William Shatner – up to his neck in “$#*!” – stars in new TV comedy inspired by Point Loman’s twitter

by on September 22, 2010 · 2 comments

in Culture, Media, San Diego

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Editor: “Terriers” is not the only new TV series that has an uber-local connection.  There’s a new CBS series that starts Thursday, September 23rd, based on the twitters of a young man from Point Loma – Justin Halpern – who wrote down the spicy and witty sayings uttered by his cranky 74 year old father, a retired doctor. And William Shatner is playing the dad. The twitter has turned into a book and the book is called “Shit My Dad Says,” but the television series is titled: “$#*! My Dad Says” (and a bleep is used instead of the profane). Already controversy has engulfed the show. A conservative parents’ group has threatened a boycott of its advertisers.  Here below, then, is a trio of previews by critics. (Be sure to scroll down for all three.)

Shatner’s Dad Is No “All In the Family” Archie Bunker

By Hank Stuever / Washington Post / September 19, 2010

In a strange way, the new sitcom “$#*! My Dad Says,” which premieres Thursday night on CBS, makes you realize how badly we need an Archie Bunker now. But this dad isn’t the one.

The show is occasionally funny and its star, William Shatner, can work wonders with just the slightest gesture. The Twitter-based source material that sparked “$#*! My Dad Says” indeed tells us something about our culture now, but the “$#*!” written here for Shatner to blurt out with such gusto — in his role as the cranky dad, Ed Goodson — seems like a missed opportunity. What this dad winds up saying doesn’t live up (or down) to the show’s provocative title. (Which, of course, has already been condemned by parental watchdog groups who view the typographically coy “$#*!” as a further lapse in standards. In commercials for the show, CBS has chosen to pronounce the word as “bleep.”)

If Shatner’s Ed is expected to say some $#*!, then I wish the $#*! would be more relevant or provocative — more like the kind of person that America needs Ed Goodson to be.

Or if not Ed, someone Ed-like: retired, with fixed income and fixed ideas and prone to reach for the nearest instrument of his Second Amendment rights when he hears something outside of his San Diego ranch-style house. The intruder Ed confronts outside turns out to be his son Henry (Jonathan Sadowski), newly laid off from his job and looking for a place to crash.

What Ed says is sometimes laugh-worthy (“Son, sit down. The house is clean enough,” he says while Henry straightens up. “We didn’t accidentally kill a hooker, we had brunch!”), but it lacks most of the inanity of the Twitter feed that summoned this sitcom into existence.

It has been massaged and reshaped into the comforting blandness of the modern sitcom, when what it needed was more controversial $#*!. Which it will never have, since “$#*! My Dad Says” comes from the same play-it-safe producers who gave us those successful and pleasantly neutered culture warriors “Will & Grace.”

That’s too bad. No character on any prime-time TV show represents the simmering resentment and anger that defines our social and political temperature in 2010 — especially the kind of civic unrest seen in our older, fed-up-with-taxes citizenry.

Archie Bunker, that easy-chair misanthrope from Norman Lear’s “All in the Family,” would possibly be that person. I yearn to see a show about modern-day Archie dragging his wife — long-suffering Edith — to town-hall forums on Obamacare or to Glenn Beck book signings, if for no other reason than to send his progressive son-in-law, Mike the Meathead, into paroxysms of counter-indignation.

But that was 40 — yes, 40 — TV seasons ago. The Archie who was invented by Lear and his writers (and brought to immortal life by Carroll O’Connor) was born of zeitgeist necessity: Through Archie’s frustrating intolerance toward the cultural changes around him, a simple sitcom managed to also become a therapeutic device. We learned to love Archie, despite and because of his opinions. “All in the Family” was many things, not the least of which was a steam valve.

On “$#*! My Dad Says,” 72-year-old Ed’s days transpire in a rather Bunkeresque fashion: He is usually found in his favorite chair in front of a television (watching Wolf Blitzer, whom he chides) or listening to old standards on vinyl LPs while eating bowls of Grape Nuts. Henry is the new Gloria, living at home in an economic downturn. (There is no Edith; Ed is thrice-divorced.) Here, in a style vaguely reminiscent of Archie, Ed holds forth on modern life and everything wrong with it.

“I hate downtown. It smells of motor oil and hummus.”

A line like that almost gets at what sort of show this might have been. But “$#*! My Dad Says” prefers its codger to be more inappropriate than political.

For the remainder of this article, please go here.


“$#!’ My Dad Says’ Boycott? Parents Television Council Urges Advertiser Revolt

will shatner w TV son

David Bauder / Huffington Post /

NEW YORK — William Shatner, of all people, stands at the center of television’s latest moral battleground.

He’s the cantankerous lead character in a new CBS sitcom, “(Bleep) My Dad Says,” that is scheduled to air on Thursday nights. Rather than “bleep,” the title uses a series of symbols that suggest the expletive included in the book title on which the series is based.

