Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who's Your (TV) Daddy? Part 2

Brian Kelly of Flipper seems to always be at the top of everyone's Hottest TV Dad list. It's easy to see why. A former marine and son of a Michigan governor, Kelly was extremely handsome and had a strong, masculine build, barrel-chested in a 60s-college-football-star way. As game warden Porter Ricks on Flipper, he exuded the kind of strong-without-swagger masculinity that seems to have gone out of style a generation or so ago.

Kelly's career was cut short by a severe motorcycle accident in 1969 when the a borrowed motorcycle exploded on him. He was left with a paralyzed right arm and leg and speech problems. He sued and won a settlement, which he used to produce the Harrison Ford classic, Blade Runner.

O Captain My Captain

I had this lust/hate thing for Star Trek's Captain Kirk. Personality-wise, I thought Kirk was a jerk. Whether the series’ writers intended it or not, Kirk came across as condescending, bombastic, idiotically “courageous”, ready to risk his life and that of his crew at the drop of a tricorder. He seemed like an Ugly American in space, or worse – an Ugly Canadian, since he was annoyingly self-righteous to boot.

On the other hand, he was kind of hot, although I’m not sure why. Though handsome, William Shatner’s Captain Kirk was short, pugnacious, and a little pudgy (and apparently already balding) – and for some reason the show’s producers thought it was a good idea to keep Shatner’s normally hairy torso shaved as smooth as a preteen boy’s. Not to mention the weird thing they did to try to color over his nipples with makeup. (And yet, in one episode, Spock is stripped to the waist alongside Kirk and he is Alec Baldwin-hairy, which makes no sense; you expect the earthman to be, well, earthy, and the egghead, asexual Vulcan to be as hairless as a Tolkien elf. Go figure.)

Maybe what really turned me on was the gratuitous bondage and faux torture used as a device to enable the shirt-shedding of the young blond captain. Kirk was shown shirtless for no very good reason in numerous episodes. In one, he was stripped and whipped, alongside the aforementioned very hairy-chested Spock, by Nazis. (Yes, Nazis. In outer space.). In another, he was made to wear the kind of chest harness popular with leather S/M guys (was this the start of that fashion?) and he lost his shirt in that same episode because it was shredded from his body as he was, yes, whipped. In yet another episode, he was hung shirtless by the wrists and “whipped” by force rays from an alien's instrument. (Flagellation seems to be poised for a huge comeback in the 23rd century.) On yet another occasion he was totally naked except for a metal bar across his crotch, as a giant android made a duplicate Kirk by spinning him around on a lab table-cum-lazy-susan, so we had two identical, almost nude Kirks side by side when the spinning wheel stopped.

William Shatner of course went on to other roles – TJ Hooker, Denny Crain, and most famous of all, Priceline Spokesman – but to me he was never again close to being sexy or even very good looking after Star Trek (although he was permitted to show chest hair in TJ Hooker). He was at his hottest in Star Trek, which is what you expect in a captain. The show seemed to miss this lesson but lucked out anyway with Patrick Stewart in Star Trek TNG (that is, I think they intended for Number One Jonathan Frakes and not the bald, slight Stewart to be the show’s sex symbol, but they failed to appreciate how hot Stewart really was), and finally figured it out by casting the more obviously handsome and hard-bodied Scott Bakula in Enterprise. But Stewart and Bakula are topics for another day.