William Shatner isn't dead, but his Priceline Negotiator commercial character is: killed in a fiery tourist bus explosion after a high fall from a perilous bridge.
And he wasn't even wearing a red shirt.
Turns out the Negotiator -- Shatner's pitchman for five of his 14 years with Priceline -- was done in by a changing market. The company is "changing their business model from a name-your-price model to a fixed-price approach," Peter Sealey, adjunct professor at the Claremont Graduate University's school of management, told the Associated Press. Shatner's character was relentless in urging customers to name their prices on airfares and hotel rooms.
"We decided to do something really over the top to get the message across," said Christopher Soder, chief exec of Priceline.com North America.
"I'm in grief mode," the 80-year-old Shatner said Wednesday. "It's not the first time I've had an iconic character die off." (Shatner's Capt. James T. Kirk died in 1994's "Star Trek: Generations," only to be reborn in a snappy Chris Pine package for 2009's "Star Trek" prequel. Still, Shatner said, what management wants, management gets.
And we thought Chuck Lorre was pretty serious with the "meat explosion" that took out Charlie Sheen's Charlie Harper on "Two and a Half Men"? It looks as if TV has nothing on tourism when it comes to telling people the game is changing.
Soder also dropped a hint about that big game that's coming up: While the Negotiator's death spot is running on the company's website and online, he said, Priceline just might have something else explosive planned for the Super Bowl. Shatner, by the way, is still under contract.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
-- Christie D'Zurilla
Photo: William Shatner and wife Elizabeth at the 50th anniversary celebration for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at the Beverly Hilton on Jan. 7. Credit: David Livingston / Getty Images