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In semi-reality show Invasion Iowa, William Shatner and a group of faux filmmakers do just that: invade a small town (population just over 900) in Iowa under the pretense of making a film. The movie they pretend to make is a mishmash of other better sci-fi pictures (the opening is from The Terminator, for example) done in the sloppiest, cheesiest way possible. Watching them make the film is actually pretty fun. Local residents of Riverside, Iowa partially make up the cast and crew, along with actors playing the parts of Shatner’s much derided body double, a hard-assed producer, his kooky spiritual advisor and a ditzy blond starlet. Basically, no Hollywood cliché is left unused.

The producers chose Riverside, Iowa for an interesting reason. The town petitioned to be, and became, the fictional hometown of Capt. James T. Kirk of Star Trek. They even built a bronze memorial to him. So, in a way, these people had this coming. Shatner and company, though they may heap abuse on their own actors, treat the townspeople with care and don’t subject them to any real humiliation. They take care not to embarrass anyone beyond the “gotcha” nature of pretending to make what would have been the worst film of all time in front of them.

The thing is, though, if you’ve spent any time in the Midwest (I grew up in Indiana) you would already know to expect the benign reactions to all of the craziness the show heaps upon them. When Desi Lydic’s “starlet” shares her children’s book about a penguin who has her wings enlarged by a plastic surgeon to “fill out her sweater” and all she receives are nods and murmurs. Mostly they are nice but dull and the crew is forced to ramp up their antics to add any entertainment value to the series.

Where the series threw me off was the revelation scene, where they let the remainder of the town in on the joke. Some savvy locals who were close to the truth were fired by the producers and brought back to gloat in this section. The “admiration” of the locals quickly shifts to overbearing, false pretension, babying those who were actually relieved that they were not involved in the making of what they thought was a garbage film. Shatner hands out checks like medals at the Special Olympics to soothe any hurt feelings, though no one displays any. The whole segment is so phony and self-satisfied that it ruined most of the series for me in retrospect. 2 stars for a series that could have been enjoyable if it didn’t take its own ludicrous concept so seriously.

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2 Comments

  1. UGH…why do I feel like I’ve seen this before? Not the review, but the reality show…conjured up memories of crap TV.


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