The Parents Television Council last week sent letters to 340 companies that advertise frequently on TV urging them to stay away from the show unless the name is changed. The group argues that the title is indecent.

“Parents really do care about profanity when their kids are watching TV,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “All parents? No, but something like 80 or 90 percent of parents. Putting an expletive in the title of a show is crossing new territory, and we can’t allow that to happen on our watch.”

Winter’s letter to companies asks bluntly: “When you advertise on television, do you want your customers to associate your product with (bleep)?”

His letter uses the expletive, not the word “bleep.” Winter uses the real word 10 times in two pages.

But how much do parents care?

Parental concern about profane language on TV is clearly waning, according to the Rasmussen Reports pollsters. Rasmussen’s survey of 1,000 American adults taken July 27-28 found that 57 percent said there was too much inappropriate content on television and radio. Sex and violence is the main concern; only 9 percent of those polled pointed to profanity as the biggest problem area.

Top CBS entertainment executive Nina Tassler said the network really hasn’t gotten any push-back from anyone besides the PTC about the title, although the complaints have “created a lot of buzz” about the series.

Translation: Any attention is good attention, when you’re trying to sell something new.

To many people, it’s not a big deal.

Shatner is among them.

“Do you know what I wish?” he said. “I wish they would call it (bleep). …

“I’ve got grandchildren. I brought up three girls. They’ve all got kids. OK? And you say, `Boopy-doo-doo, you’ve got to make poo-poo. Come on. Make poo-poo in the toilet.’ Eventually, poo-poo becomes (bleep). `Go take a (bleep), you’ll feel better.’ You say that to your kids. The word (bleep) is around us. It isn’t a terrible term. It’s a natural function. Why are we pussyfooting?”

Shatner didn’t say “bleep,” by the way.

To little notice, the Investigation Discovery network said last week it would premiere a new series – “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?” – on Aug. 25. The nonfiction series follows couples in which one spouse has a shocking secret, such as being a robber or bigamist. The actual word “bleep” is used.

Network President Henry Schleiff said the title fit the series’ irreverent tone. Being a small network, Investigation Discovery needs to do things that will attract audiences, he said. “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?” will air at 10 p.m. ET and its target audience is women 25 to 54.

Shortly after the CBS series was announced in May, the PTC threatened to challenge the broadcast license of CBS stations that air “(Bleep) My Dad Says.” The show hasn’t aired yet, so there have been no challenges.

The council increasingly believes that advertiser boycotts are an attractive approach to seeking changes, Winter said.

“It’s follow the money,” he said. “Even though we are absolutely fighting with every ounce of power, we have to preserve the broadcast decency laws, we don’t know if they’re going to be good anymore. We don’t know if they’re going to be around much longer.”

He said he’s heard from a dozen or so advertisers that agree with his “(Bleep) My Dad Says” plea. All requested anonymity, he said.

Gauging the effectiveness of such campaigns is difficult. Winter cited the 2008 CBS series “Swing Town,” featuring spouse-swapping couples, where mainstream advertisers began slipping away after the council pointed out the content. The series died. But it’s almost impossible to really tell if advertisers fled because of the show’s content, because it was doing poorly in the ratings or because of other reasons.

Most prime-time commercial time is bought in blocks, where an advertiser’s products will appear within many different shows; a company would need to specifically request that its ads not appear within a specific show. CBS would not discuss what its advertisers have been saying about Shatner’s series.

“We’re hoping that the egos in the corporate suite at CBS will recognize that they did make a mistake and will change the name,” Winter said. “I spent 15 years at NBC. If there’s a show that comes in with no advertisers, there would be a change. If the show comes in with advertising, then I think it’s appropriate for the public to know who’s associated with (bleep).”

In these days of video games, movies and dozens of television networks, policing language for children has become a very difficult prospect for parents.

“They may be unrealistic in the world we live in today,” Schleiff said.


First Came the Tweets, and Then the Sitcom

Will shatner Justin Halpern

Point Loman Justin Halpern

by Brian Stelter / New York Times / Originally published May 18, 2010

The biggest surprise on next season’s CBS schedule is a sitcom tentatively called “Bleep My Dad Says,” not just because its title disguises an expletive, but because it was inspired by a page on Twitter.

Yes, the anyone-can-make-media spirit of the Web has made it to prime-time network television, and probably not in the form Internet tycoons would have predicted. The CBS show inspired by a popular Twitter page — whose actual name is decidedly more profane than the “Bleep” title — is an old-fashioned, multicamera, studio audience comedy, in the mold of CBS’s hugely popular “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

The only difference, perhaps, is that the actor playing the title dad, William Shatner, will be reading lines supposedly uttered by Sam Halpern, 74, a retired doctor, and posted online by his son Justin, 29, who started the Twitter page in August at the insistence of a friend. More than 1.3 million people subscribe to the page, which inspired a book and now this show.

