If there's a question I've been asked more in the past few weeks than "How can I get backstage to meet REO?" "Why didn't you like my show?" and "Will you stop staring at me?" it's this:

"What's the deal with William Shatner on these law office commercials?"

Yes, ever since the commercials for Hupy & Abraham began airing in the Quad-Cities early last month, the TV ads that end with Shatner exclaiming, "... right here in Davenport" have definitely caught people's attention.

My flip answer to "How did they get him?" is usually "They paid him," but law firm managing partner Jason Abraham says it goes beyond that.

Shatner has been a spokesman for the Milwaukee-based firm since 2007, Abraham said, representing offices in Wisconsin and northern Iowa. And when the firm decided last year to expand its practice to Iowa locations in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and "right here in Davenport," they invited Shatner along for the ride.

His firm, Abraham said, became Shatner's largest legal company client with the addition. Outside of law firms, Shatner's most familiar TV work these days is as the pitchman for Priceline.com.

If you ask how they most identify William Shatner, 99 percent  probably would say as Capt. James T. Kirk on "Star Trek." But he also played eccentric lawyer Denny Crane on "The Practice" for one season and "Boston Legal" for another five. He played Crane in 106 episodes, compared with playing Kirk in 79 episodes of the original "Star Trek," as well as several movies.

"The TV show he was on, 'Boston Legal,' obviously cast him in a certain way, a silly way," Abraham said. "Obviously, we're serious lawyers ... and that's not a laughing matter."

After five years of using Robert Vaughn of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." fame as its spokesman, the firm hired Shatner. 

 "We thought he was just an awesome choice as a representative for the law firm," Abraham said. "I like him. I've always enjoyed seeing him in different shows he's been on. You just get a big credibility factor when you use someone like him as your representative. That's something we take very seriously."

Hiring Shatner also gives his firm a brand, Abraham said.

And in a sea of commercials for lawyers representing class-action lawsuits (especially on daytime TV, trust me), having a recognizable face gives his firm an edge.

"I'm up against other lawyers who advertise or show themselves on TV or show their office buildings," Abraham said. "Those commercials kind of blend together and you have a hard time remembering who those people are.

"But it won't take very long to remember that when a law commercial comes on and it's William Shatner, then it's Hupy & Abraham."

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 A.J.'s a no-go

Watch enough TV and surf enough Internet for the past week and you're bound to have seen the story of A.J. Clemente, a first-time anchor at a station in Bismarck, N.D., who opened his first newscast by inadvertently dropping two four-letter bombs on the air.

Clemente surely has received enough exposure for it, appearing on several New York-based talk shows in the past few days, shortly after he was fired by KFYR-TV.

Some watching the story say he deserves another chance, but others say he has to face the consequences of his actions and the Federal Communications Commission violation it caused. At least one news director in the Quad-Cities favors the latter option.

"We would have fired him, had that happened here," WHBF-TV news director Heather Stevenson said. "That language is a clear FCC violation and would likely result in fines to the station. Additionally, his behavior was amazingly disrespectful to viewers, and it would have been nearly impossible for him to regain respect."

For me, a nearly equal offense is that the guy had no on-camera presence, even taking into account his nervousness after the slip. But that happened in North Dakota. And I'm right here in Davenport.

David Burke can be contacted at dburke@qctimes.com. Follow him on Twitter, @entguy1.


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