Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2005 // 230 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // May 20th, 2009
Welcome to Billville!
Invasion Iowa comes from the simplest of ideas, one that is most appreciated by those who either love Star Trek and/or have an odd appreciation for William Shatner. Before J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek movie redefined reality, the apocryphal future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk was Riverside, Iowa. (And though he's born in space in the new film, Riverside plays home to the shipyards that will build the U.S.S. Enterprise.) Riverside warmly embraces this odd nugget of Trek lore and erected statues and plaques about the future importance of the town. With a population around 900, it's their big claim to fame -- not to mention a way for them to bump up tourism.
The plot of this reality show is to have William Shatner visit Riverside, tell the town that he is making a big Hollywood movie there, and that he wants local people to join the cast. And when you see the words "reality show" and "William Shatner," you should know that crazy things will ensue. (See: Boston Legal.) Without giving away any of the funny details, let's just say the town buys into the movie concept, they go along willingly even though the story is horrible, they humor Shatner and all his eccentricities, they work with the oddities presented by his supporting cast of "real" actors, and they practically bend over backwards to accommodate even his weirdest desires. And he does ask for a lot of ridiculous things.
Invasion Iowa is a funny and sweet look at small town America -- and poor, small town America will never be the same again. This show works on many levels -- the humor of the situations, the improvisational antics of the actors, the bonds formed between the locals and Shatner -- and the show is deeper, kinder, and gentler than most reality fodder out there today. It's a show that wants to be funny but not at the town's expense. Shatner worked hard to make sure that Riverside is always presented in a good light, and he and his people are playing the fools. Again, you really need to have an appreciation for The Shatner. If you don't like him, you won't like the show.
The two-disc set contains all 10 episodes (five on each disc) from the brief series that aired on Spike TV back in 2005. It's a standard television DVD release, sporting a decent full frame transfer with a few problems. On the good side, colors are true, blacks are rich, and contrast and details are solid. Sadly, there are numerous instances of horrible shimmering, most notably on the edges of buildings seen from a distance (e.g. the church steeple). There's no questioning these errors occur, but this isn't meant to be a top-notch release so I can live with the glitches. Audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mix and in this dialogue-intensive work, I heard everything loud and clear without any hiss or distortion. Sadly, there are no subtitles. There is only one bonus feature and that's an audio commentary with Shatner (and co-creators and executive producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as moderators) on episodes 8 and 9. Apparently recorded this year (as they mention the upcoming 25th anniversary of Trekfest), it's a pleasant listen that shares a few interesting bits and pieces. Sadly, as much as Bill talks about how great an experience it was, which I do believe on some level, it's sad to hear how many names he couldn't remember. (Granted, it was just a two-week experience 5+ years ago.) The commentary does have a bit of a problem as the audio to the episode isn't "turned down" enough, so the two tracks get a bit muddled.
I truly enjoyed watching this series. It's only ten 30-minute episodes, and it goes by very quickly. Nonetheless, this one is for the true, hardcore Trekkies and Shatner fans. Those are the only people who would be interested in buying it, and I do recommend it for them in spite of the quibbles I have. For everyone else, see if you can rent it. I have confidence you'll get a good chuckle out of it. I think I'll go put on my green Shat.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 230 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated