There’s always been something strangely fascinating about the so-called music career of William Shatner, and one of the latest installments of TV Land’s documentary series about forgotten TV stars plays that up to the hilt.
Living in TV Land: William Shatner in Concert plays up his accidental singing career — and his apparently lifelong wish to be more than a novelty act.
“It is the time of my life — I’m so happily married … I’m getting these grandkids,” he says. “But I still wish I could sing.”
Like Shatner’s music, the special is unique. Instead of the typical narrated, timeline-driven “behind the scenes” look at the star’s life — or the standard followed-by-cameras reality show take — this episode is almost surreal and feels like a stream of consciousness as it tracks Shatner from the set of Boston Legal; to a day riding broncs at the rodeo; to a plane flight to a Las Vegas Star Trek convention with Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek’s Mr. Spock) and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Janeway); to accepting the Emmy Award for best supporting actor as Legal’s Denny Crane.
Along the way, Shatner’s friends, family and co-stars — from his daughters to Boston Legal’s Candace Bergen — offer their takes on the man and his music.
The hook for the special, co-produced by Shatner himself, is the 2004 album Has Been, in which he collaborated with pop star Ben Folds (who first worked with Shatner on a series of ads for travel Web site Priceline.com). It’s selections from that album — along with vintage music footage from the 1960s and ’70s and Shatner’s Priceline.com spots from the ’90s — not traditional narration, that drive the story.
For instance, the show spends a significant amount of time discussing Shatner’s life in the shadows of his most famous character. “I found out early on that he’s William Shatner, not Captain James T. Kirk,” said Legal co-star Mark Valley. “I hate to say it, but there’s a certain amount of disappointment that goes with that.”
And even for Shatner: While trying to downplay his image as the swashbuckling Kirk, he’s nonetheless a tad disappointed when Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Patrick Stewart gets a louder ovation in Las Vegas.
That’s just one of the quirks that make him so compelling. And it’s Shatner’s outsize personality, more than his music, that makes the episode of Living in TV Land worth a peek.
Living in TV Land: William Shatner in Concert bows Wednesday, March 22, immediately following the fourth annual TV Land Awards.