PR Boomerang: America Welcomes William Shatner Back to Priceline

Go ahead, make fun of Germany’s infatuation with David Hasselhoff. But before you scoff at how campy an entire culture can be, let’s direct our attention inward and examine America’s infatuation with William Shatner—who, incidentally, will be returning as Priceline’s “negotiator” in upcoming ad spots.

That’s right, Priceline knows that America has a strangely loyal relationship with Shatner. The fact that his character will return as spokesman after literally dying in a fiery crash earlier this year brings us a level of joy we haven’t felt since the return of the McRib. PR experts, of course, want to capture the secret behind America’s love for Shatner so they can replicate it, package it and profit from it over and over again.

But we’re hard-pressed to define or explain our nation’s collective affinity for a man who has taken us to the final frontier and back for more than 40 years. He is the platypus of personal branding and celebrity public relations: Part sci-fi legend; part quirky regular guy and ex-husband; part B-list actor with A-list clout; part creepy uncle and heroic grandfather; part crass sell-out/perpetually troubled soul. William Shatner is as complex and contradictory as America itself–and we love him for it.

We Americans don’t have a sense of humor about our money–and we shouldn’t, because the last few years have been painfully lean for almost everyone. But if anyone can make us laugh, or at least smirk, while we hunt for rock-bottom travel deals and cringe at the price of a visit to our least favorite cousin, Shatner is that man. He understands and celebrates both the tragic and the absurd: His best-known role involved romancing women with skin the color of children’s chalk and philosophizing with a certain pointy-eared best friend, and his divorces outnumber your good dates. Of course you’d like to see what kind of travel deals he can score for you–he traveled light-years around the universe every week (and managed to turn TJ Hooker into a hit).

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Shatner fancies himself a bit of a crooner too (performance starts about a minute in):

Tough to top that one, huh?