I was recently introduced to William Shatner’s foray into what we can only hope is the corpulent old hambone’s final frontier: ‘Brown Bag’—a bizarre wine tasting show featuring people who don’t know anything about wine interacting with a host who doesn’t either.
Then again, as a colloquial expression, ‘brown bag’ does not promise great wine insight, but rather, is a phrase used to describe the sack in which you hide a bottle you are ashamed to be seen with. It may be a metaphor for a culmination of Shatner’s career, but it is not reflective of the stuff tasted on the show, which are generally wines of pretty high caliber.
Lest this come across as Shatner bashing, let me say up front that he is not only my favorite Starfleet captain, he’s the only one—all the other Slim Shadys are just imitating. But, just as I wouldn’t want Jancis Robinson to slither into a polyester ‘n’ Velcro jumpsuit and take command of the bridge, neither do I want James Tiberius Kirk sticking his rheumy eyes and third-stage-alcoholic schnozz into her area of command.
It’s a better galactic coordinate when some Slim Shadys simply fail to go there, boldly or otherwise.
The format of the show (actually more of a podcast) has Shatner jawboning with so-called ‘celebrities’—although the red-carpet superstars may include the manager of a breakfast-all-day restaurant and some woman who auctioned off an afternoon with Shatner, then had her husband outbid everyone else—as they taste a wine from a paper bag and wax naïvely about it. Depending on the taster’s level of experience, this may or may not include inanities like, “The wine takes itself too seriously,” (James Reddick, Motorcycle Enthusiast) and “It’s egg-suberant,” (Blaise Supulveda, Eggslut Manager) and “We don’t care about the nose,” (William Shatner, Host).
However, the most WTF? part of the show is its wine scoring schematics, which may be said (by any corporeal, energy-metabolizing species in the Alpha Quadrant) to be highly illogical.
Wines are scored on a ten point scale. So far so good. But that scale runs from 85 – 95, which is where most of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast wines score, granted, but that’s only because that scale runs to a hundred. And even then, the ‘100-point’ scale sucks Syrah sediment because it doesn’t really start at zero—the lowest score I ever recall seeing was a 70, and that virtually never happens, meaning that in the most charitable analysis imaginable, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and countless other wannabe critics use a 30-point scale.
But suppose you ultimately feel comfortable counting no higher than the number of fingers you have? Fine; but even then, the choice of scoring between 85 and 95 is ludicrously random despite it being the ‘sweet spot’ that most drinkable wine falls in. Why? Because in that ten-point spread, giving a wine an 85 would correspond to a Wine Enthusiast 70 (which actually is a ‘1’) and bestowing a 95 is the same as awarding a wine 100 points. And if that’s not what it means, then what the hell does it mean?
Dude, I’ll make it simple: A 10-point scale should run from one to ten. Not only is that Spock-smart, it’s also a scale that has proved perfectly adequate for emergency room physicians in gauging your pain level prior to removing the Tribble from your sphincter.
Each ‘Brown Bag’ episode ends with playful banter between Shatner and guest which may or may not include Bill’s personal assessment and in which he may or may not be high on some intoxicant or other, but certainly looks as if he is. And he may or may not agree with his guest’s opinion. One time when he did agree was during the episode where music historian Robert Greenburg tried some Hunt Cellars Viognier and pronounced the wine ‘a little too sweet’. Shatner echoed the sentiment.
Unfortunately for them both, the wine is bone dry, which may give you an idea of the quality of the information you are likely to take home from the show, brown-bagged or otherwise.
Shatner will always be Kirk to me, or at least, that mad-cow lawyer from Boston Legal. I’m afraid I will have to relegate ‘Brown Bag’ to the circle of hell just above Priceline commercials and his excruciating interpretive recitations of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’.
In other words, will the real Slim Shady please drink up, shut up, and sit the f*ck down.