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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Invasion Iowa -- I was pretty disappointed in last night's debut of Invasion Iowa, a William Shatner-starring reality TV series airing every night through Friday on the Spike network.

The people of a small Iowa town are told that Shatner is filming a science-fiction movie in their town, and a handful of town residents is chosen to play parts in the film. What they don't know is that there is no movie, that the joke's on them as Shatner and his "film crew" act like jerks and see what happens.

Not much, one episode in. There were some funny moments -- such as when Shatner starts eating off someone's plate at the local diner, a la Samuel Jackson's Big Kahuna Burger scene in Pulp Fiction, or when he deigns to allow a town resident to "touch his Emmy."

The pacing is glacial, though, with endless minutes between amusing scenes, and most fatally of all, genuinely touching moments like when an elderly woman brings Shatner and Co. a homemade apple pie, obviously touching them all in a very genuine way and making the whole thing seem awkward at best and downright cruel at worst.

I'm loving Shatner's current revival as Denny Crane on Boston Legal enough to see this series through in the hopes that it delivers on its potential-filled premise, but when you've got five hours to play with (Friday's finale is two hours), the failure of the first hour does not bode well for the rest.

If I had to boil it down, we could have used a lot more Denny Crane and a bit less TJ Hooker to make this thing work. Shatner seems to be playing it too straight, perhaps in hopes of not giving away the gag too early, but his earnestness and the first episode's laff deficit has me only mildly interested in seeing how the rest of this thing pans out.


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