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....


  1. When I was in my 20’s my favorite words in the English language were “Would you like to come over to my place?? Now that I’m in my 40’s its become “Let’s move swiftly to the hair” I’ll get right to the point. I love this piece. It’s following of all the rules of Shat’s most successful toups and that simply is to “Keep it light” Obviously a student of toupology long before it became fashionable, Katz pays tribute to the JKL with a slight frontal swoosh along with the right density and color makes this a winner. As ST pointed out, the back still leads something to be desired. Its’ too thick, doesn’t blend nearly as well and there is that slight scalp show. Nevertheless, this is a shining example of Shat becoming an early adopter of the finest in Toup technology. He’s making atonement for the disastrous “Lost years” and “TJ Curly” and he’s doing it in style.

  2. "That guy is the worst actor I've ever seen". That Bill Shatner can say this about Robert DeNiro with a straight face--that they can both appear in a movie that so knowingly winks at the history of both of these fine actors--makes Showtime worth the viewing. With nine words, Shatner salutes and sends up both their images. It's why he's the greatest TV actor EVER and DeNiro the greatest movie actor ever. Makes it worth the price of buy--watching Showtime on late night TNT reruns.

  3. shats own real syrupApril 26, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    I'am with most jerk, on this one. The film itself is utter rubbish! (trash) but anything that shows off either a new toupee, or and existing one in a new light is fine by me. But to be perfectly honest I do feel like his hair (still not 100% sure that this is a toup, at first I did! Think it's transplant now) does look slightly like his Columbo "shades of grey“ hair. But it's less curly, this hair has bits of many styles, so little jkl here, a tiny tiny bit of tj curly, and small bits of lost years.. Most interesting.

  4. Ratty Lost Years PieceApril 26, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    If anything, "Showtime" proves yet again that it's Shatner's world - we're just accidental inhabitants. In this film, Shatner gets the last laugh at the expense of two iconic actors, with a little help from the toupee.

    Recent work not withstanding, De Niro is one of the best dramatic actors of his generation. In this role, he plays a cop-turned-failed-TV-star. As a failed dramatic actor turned TV star, turned icon, it's great to see Shat give him a little ribbing.

    Eddie Murphy established himself as a leading comedian, only to let his reliance on prosthetics marginalize his comedic legitimacy. In contrast, Shatner's use of prosthetics has been a key component to the overall mythology and cemented his status as an ironic and accidentally humorous icon.

  5. Thomas Jefferson CurlyApril 26, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    remember Eddie Murphy was almost cast in Trek IV in the Gillian role.

    Showtime was sucky tho - apart from the shatner bits. theyd have been better off if theyd turned it into a proper TJ Hooker movie playing it straight with Murphy as an Axel Foley type cop being paired up with Hooker trying to bring down psycho cop killer De Niro

    if it had been an official TJ movie i wonder if shats would have brought back the TJ Curly? or would he have done a Riggs a la Lethal Weapon 4 and got with times and worn the Denny?

  6. Interesting interview on Arsenio Hall Show. Shatner's hair looks interesting:

    Also the Clive James interview:

  7. Clayton ForresterMay 1, 2012 at 3:38 AM

    The Denny Katz is truly a toupee masterpiece - quite lifelike, and robust to the Kirk-/TJ Hooker-style "toup roll" demonstrated by Shatner in the clips.

    Previous commenters have noticed the parallel "hair"-styles of Shatner and Burt Reynolds (known Katz customer) over the years. But, I wonder if the same might be true of Ricardo Montalban (Khan himself)? He went through an 80's "Curly" phase followed by a lighter phase later in life as well. Maybe there was a toupological struggle for supremacy between Kirk and Khan all those years? (Can a toup be made of soft Corinthian leather?)

  8. Ratty Lost Years PieceMay 4, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    I have to hand it to you, Shat Toup, the way you edited those clips actually makes this movie look good. I laughed out loud at the Shatner bits and the outright lost it after the hood dive, when De Niro asks, "You OK, TJ?"

    While "Showtime" was filmed firmly into the Denny Katz era, it led me to question whether toupologists have identified the transition from the TJ Curly to the DK. Did Bill pop into Katz's for a routine toupee tune-up, see the brand new Denny glistening in the window and walk out a changed man? Or, was it a more gradual change, with the TJ getting darker and less curly? If so, then is there a Missing Link toupee that emerged during Rescue 911?

  9. If you watch the link I put up for Arsenio Hall Show (webmaster I don not know how to get the information to you). Shat has style of 'hair' I have never seen before. I urge people to look at it.

  10. Clayton ForresterMay 9, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    @Anonymous - that toup looks similar to the one he wore in "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon" -

    Sort of a transitional piece between "TJ Curly" and "Denny Katz" (though Star Trek: Generations sort of shifted him back to a greying TJ). The two-tone qualities make the real hair-versus toup transition rather obvious. (The false beard is a nice touch, though.)