkable that the adjective “Shatnerian” is now part of
the public vernacular. The guy is nothing short of a treasure. To paraphrase
Fatboy Slim, we’ve come a long, long way together, and now we should praise
him. That’s what this list is all about. From various acting gigs to his
dubious musical pursuits, here’s a look at eight of Bill Shatner’s most
memorable non-Starfleet gigs.?

9) Shatner’s Raw Nerve

The spiritual successor to both The Charlie Rose Show and
Dr. Phil, Shatner’s Raw Nerve is free of the self-aggrandizing
that plagues most talk shows. You knew Shatner was great at paintball and
horseback riding, but at interviewing? Who would have guessed that he’d be a
natural? Sitting down with celebrities ranging from Judge Judy to Leonard
Nimoy, he puts his over-the-top persona aside and attempts to get to the core
of his guests’ personalities. In the series’ best installment to date, Shatner
gets Kelsey Grammer to open up about his difficult relationship with his
murdered father. As both men reveal personal details of their lives, viewers
are left feeling more as if they are at confession than in front of their
televisions.

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8) Airplane II: The Sequel

These days, Airplane
II: The Sequel
is remembered amongst fans of highbrow sitcoms as being one
of the first projects from Canadian TV visionary Ken Finkleman (The Newsroom).
The rest of us recall it as a shameless cash grab highlighted by William
Shatner’s self-effacing performance as a Kirk-esque space commander trying to
get Ted Striker’s Mayflower One lunar shuttle to land safely. Jump to 4:54 in
the above clip to see his famous “blinking and beeping and flashing” meltdown
scene. Then spend the rest of your day driving your co-workers insane by
quoting it.

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7) Commercial Pitchman

Here’s a prediction: years after Shatner’s death media
analysts will issue a report claiming that he was the most effective pitchman
in the history of advertising. His straightforward approach to presenting
product information (and that perfectly coiffed hair!) promote trust within
consumers that results in sales aplenty. Now does anyone know if I can get a
Vic-20 at Best Buy? By the way, if you happen to be working with the Shat on a
commercial, you should check out this for some quick dos and don’t’s.

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6) T.J. Hooker

As Thomas “T.J.” Hooker, William Shatner taught us just how
tough it was to be a divorced detective who gets demoted and is forced to work
the beat. Armed only with his skills, his gun and a paunchy figure that helped
him intimidate the bad guys and get the ladies; Hooker fought crime in 91
glorious, violence-packed episodes. Joining Shatner for the crime-stopping fun were
Heather Locklear and Adrian Zmed. That’s a smoldering hat trick of televisual
sensuality if ever there were one.

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5) “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” from The Twilight Zone

Pre-Star Trek, Shatner’s best-known role was in this
installment of The Twilight Zone.?
Directed by Richard Donner and featuring a script from Richard Matheson
(who adapted his own short story), this episode stars? Shatner as a man recently released from the nuthouse who
swears he sees a gremlin wreaking havoc on the wing of the plane he is flying
in. Frantic to get his wife and fellow passengers to believe his claims, he is
pushed to the brink of madness. Cool monster suit too. Nearly 50 years after
its initial airing, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” remains a landmark moment in
sci-fi television and arguably the series’ finest moment.

4)?”That’s Me Trying”



William Shatner’s musical career is a joke whose unexpected punch line came in the form of his 2004 album,?Has Been. Unlike the campiness of his previous musical experiments, the release is a sincere and at times touching meditation on life and aging. Written by Ben Folds and?High Fidelity?author Nick Hornby, the standout track “That’s Me Trying” is a spoken word letter from a clueless father to his estranged daughter. Attempting to reconcile with a child whom he obviously wronged, he suggests that if they get together they shouldn’t “talk about any of the bad stuff” and “just pretend that the past didn’t happen.”?By the time the chorus — sung by Folds and Aimee Mann — kicks in, you’ll realize that you’re listening to the best song about a shitty father since “Cats in the Cradle.” It’s brilliant for sure, but there is one musical moment from Shatner that edges it out of the top spot on this list…


3) Boston Legal


WIlliam Shatner has been more than cool enough to parody himself later in life, and never so clearly or relentless as his role as lawyer Denny Crane in Boston Legal. The sex-crazed, trigger-happy, right-wing and borderline insane role of Crane had Shatner in a giant swan outfit, arrested several times (usually for soliciting prostitutes), having constant sleepovers with co-star James Spader, shooting several people (a few on purpose), keeping a sex doll of co-star Candiace Bergen, sleeping with a little person who may have been his daughter (and later simultaneously sleeping with her mother, Delta Burke)… and that’s pretty much just the tip of the iceberg. Even if you didn’t like law show, Shatner’s role as Crane was always hysterical, and rightly earned him an Emmy (and several more nominations).


2) Incubus

Imagine watching Carnival of Souls after being hit on
the head repeatedly with a hammer. That’s a perfect approximation of the Incubus
experience. For no reasonable reason, this film was performed entirely in the
artificial language of Esperanto. Long though lost, the film resurfaced in 2001
and found a second life as a would-be cult film. The laughable plot has
something to do with angry succubae, but the movie’s biggest draw is to see
Shatner ham it up in a foreign tongue. What’s the Esperanto word for “sabatage”
anyway?

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1) “Rocketman”

You knew this was coming. Emoting his heart out with the
help of a cigarette as Bernie Taupin dry heaves backstage, a
hopped-up-on-goofballs Shatner proceeds to “sing” Elton John’s classic about
astronaut ennui. Exactly what he was trying to achieve here other than to
promote peyote and/or Quaalude use remains a mystery, not that it matters. What’s
important to remember is that truly shithouse bonkers moments come along once
in a lifetime, and when they do you should cherish every insane moment. The
best part of this video? Jump to 2:14 and marvel at Shatner emerging from his
own ass.

Honorable Mention: “Get a Life” Saturday Night Live sketch

Because you Topless Robot readers are such
magnificent bastards, here is a special bonus for you: William Shatner’s
classic “Get a Life” sketch from Saturday Night Live. It was left out of
the main list since it is explicitly Kirk-related, but hilarious enough to be
added here as a postscript. Unless you were teased mercilessly after this aired
about your love of all things Trek. In which case you should just watch the “Rocketman”
clip again.

About Author

Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.