I guess I should care if Valerie Bertinelli believes in heaven and hell. After all, she’s a former child star, an upstanding member of the tabloid weight-fluctuation club alongside Kirstie Alley, and, as the ex-wife of Eddie Van Halen, a sort of peroxide-free Heather Locklear. She is, in short, a People magazine goddess, and when William Shatner leans on her about her religious orientation on his new talk show, I guess I should be all over it.
But I was merely over it.
On “Shatner’s Raw Nerve,” which premieres Tuesday night at 10 on the Biography Channel, Shatner sets out to be a tough questioner who digs deep, not just another softball-lobbing entertainment host. He wants to keep it real with his fellow famous folk, who this season will include Kelsey Grammer, Drew Carey, Howie Mandel, Judge Judy, and -- reunion alert -- Leonard Nimoy. Shatner pushes Bertinelli as if he’s a trial lawyer, noting suspiciously, “The more we speak, the more Catholic it sounds,” or asking, “What’s your feeling when you’re assailed by things like divorce?”
But Shatner’s bluster ends up seeming kind of absurd, given the fact that he’s conducting a celebrity interview. It’s Valerie Bertinelli, for heaven’s sake, not Hillary Clinton. While the smarm of “Entertainment Tonight” can be excruciating, and the reverence of James Lipton can be comic, Shatner’s bullying seems out of proportion to the importance of his endeavor. By the time Shatner has Bertinelli talking about Van Halen’s addiction issues, it’s clear he’s fishing for something, anything, that will get him a promotional mention in the tabs. Howard Stern similarly pushes his guests, but more humorously, with a tongue firmly ensconced in cheek.
MORE AFTER JUMP
Next week, Shatner takes on Jimmy Kimmel, and he continues to try to justify the show’s title by having raw nerve as he goes for his guest’s raw nerve. He gets Kimmel to talk about his ex-wife and his divorce, as well as his bad blood with Star Jones. Kimmel also shares the fact that, by his estimation, 30 percent of the guests on his talk show are drunk. Interesting. Oddly, Shatner doesn’t even bother to ask Kimmel about Sarah Silverman, Kimmel’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, a line of questioning that would probably be of more interest to Kimmel fans than his divorce.
Maybe Shatner knows -- or was told in advance -- that that particular nerve was just a little too raw.
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Meghan Colloton is a Things to Do and Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.