Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TWO LITTLE WORDS

It's William Shatner's 80th birthday.  (How did he get so old while the rest of us haven't aged?)  A few years back I wrote, at length, on my old Amazon blog about the reasons why I'm an unrepentant, unapologetic Shatnerd—the essay seems to have vanished into cyberspace, so I may re-post it here at some point—but, really, it can all be summed up in two little words:  Denny Crane.  Of course I love Captain Kirk and the Priceline guy, the unhinged airline passenger who flew through The Twilight Zone, Third Rock's Big Giant Head and the Shakespearean prosecutor of The Andersonville Trial (among many others), but Shatner's portrayal of Boston Legal's legendary lawyer is the role that folded all his personas into one larger-than-life—and yet heartbreakingly human—package.  So, in celebration of Shatner entering his ninth decade, here's a little taste of the inimitable Denny Crane.

34 comments:

  1. Eighty? Wow. He's aged incredibly well.

    He'll always be Captain Kirk first and foremost to me, but I've enjoyed several of his other roles. I don't believe I've ever seen BOSTON LEGAL. I do recall watching TJ HOOKER as a young boy, and wondering why Captain Kirk was trapped in the 80s as a police officer. I suspected it had something to do with Heather Locklear.

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  2. Never seen BOSTON LEGAL?!?! Forget re-watching BRAVE AND THE BOLD, David; get the first season of BL on DVD (it takes about half a season to really find its footing) and don't stop till you've reached the end of season five.

    And while we're at it: 80 Reasons Why William Shatner is Awesome:

    http://trekmovie.com/2011/03/22/80-reasons-why-william-shatner-is-awesome/

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  3. I might do that, JMD, though I must admit I've never been especially plugged into legal drama. I tend to prefer 'the hammers of justice' to the justice system. But good story and character work transcends genre, so we'll see.

    Awesome list!

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  4. BL. at its best, had great writing, memorable characters and, in Shatner's Denny Crane and James Spader's Alan Shore, perhaps the greatest male friendship in the history of television.

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  5. Shatner got great when he began taking ownership of the self-parody label imposed on him by others. He then got the last laugh by transcending and embracing the syndrome at the same time. It takes major genius to pull that off and his genius was rewarded when he ended up becoming more relevant than ever at this stage in his life/career. An amazing Act III and it looks like he might give us an equally impressive Act IV if we're lucky! Cheers to Bill!

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  6. Well now I have to watch it, if only to prove that Batman and Green Arrow's friendship in BATB still reigns supreme! (I kid.):)

    Though I'm predisposed to think that Spock and Kirk's friendship can rival anything else that could be offered, but that's more from the films than the show.

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  7. "He then got the last laugh by transcending and embracing the syndrome at the same time." I think you hit it right on the head, Jeff. Shatner embraced the joke and then blew it to pieces. And I think Denny Crane was a huge, and brilliant, part of that. (His Ben Folds-produced CD, HAS BEEN, was an equally brilliant syndrome-smasher.)

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  8. I bow to none in my love of classic TREK and that equally-classic relationship, David; but imagine the Kirk-Spock friendship with more heart and openness, more reality and absurdity, more truth -- and you've got Denny Crane and Alan Shore. The balcony scenes between the two of them, that ended most BL episodes, were the heart and soul of the series...and some of the best TV ever.

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  9. And it's an extra accomplishment when he was so associated with an iconic role like Kirk which can tend to diminish an actor's persona by comparison. Somehow Shatner managed to get to a whole new level while never turning his back on the earlier success. It did not happen overnight, but it was certainly worth the wait!

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  10. More reality and absurdity is the package deal, so I'll sign up for that. You've convinced me to look into it.

    Sounds like the balcony scenes would be ripe for a Kirk/Spock parody, incidentally...which would be entirely doable on THE BIG BANG THEORY, since Shatner works for CBS. They could call the episode BLEEP! MY STARSHIP CAPTAIN SAYS.

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  11. I think that's one of the reasons (aside from the sheer enjoyment his work gives me) that I admire Shatner, Jeff: it DID take a long time to reach that level and he just kept going, reinventing himself whenever necessary, hitting his peak at a time when most people are either retired or dead. Here's hoping we can all be as creative, energetic and inspired when we're 80.

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  12. Kirk and Spock sharing cigars, Scotch and the secrets of their souls on the balcony of Kirk's San Francisco apartment? Sign me up! Nimoy's allegedly retired, so maybe they can paste some Vulcan ears on James Spader.

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  13. How about: Shatner as Beetle and Spader as Booster? Rooftop bonding after a day of heroism and crass schemes...

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  14. That's a hilarious idea, Jeff. We'll never see it, but I'm having a great time just imagining it!

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  15. scott (the other one)March 22, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Looks like you and your old JLI co-conspirator Ty the Guy are on similar wavelengths.

    http://tytempletonart.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/the-top-ten-signs-of-bill-shatner’s-genius-even-when-he’s-not-wearing-a-starfleet-uniform-or-anything-else-for-that-matter/

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  16. That was great, Scott: thanks for passing it along!

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  17. Funny story. Watched MEGAMIND with the family last night, and my son asked if any supervillain had ever killed their arch-enemy and regretted it. Guess what story came to mind?

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  18. Okay, David, I give up: which one?

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  19. MOONSHADOW. Wait, that's not right. I'll think of it eventually. Maybe when I'm done reading GOING SANE to my son...

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  20. Interesting...because, seen one way, the Joker regretted killing Batman, but, seen another, Batman's "death" was the best thing that ever happened to him, since it gave him a new life and a new love.

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  21. It's a fascinating question, isn't it?

    GOING SANE is a story I've come back to several times, and I haven't always come away with the same answer.

    I think the Joker regretted killing Batman on pretty much every level, while Batman's "death" was the best thing that ever happened to Joe Kerr.

    Joker is pushing his way back to the surface long before Batman's return, but Joe Kerr could never have emerged from the depths without the shock of Batman's "death." I think Joker would eventually find a substitute for Bats. Going by that, I'd say Joe Kerr is actually more dependent on Batman than Joker is.

    Or maybe I'm just crazy!

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  22. I doubt that, David!

    Joe was a wonderful character. It broke my heart to see his world come crumbling down. That may sound weird considering I wrote the story...but I think you know by now these things have lives far beyond mine.

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  23. Not weird at all.

    I think it'd be cool to see a storyline where the Spectre gives Rebbecca Brown a very special gift: he puts a spell on the Joker that brings Joe Kerr back to the surface for one day every year.

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  24. I actually did a story, in JLA #35 -- it was a set up to the launching of my SPECTRE series -- where J'onn took Hal Jordan and the League into the Joker's mind...and, essentially, found the place where Joe and Rebecca still lived on. (Although Rebecca somehow ended up with blond hair.)

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  25. Cool. I will track that down!

    As for the coloring issues, I guess it's true what they say: gentlemen prefer blondes.

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  26. On the day the world lost Liz Taylor, its worth reflecting that the main reason William Shatner has remained part of the pop consciousness for so long is that he's a STAR.

    He has that nearly undefinable Something that he carries with him in every project, be they good (Star Trek, Boston Legal, The Twlight Zone) or bad (pretty much all of his 70s movies). And no matter how much of a clown he is sometimes, he still has IT.

    (I've never seen BL either, JMD)

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  27. I can't disagree with anything you said, Rob. But, for Heaven's sake, GO RENT BOSTON LEGAL!

    My daughter -- who loves the era of classic movies and movie stars -- and I watched a little bit of NATIONAL VELVET last night. How sweet...and how sad.

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  28. Good morning, Mr. De Matteis. My name is Giuliano and I am in Italy. A few months ago I had contacted to know the meaning of J and M in the acronym of his name to insert it correctly in the database of the comic book store in which I work. Today, I come to disturb his blog to ask of you: in the coming months, the Planeta De Agostini will start to reprint here in Italy, his round of the Justice League, co-written with Keith Giffen. I would ask if he wants to write for the site of the shop where I work, La Pulce Fumetti, an intervention in the matter. Can write what they want, without limits of space. All this would be published in both English and Italian, translated by a professional translator my friend and not from the google translator, I'm using now. I stress that its intervention will be used only to guide the timing of releases containing Planeta DeAgostini the first volume of Justice League and then be plugged into the same product. For me it would be a real honor. Certainly, once published, will communicate the site link for it to look. I apologize for the inconvenience, thank you anyway and I wish you a good day. Giuliano

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  29. Hi, Giuliano—

    If you can provide an email address, I'll write to you directly to discuss this.

    All the best --

    JMD

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  30. Mr. DeMatteis,

    Today, Cartoon Network announced its April schedule for Batman: The Brave and The Bold. So continued from our previous conversation, it seems your script was renamed, as you surmised.

    "Shadow of the Bat" has a logline of "Batman gets infected by a vampire bite, and proceeds to attack his JLI friends!" (Link: http://www.comicscontinuum.com/stories/1103/28/index.htm)

    This was one of your scripts, right? If so and legally able to, what was the original title you had for it?

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  31. Yes, Yojimbo, that's the one that features both the Demon and the JLI. (It's also one of my absolute favorites of all the B & B scripts I've written.) The original title was "Batman Bites!"

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  32. Neat. I like the original title, since the new one is similar to one that was used back in the days of Batman: The Animated Series. We're all looking forward to your episodes, Mr. DeMatteis!

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  33. Your mention of JLA #35 made me realize that you are the only writer to contribute to all of the first 3 volumes of Justice League. You should use this fact to pitch something for the current series! Len Wein did stuff for volumes I and IV and Denny O'Neil was in I and III. I don't believe there were any others. How 'bout it???

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  34. I never realized that, Jeff. Add in my seven episodes of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED and I'm certainly up to my neck in the League.

    As for pitching a new story: If DC was interested, I'd be happy to come back for an arc.

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