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Series / Weird Or What

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—Shatner's typical closing remark on a story.

Weird Or What (sometimes marketed as William Shatner's Weird Or What) is a television series that ran for three seasons from 2010 to 2012. Hosted by William Shatner, the show's subject matter covers anything that is strange and does not have a proven scientific explanation. This includes the paranormal such as aliens, curses, ghosts, monsters, and conspiracy theories, as well as documented but unexplained occurances, like medical oddities, unexplained disappearances, superhuman feats, ancient mysteries, and more.

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Typically, each episode showcases three stories. Sometimes there's a common theme connecting them, sometimes there isn't. Shatner opens each episode by briefly explaining the stories, then examines each of them in detail. Shatner narrates a recreation of each event, sometimes with interviews with the actual people that were affected. The show then examines possible explanations for the event discussed by experts and supporters of the different theories, occasionally with tests conducted by experts or the show itself to show if a theory is plausible or not. Whether the case is closed with a valid explanation or not, Shatner always concludes that it is inarguable that what happened is "weird, or what."


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Tropes in this work:

  • Adam Westing: Shatner, naturally. Downplayed in the stories as Shatner narrates compared to the segments featuring him on camera, though his distinctive speech patterns are always present.
  • Affectionate Parody: At times it appears to be going this route towards paranormal-mystery shows; in general it does not take itself too seriously. Shatner has fun engaging in Lampshade Hanging about a story being silly or outlandish, cracks a lot of awful jokes, and in some segments it's played as though he fumbles what he's supposed to say and they have to do several takes for him to get it right. His narration style is also heavily reminiscent of his time on Rescue 911, but taken much less seriously. The show also gratuitously utilizes horrible costumes, obvious post-production sound effects, and Jump Cuts between different takes.
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  • Butt-Monkey: As part of Adam Westing, the segments with Shatner usually have him acting foolish or otherwise being embarrassed, such as finding his missing cellphone stuck in a tub of ice cream, trying to hide a "Made in China" sticker on a fossil he claims he discovered, and finding a box marked "Overdue Bills" buried in his yard.
  • Catchphrase: Shatner has several:
    • "Is that weird, or what?" or a paraphase of such, at the end of a story.
    • "Join me next time for three more stories that will undoubtedly be...weird, or what." at the end of an episode
    • "You know, I've been around for a while. I've travelled the world, met some interesting people, done some crazy things. So you might just think there's not much that could take me by surprise; you'd be wrong. The world is full of stories, and science, and things that amaze and confound me every single day. Incredible mysteries that keep me awake at night. Some I can answer, others just defy logic." — the Opening Narration. After clips and summaries of the stories of the episode, followed by. "Yup, it's a weird world....and I love it."
  • Dan Browned: The show does this itself for some stories, have an expert put forth a theory, then another expert or Shatner will explain why that theory doesn't work for whatever reason, or only explains part of the mystery. This may be done several times over to emphasize how the common theories cannot explain the mystery in full.
    • In one segment discussing the Saqqara Bird, David Childress claims that it is clearly intended to be an ancient airplane and not a model of a bird, and points out that the wings are bent up at a dihedral angle, which is necessary for airplanes to achieve lift. Later in the segment an expert on scale gliders tests a model recreation of the bird and it nosedives into the ground; he points out that among other problems, the wings are bent downward.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Shatner has his fun with this from time to time.
    "Why is it every time something strange happens, we immediately blame the aliens?"

    "Now this is the part in the story where I'm supposed to scratch my head and say 'is that weird or what'."
  • Hollywood Satanism: One story about a woman tormented by a paranormal entity represents it by an evil, disembodied voice taunting "I am Satan, worship Satan! *Evil Laugh*"
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While the show focuses more on the fantastic and paranormal explanations, each story has experts providing more scientific and mundane explanations for instances of aliens, monsters, ghosts, etc. The trope is averted for unexplained events that are known to have actually happened and were documented, such as the case of a "toxic woman" that infected the hospital staff that attended to her with strange illnesses; for those kinds of stories, the show usually doesn't propose paranormal explanations, as reasonably there wouldn't be one.
  • No Fourth Wall: The show is very upfront with the fact that Shatner is just reading lines for the producers and doesn't really know what he's talking about sometimes.
    "I've been doing this show for a long time now, and it seems every unexplainable mystery can be explained by quantum physics. And no matter how many times they tell me, I still don't get it."
  • Opening Narration: From Shatner as he enters his home to begin telling the viewers the episode's tales. Episodes often feature different takes, but the speech generally remains the same.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: The Jersey Devil, Lizard Folk, The Mothman, and Living Dinosaurs are examined, along with others like India's "monkey man". Surprisingly, the most famous stock cryptid, Bigfoot, is not covered, though a few stories have an expert put him forth as a possible explanation for another mystery. Shatner namedrops Bigfoot, Yeti, and Chupacabra, in the opening segment of an episode focusing on monsters, but none of those three are actually ever covered.
  • Speculative Documentary: Though it examines more likely and grounded theories alongside the fantastical. Some of the experts interviewed are also recognized authorities on their field of study, so even if their proposed theories are out there, they have some credibility.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: Surprisingly averted. While some of the stories covered are relatively still famous (the Winchester mansion, Robert the Doll, the Saqqara Bird), the show doesn't cover many of the usual staples of the genre, including every single mystery listed on the trope page. However, an expert may occasionally mention them in relation to another mystery.
  • Stylistic Suck: invoked As part of the Affectionate Parody angle, there are numerous Special Effects Failures, including horrible costumes, blatantly fake animals treated as the real thing, and obvious post-production sound effects. For instance, in one segment where Shatner apparently uses a chainsaw to cut apart a boxed toy, the chainsaw sound effects are obviously added in post and the chainsaw is quite clearly not turned on.
  • Title Drop: Almost always at the end of each story, and always at the end of each episode.
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