William Shatner Made Me Cry!If you are a fan of William Shatner, even if it’s only for his camp appeal (hell, even if you’re not a fan whatsoever), I would strongly advise that you check out Spike TV's Invasion Iowa, a reality mini-series that takes a little bit of Punk’d, a dash of Saturday Night Live and a smidgeon of Plan 9 From Outer Space to form one heck of an entertaining freak-a-thon. This engrossing twist on reality television, wherein the perpetrators convince the population of Riverside, Iowa that William Shatner (and supposedly Sir Sean Connery) will be making a science-fiction film there, thus enlisting the citizens' help, wallops the viewer with a plethora of emotions ranging from embarrassment for the characters to deep, sloppy, unrequited love. This is lowbrow yet somehow respectful comedy sure to make anyone smile, chuckle, laugh out loud, or, if you’re as easily amused as I am, spew beverage through your nose. And it will tug at your heartstrings in a way that is both disturbing and confusing -- I cried, which most definitely disturbed and confused me.
Shatner does “serious” spoof so convincingly, I almost forgot I was watching an entire town get pranked up the wazoo, that the wacky, squeezably adorable Tiny wasn’t really Shatner‘s nephew, that the luscious Gryffyn wasn’t actually writing a children’s book about lesbian penguins, and that, I think, is the beauty of Invasion Iowa -- you can’t help but get sucked in by the earnest portrayals, the genuine affection the actors so obviously feel toward the fine folks of Riverside.
Speaking of the townfolk, I adore them all; the cutie-pie old ladies who make no attempt at hiding their shock, the star-struck young wannabe actors (who were “hired” as professional extras for the bogus film), the lovable old dude and his petrified raccoon penis, the barkeeps, the waitresses, the pastor -- truly beautiful people, one and all. As with Shatner’s crew, I almost forgot the role these folks played: unwitting pawns in Billy’s surreal game of Extreme Mindfuck. The innocents are sometimes so over-the-top, so full of color and character, they appear to be creations born of a screenwriter’s imagination.
Why can’t I have neighbors like that?
Though there was only one citizen of “Billville” who felt betrayed, I kind of squirmed for them after the big reveal. These are people who are honestly good, helpful, charitable and trusting, people the American media continually insists upon ignoring, preferring instead to focus on the bottomfeeders of our society. These are decent human beings who work hard, who appreciate what they have, and who selflessly, graciously extended their hospitality to a group of scary Hollywood types without blinking an eye (well, maybe they blinked once or twice, but they took it with great humor and good spirit). The majority of them “got” Shatner’s vision, and thankfully, they were rewarded not only monetarily, but with meaningful connections and memories that will last a lifetime.
I dunno. Made me smile as I lay my head down for the night.
Check local listings for encore presentations.