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New Series Review: Show Me the Money

Shat-ified man: Big Bill cashes in again on Show Me the Money

Premiering: Tuesday night, Nov. 14 (8:30 central, 9:30 eastern), ABC
Hosted by: William Shatner
Produced by: David Goldberg

This must be the equivalent of what befell Rome just before it fell.

The provocatively garbed dancing girls, their-render-unto-Caesar, red-vested master, untold riches within tempting reach and a crazed audience rising as one when the command rings out, "Ladies, let's salsa!"

Oh but we kid William Shatner and Show Me the Money. It's a new, beyond gaudy game show cleverly placed behind Tuesday's 90-minute Dancing with the Stars performance finale. Surely ABC jests with this one, although Shatner can never be discounted on these particular fronts. At age 75 he's everything that Burt Reynolds could have been -- TV's toupeed king of kitsch in times when retro-cool is hotter than a Fire Island luau.

ABC mercifully didn't send the entire 90-minute premiere to TV critics. But we get a pretty big gulp, with the show's 13 boppers first seen gyrating in silhouette before an announcer barks, "Let's give it up for the one, the only, William Shatner!"

They used to introduce Groucho Marx that way on You Bet Your Life, but who the hell remembers that? Shatner arrives in red, black and Jiffy Pop paunch, still looking pretty good for a guy who's actually five months and three days older than Regis Philbin. Reege earlier took a walk on NBC's wildside as host of America's Got Talent. But Shat happens to be a bit bolder and crazier. He commands the dancers to dance, and they do, of course. Dancing with the Starship Enterprise captain -- what a concept.

The show's first guest is a giddy guy named Matt. He's an Oklahoman carrying a merse ("my man purse") with lip balm and a Shania Twain ticket within. It doesn't take the host long to catch on.

"I don't know whether this will interest you or not," he tells Matt. "But there are 13 beautiful ladies out there."

Each carries a scroll rather than a briefcase. Unfurl one and it reveals a money amount ranging from $20,000 to $250,000. But one of the ladies has a "Killer Card" that will wipe out whatever a contestant has won via answering a succession of trivia questions. On a scale of one to 10 brain cells, this one ranks a rather heady 5. It's considerably more cerebral than NBC's new 1 vs 100. And it's positively Ensteinian when compared to NBC's Deal Or No Deal.

Let's just say that Matt climbs very high in the money tree before he starts to falter. Shatner is a bit disappointed when he puzzles over the question, "What foreign country was the first to grant marriage status to same-sex couples?"

"If you don't know this, there is no heaven," the host ripostes.

Individual games can go on for quite a while, so you need engaging contestants to supplement Shatner's recurring urges to shake his 75-year-old moneymaker. After all, that could get old in a hurry. On the other hand, Shatner still hasn't done the monkey, the frug, the watusi, the twist, the shimmy shake, etc. In a land of 1,000 dances, his possibilities are endless as long as his back holds out. If not, Jerry Springer's in the wings.

Prospects: The show moves to Wednesdays at 7 central after Tuesday's elongated sneak-preview. That's one of prime-time's least competitive hours, giving Shatner a better than even chance of dancing many more nights away.

Grade: C+