The book is to have its debut at No. 8 on the New York Times best-seller list this weekend, and the show is to be formally announced by CBS on Wednesday. Thanks to his dad’s rude witticisms, Justin Halpern is now a best-selling author and a co-creator of a network sitcom.

Those achievements (and the cash that comes with them) hadn’t quite sunk in when he arrived in New York from San Diego, where he lives, on Monday night. He checked into a rundown Upper West Side hotel that he immediately deemed a “crack house” and vowed to switch to a better one. But first he had to meet his agent for dinner in Greenwich Village.

If someone had asked him, a year ago, to name his dream job, he said, “basically, I would have said, writing on a TV show that I created.” In an interview Monday night, just hours after he learned the show had been picked up by the network, Mr. Halpern could only say, “This is crazy.”

But it hasn’t gone to his dad’s head. Mr. Halpern said he received an e-mail message from his father on Monday afternoon, thinking it would be about the series pickup, but instead it was about an overdue Sprint bill. Maybe there is inspiration for an episode there. (Dr. Halpern has declined all interview requests.)

Justin Halpern’s story — at least as he’s told it over and over in interviews and on late-night talk shows — sounds like every aspiring tweeter’s dream come true. A fledgling screenwriter, he had sold only one feature-length script, which was essentially dead on arrival at the studio. After splitting up with a girlfriend, he moved home to San Diego from Los Angeles a year ago, saving money by bunking with his parents.

He was not exactly down on his luck, he said on Monday, because he was still a senior writer at Maxim magazine’s Web site, maxim.com, the best job he had ever held. Still, he was like many 20-somethings, seeking a way to break into Hollywood and finding out just how hard it can be.

A comedian at heart, he started writing down the quips of his father, whose statements are as poetic as they are profane. A friend who runs a Twitter page on which he pretends to be the director Michael Bay — there are several such pages — suggested Mr. Halpern start posting the quips online. It was just for fun, Mr. Halpern says, insisting that all his father’s utterances are genuine.

Like most online sensations, the Twitter feed quickly snowballed into something more, partly because of the actor Rob Corddry, who tweeted about it.

By early September, Mr. Halpern had literary agents trying to sign him to write a book. By November, he had an agreement with Warner Brothers and CBS. Mr. Halpern and his writing partner, Patrick Schumacker, were paired with the creators of “Will & Grace” to write a pilot episode, which was taped in March and received high marks from the studio and the network, thanks in large part to Mr. Shatner’s performance.

Most of the 119 tweets that Mr. Halpern has published so far are not repeatable in print or on CBS, but one from November conveys the general tone.

William Shatner 01Oh please, you practically invented lazy,” the dad is quoted as saying. “People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it.”

The pilot episode includes four or five lines from the Twitter feed, Mr. Schumacker said, although in slightly more family-friendly form.

The interest from CBS, traditionally the most conservative of the networks, surprised Mr. Halpern. But both the humor and the multigenerational aspects appealed to the network.

“When a voice is so strong and distinct in 140 characters, you can see great potential for what it could be in a 22-minute episode,” said an executive involved in the show, who requested anonymity because CBS and Warner Brothers are not commenting on the record until Wednesday’s announcement.

On Tuesday the companies were still figuring out what to name the show and how to spell it. “I don’t think we’ve ever had so many discussions about the title of a show,” the executive said.

The series, Mr. Halpern said, will be about “the dichotomy of this older guy who says whatever he wants, and this younger guy who’s tiptoeing through life,” careful not to offend for fear of losing jobs or friends.

A few other Web properties have sprouted television shows in recent years. The CollegeHumor Web site, collegehumor.com, produced a season for MTV, and The Onion’s online video unit is developing shows for IFC and Comedy Central. Of course, CollegeHumor and The Onion had more than 140 characters — the maximum length of a tweet — to sell their humor.

Being born on the Web can give a television show established characters and some early buzz, but the medium is quite different, said Ricky Van Veen, the founder of CollegeHumor, who now runs a production company called Notional.

“If you look at what’s successfully made the transition from online to mainstream — Aziz Ansari, Justin Bieber, the Lonely Island guys to ‘Saturday Night Live’ — it just comes down to talent, like it always has,” he said.

Mr. Halpern, by the way, no longer lives with his parents. He’s back together with his girlfriend. But he returns home a couple of times a week. The truth, he said, is that he likes the stuff, both vulgar and not, that his dad says.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Marisag September 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I thought you can say “shit” on TV now. I seem to remember SouthPark doing a show on it.


theresa laforti February 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I hope they didn’t take the show bleep my dad says off the air. I’m really tired of people saying what they think every one should watch. If you don’t like the program change the channel. Funny thing is they don’t complain about all the sex shows that are on T.V. , and all the murder shows. PUT MY SHOW BACK ON!!!!!!!!


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