Truly these are great times to be alive, my friends, for we have walking among (amongst?) us mortals two men of such legendary accomplishments, that to even utter their names is to inspire greatness. I am speaking of course about David Michael Hasselhoff and William Alan Shatner. And while we are lucky in that we would never have to choose between the two, I thought I’d take a minute to compare the careers of these two titans to see just which one comes out on top. It’s on!
DH – Before he was launched to stardom in 1982 as Knight Rider‘s leather jacket-clad Michael Knight, Hasselhoff spent seven seasons on the soap opera The Young and the Restless as Dr. William “Snapper” Foster, Jr. Having conquered Prime Time and Daytime TV, the acting juggernaut that is the Hoff spent ten glorious seasons portraying hunky lifeguard Mitch Buchannon on Baywatch and Baywatch Hawaii.
WS – Is there a person alive who has not witnessed the sublime genius of Captain James Tiberius Kirk on Star Trek? Yeah, I didn’t think so. And as if that weren’t enough, Shatner proved his street cred during the 1980s as the title character on the gritty cop drama T.J. Hooker. And now, well into his 70s, he can be seen playing eccentric and super-horny lawyer Denny Crane on the top-notch ABC dramedy Boston Legal.
Verdict – Shatner in a landslide.
Secondary TV, Film, & Stage Work
DH – The Hoff has kept himself very busy over the years, which honestly is about the nicest thing I can say here. While he has made notable appearances in movies like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (as did Shatner) and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, I’m afraid even I can’t overlook 1998’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Hoff has however conquered the stage, appearing in leading roles in Chicago, Grease, and The Producers.
WS – Shatner’s roots are tied closely with a slightly lesser-known William (Shakespeare), having cut his teeth performing works by the Bard. He made his big-screen debut in 1958 in an adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov (outshining co-star Yul Brynner in the process). He appeared in two episodes of the seminal sci-fi series The Twilight Zone, “Nick of Time” (1960) and the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (1963). The latter was elevated (ha ha) by a performance for the ages by Shatner, and it has subsequently been referenced numerous times by other movies and television shows. In 1989 Shatner launched his TekWar book series, which led to spinoffs in television (series and movies) and comic books. That same year he started a seven-season stint as the host of the reality series Rescue 911.
Verdict – Despite Hasselhoff’s undeniable greatness, Shatner towers over him in this category.
DH – The Hoff made his music debut in 1985, and hasn’t looked back since. While mainstream success has curiously eluded him in his home country, the forward-thinking music loving peoples of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria have embraced his soulful stylings. His career arguably reached its zenith in 1989, when the album Looking for Freedom hit #1 in a still-divided Germany. Der Hoff performed the #1 title track on New Year’s Eve 1989 at the partially smashed Berlin Wall, in what has become an enduring image of the Cold War. Most recently, he has released a group of singles accompanied by videos that can best be described as visual cocaine.
WS – While he does not possess the natural vocal talents of Hasselhoff, Shatner has staked his own unique claim to musical immortality. It started in 1968 with the release of the groundbreaking spoken word album The Transformed Man. Sadly, it was the last album he would release for almost 40 years. But in between there were some gems, like his mind-blowing rendition of “Rocket Man” in 1978 and a series of inspired commercials for Priceline.com in 2000 that saw Shatner teaming with Ben Folds. The Shatner/Folds team re-emerged in 2004 with the critically acclaimed Has Been, a beautiful synthesis of Folds’ tuneful pop songwriting and Shatner’s inspired lyrics and spoken-word delivery.
Verdict – Hasselhoff by a note.
WS – Shatner is currently on wife #4. His first wife left him during a brief dry spell after the Star Trek TV series ended. Tragically, his third wife (Nerine Kidd) died in 1999 in what was ruled an accidental drowning. He remarried in 2001 and dedicated a song to wife Elizabeth Anderson Martin on his Has Been album.
Verdict – Shatner earns points for sheer resiliency, but I gotta give this one to Hasselhoff.
DH – The Hoff’s trophy case shows three decorations – a 1983 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Program (Knight Rider, ‘natch), a 2007 TV Land “Who Knew They Could Sing?” Award, and a 2005 Bollywood Movie Award for International Star of the Year. Nice!
WS – Shatner has won two Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe for his portrayal of Denny Crane on Boston Legal and The Practice. He is also the proud recipient of two Golden Raspberry Awards (Worst Actor and Worst Director, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), and a Saturn Award for Best Actor in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Verdict – Bollywood and TV Land are tough to beat, but Shatner takes this one.
Within the admittedly limited parameters of this writeup, I’d have to say that William Shatner stands above even David Hasselhoff in the pantheon of entertainment greatness. But in a more real sense, we’re all winners since we get to enjoy both of their work.
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