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Great pitchmen have been born from the ashes before. Fast-food chain Jack in the Box’s commercials routinely feature “Jack,” a man wearing a version of the clown-faced symbol that the company dramatically blew up in 1980 to signal a menu change (“Waste him,” an elderly female customer said in the spot). Some Americans were upset by Jack’s demise.

Does Soder fear backlash from those fond of Shatner and the Negotiator?

“We certainly hope not. We had a great, long association with Mr. Shatner,” Soder said, adding hastily, “I didn’t mean to use the past tense. He’s still under contract with us.”

True, said Shatner, an indefatigable 80 years old. So whether they use him again or not, he said merrily, “I’m going to make them pay through the nose.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org.

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