Spike TV debuts 'Joe Schmo' producers' 'Invasion Iowa' reality mini-series starring William Shatner
By Reality TV World staff, 03/29/2005
Invasion Iowa, a four-part "reality mini-series" in which The Joe Schmo Show's producers teamed with William Shatner to pull an elaborate reality hoax on the entire population of a small Iowa town, will premiere on Spike TV on Tuesday, March 29 at 9PM ET/PT. Airing at 9PM ET/PT during each of the following three evenings, Invasion Iowa will conclude its four-night run on the most famous hoax day of the year -- April Fool's Day (Friday, April 1.)
Filmed in Riverside, Iowa (population 978) during September 2004, Invasion Iowa documents the behavior of local residents as they react to what they believe to be the legitimately absurd behavior of a Hollywood film crew that is shooting an independent sci-fi movie on-site in their community -- a town that bills itself as the "future birthplace" of Shatner's legendary 23rd century Star Trek character, James T. Kirk, and hosts an annual "Trek Fest" fan convention.
In reality, rather than shooting a real movie, Shatner and the rest of the film's cast are actually improvisational actors attempting to pull a Joe Schmo-like reality hoax on the town's unsuspecting locals. Beginning with Shatner playing an even more over-the-top version of himself, Invasion Iowa's inadvertent participants will watch as Shatner and his eccentric faux "entourage" slowly dissolve the fake film shoot into Hollywood-style insanity.
Cast as on-screen extras and members of the fake film crew, more than a dozen local residents were central participants in the hoax's ten-day shoot, giving them front-row seats to all the on-set and off-set shenanigans of Shatner and company.
"Itís hard to imagine any undertaking more audacious, hair-raising, and ultimately rewarding than what we just finished in Riverside," executive producer Paul Wernick stated shortly after the show wrapped filming and finally came clean with the town's residents. "This is unlike anything thatís ever been tried in the history of television. It was a truly breathtaking experience," added executive producer Rhett Reese.
Seeking to temper any hurt feelings, Shatner presented town officials with a $100,000 city service contribution and the cast and crew donated $12,000 to the Riverside Elementary School Book Fund as part of the hoax's disclosure, however the moves failed to satisfy all the town's residents.
"They donít understand that we opened our hearts to them," Barb Simon, a 59-year-old resident who worked as a set dresser, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen last fall. "Already on the news I hear them laughing. We're the ones that will show up on TV." "If there are any hurt feelings, it is because they didn't want Shatner to come here this way," added Riverside mayor Bill Poch, alluding to the fact that the town had spent 20 years attempting to get Shatner to attend its annual "Trek Fest" event..
"I fell in love with the people of Riverside," responded Shatner in a prepared statement. "And the hardest part of this whole experience was containing my empathy for the individuals who listened to and identified with the soap opera that we played in front of them."
In addition to Shatner himself, other characters being played by the improv actors include:
• Steve, Shatner's "Spiritual Advisor" -- Sweet and well-meaning, Steve advises Shatner on all aspects of his life, from spirituality to finances to diet. Claims 956 deductions on his taxes because he is 'spiritual father to many.' He is the world's only known 'Bill Whisperer' and has the innate ability to calm Shatner down just by whispering the right words. Steve is portrayed by Ernie Grunwald.
• Max, "The Studio Executive" -- A no-nonsense, vicious, Hollywood executive, Max is stylish and sexy, but most men are too intimidated to approach her. She's the one person Shatner fears and obeys. Max is portrayed by Garz Chan.
• Gryffyn, "The Actress" -- Gryffyn is Shatner's leading lady. She embodies every stereotype of the Hollywood actress to the extreme: she's vain, insecure, unstable, shallow, egocentric, promiscuous, a vegan, superstitious, flaky and sexy. She has a "Winona Ryder" habit of stealing things from local stores. Gryffyn is portrayed by Desi Lydic.
• Herb, "The Assistant" -- Herb is Shatner's ridiculously friendly assistant who is terrible at his job. He thinks this job could be his big break, so he tries hard to impress Shatner. As a result, Herb tries too hard and constantly makes mistakes, making him more and more nervous. Herb desperately wants to be a director and is constantly pitching bad ideas (It's 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' meets 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!'). Herb is portrayed by Michael J. O'Hara.
• Tiny, "The Body Double" -- Tiny is Shatner's 'nephew,' longtime body double and irrepressible hanger-on. The "bastard" son of a wardrobe assistant on the original 'Star Trek' series, Tiny grew up fatherless and wild. Shatner took Tiny under his wing and helped raise him over the years, but because Shatner always had such a soft spot for Tiny, he never enforced real discipline. Tiny is the life of every party, over-the-top fun, and completely uncontrollable by 'Uncle Bill' or anyone else. Tiny is portrayed by Kirk Ward.
Invasion Iowa was created and executive produced by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and William Shatner. Gary Benz also serves as executive producer. Invasion Iowa is exclusively produced for Spike TV by Reese Wernick Productions and GRB Entertainment. Peilin Chou, Vice President of Original Series for Spike TV, serves as the Executive in Charge of Production.