William Shatner is such a larger-than-life personality that it’s understandable why A&E’s Bio (formerly known as the Biography Channel) — clearly eager to keep its original programming expenditures below off-Broadway levels — would simply throw him in front of a camera and pray for the best. Yet “Shatner’s Raw Nerve,” despite the catchy title, proves neither raw nor nervy enough to be consistently interesting — essentially plopping the host in one comfy chair, his guest in another, and letting them chat until 30 minutes elapse.
The most amusing part about casting a celebrity as an interviewer is that half the banter ends up being about Shatner himself. He first appears in a white suit (“Da guest! Da guest!”) and speaks soothingly to the camera as if he’s hosting “Playboy After Dark,” entertaining Valerie Bertinelli and Jimmy Kimmel in back-to-back gab sessions. (Full disclosure: I participated in a short-lived and almost equally lame talkshow with “Nerve” producer Scott Sternberg, whose company continues to have a role in producing “Shootout” with Variety editor Peter Bart.)
Of the two episodes previewed, the Kimmel show ends up being considerably more intriguing, if only because the ABC latenight host admits that about 30% of his own guests come out drunk. Kimmel also zeroes in on the program’s odd confessional tone, asking at the end, “Will my insurance cover this?”
The whole exercise looks like it cost the equivalent of a trip to Starbucks (minus the chairs), which apparently hasn’t prevented the producers from lining up a reasonably impressive guest roster — including Shatner’s “Star Trek” chum Leonard Nimoy, Jon Voight and porn star Jenna Jameson.
Shatner and Bertinelli also go off on a tangent about religion, but the exchange sounds like so much psychobabble, including the existential question of whether she might go to Hell for having committed adultery. When the actress alludes to being more sedate now than her wild youth, Shatner responds, “The hungers and the passions, and the lusts and the needs and desires, don’t go away until you’re dead.”
Wow, that’s heavy. But except perhaps for those who simply can’t get their fill of Bill, there’s no need to train TiVo to locate Bio just for this.