Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Showtime - a toupological analysis.

Showtime is a 2002 "black-white buddy cop" movie starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy. William Shatner makes a notable cameo essentially as himself (he plays an actor who once payed T.J. Hooker).

The wafer-thin plot involves two very different LAPD officers - the exhibitionist Murphy and the brooding De Niro - who are both forced to partake in a "new" kind of police reality show after a drugs raid goes wrong and becomes a PR disaster.

Everything they do is being filmed. Murphy's character is delighted.

De Niro's character isn't.

The ambitious producer believes in the project.

In an effort to improve their performing abilities, they meet with an actor who once played T.J. Hooker on TV. He gives the men some tips.

There's also a bad guy who has a special kind of gun and the cops need to catch him.

Things take a turn for the worse when he takes their producer hostage. What will happen next?

If the above summary sounds like it was written by an eight-year-old, then we ask for forgiveness, but we didn't want to exceed the quality of the on-screen material our staff had to endure.

Put bluntly, Showtime is an unmitigated catastrophe of a movie on just about every level. There's almost no plot to speak of. Really. Countless minutes go by with the movie doing nothing but playing off the one single premise of cops acting silly in front of the cameras. The line soon blurs between the on-screen fakery and the real movie we're all all watching as actors De Niro and Murphy desperately try to conjure up some enthusiasm in front of the cameras for this misjudged monstrosity.

The entire supporting cast have zero screen presence, with Renne Russo as the producer coming off as particularly annoying.

The dialogue feels like it was improvised; the direction is beyond flat, lacking nuance, subtlety or any comic timing whatsoever. Is this being played as real or as a joke, winking to the audience? This is a movie that affords the concept of verisimilitude about as much respect as a dog affords a lamppost. Our staff even struggled to find convincing-looking stills from Showtime for this review in which the actors didn't look bored or confused.

Showtime is essentially an attempt at an "80s comedy" (an era that started in the late 1970s with movies like Foul Play and continued right up to the 1990s with movies like Quick Change and even - perhaps the very last of its kind - 1999s Bowfinger). Both lead actors in Showtime are no strangers to this genre, but perhaps the very time in which this movie was made - 2002 - in itself dashed all hopes that this would be a new Midnight Run or Trading Places (or more of an 80s-style action-comedy like Lethal Weapon). One suspects that a Showtime (1983) or a Showtime (1994) might have been classics. But something changed about American movies in the new millennium. And that change just wasn't beneficial for so many things that had been good in previous decades. But that's a whole other story...

1988's Midnight Run is everything Showtime isn't.

Finally, and we're not just saying this because of the person upon whom our work is focused, but Bill Shatner's cameo in Showtime (there's another, albeit completely pointless cameo in the movie, by O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran) is most definitely the best thing about the film.

Yes, William Shatner manages to upstage both Travis Bickle and Axel Foley! A lot of reviewers at the time made that point a little snarkily: "When the presence of William Shatner is the best thing about a movie, you know the production is in trouble." (source) - but the real point is how much of classic comedy this movie might have been with all three of these actors - and wasn't.

Perhaps the one good thing to come out of this movie was that it began to wipe away Bill Shatner's post Star Trek:Generations lull and re-establish the actor as a hip and happening cult figure. So at least there's that!

Let's move swiftly to the hair...

The actor is wearing an early but entirely quintessential "Denny Katz". It's a little thick-looking, suggesting that the base toupee was bulked up a little via some sort of thickener in order to prevent even the slightest bit of scalp showing up on the big screen.

Several reverse shots of Bill Shatner enable us to study the well-cropped area of his real hair at the back of his head. Being real, very human flaws and imperfections become visible in a way that would be heretical only a few centimeters higher in the toupological region.

And staying with reverses, we also get a shot of Bill Shatner in the mirror, which somehow tends to make the toupee seem more like a toupee:

Also, did Bill Shatner convince Murphy and De Niro to include a subtle piece of "toupee code" in Showtime? In one scene, Murphy tells Shatner "Show me the thing you do with your eyebrow again." (Bill Shatner's eyebrows are one of the few areas of real hair on his head). A couple of lines later, De Niro says "I've got to wash this shit out of my hair..." gesturing at his hair with Bill Shatner standing knowingly behind him. It's unquestionably a moment that historians have yet to fully appreciate and study.

What's really incredible is how Bill Shatner's toupee appears to once again cast a subtle critique on the movie in which it is partaking. The toup is a little too constructed, a little too unsubtle in order to come across as real - much like Showtime. Movie directors beware: study the toupee!

Showtime is available on DVD. Watch and weep....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A toupological dossier...

We're in the midst of preparing a new full toupological analysis, but there was something rather immediate we wanted to bring to our readers' attention in the meantime. Esquire magazine has published an article called "William Shatner: The Dossier" (alongside an interview with the actor). It contains the following chart:

The toupological nomenclature is different from ours. Instead of "Jim Kirk lace" we have "early" and instead of "TJ Curly" (Phase I and Phase II) we have "T.J. Hooker" and "Movie Kirk". But the evolution is pretty much all there and we certainly applaud any effort to help disseminate information on the crucially important subject of William Shatner's toupee!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Poll result and trying to Jim-up the TJ.

Our most recent poll asked for your views on why there are no publicly available toup-less pictures of Bill Shatner from after the 1950s. Anecdotal evidence from several Star Trek actors suggests that Bill Shatner was still only wearing the toupee in professional and public situations (rather than in private situations too) at least up until part way through the second season of the show. So why no casual bald photographs from that era?

Behind-the-scenes images from Star Trek always showed the toupee in place.

15% said that whomever else may possess such pictures fears the consequences of releasing them; 38% said that such pictures have been actively suppressed by Bill Shatner (perhaps through threats of legal action, or they were quietly bought up by a private investigator hired by the actor); the greatest number of votes, 45%, suggested that such photographs simply do not exist. This means that even in private social gatherings, photography of a toup-less Bill Shatner was strictly forbidden.

Even family photos showed the toupee in place. Are there others without the toupee that haven't been released?

Thanks for voting!

Finally, we also have a couple of history-themed educational videos from a series called This Was America, which have been made available by the Peabody Awards Collection Archives. While the documentaries themselves are a little on the dry side, they do offer some valuable toupological insight.

The first, from 1979, shows Bill Shatner effectively trying to add a touch of the former "Jim Kirk lace" side-parting to his still relatively new "TJ Curly". Does it work? Not quite. Perhaps here we see the seeds of why the "TJ Curly" had to be the way it was.

By 1980, the experiment was over and the toup became decisively round. A new decade had begun and the toupee was evidently reflecting the changing times...

It's pretty rare to see the such drastic toupee changes within programs of the same series...


18th century composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Is there a slight resemblance?