Mar 3, 2011

[TV] $#*! My Dad Says: Season 1

$#*! My Dad Says: Season 1William Shatner is a ham - any good fan of the original Star Trek series would tell you that in full honesty. But his hammy acting style has developed a quaint little charm on its own that helped fully define the character of James T. Kirk and helped trigger a modest fan following for the man over the years.

While Star Trek was mainly a dramatic series, Shatner has embraced more comedy roles over the years, which has turned out to be a pretty good niche for his manner of speech and acting. This was very well demonstrated in the TV series Boston Legal where Shatner got to play a wise-cracking lawyer.

So when they decided to create a TV show based on a humorous Twitter feed full of catch one-liners and feisty zingers, casting William Shatner seemed like a no-brainer for the program. I suppose the real question was whether or not the Twitter feed's content alone was enough to create a truly dynamic TV show. Otherwise, it would be a clear example in support of the argument that you can't just crowdsource via social media a worthwhile TV series concept.

$#*! My Dad Says (or *bleep* My Dad Says on TV) is the CBS comedy TV series based on the Shit My Dad Says Twitter feed that also inspired a book all about the quirky comments by Justin Halpern's father. The TV series uses quotes derived from the Twitter feed and the book with the addition of a story to tie everything together.

William ShatnerImage via WikipediaThe role of the "dad" in the series is fulfilled by the character Dr. Edison "Ed" Goodson (William Shatner), a 72 year old retired military doctor. He has two sons in the show - the elder one being Vince (Will Sasso), who together with his wife Bonnie (Nicole Sullivan) are real estate agents , and the other is Henry (Jonathan Sadowski), who is a struggling writer and blogger.

The core premise of the series begins with Henry moving in with his father since he's out of a job and needs a place to stay. As he tries to get work, he's made to experience the full benefits of living with his highly opinionated father including all of his somewhat controversial and often politically incorrect snide remarks. His father's rants eventually become the subject of his writing, thus netting him a job but not necessarily the freedom to leave his father's house.

At first, the show seemed to be determined to have Shatner ramble on with as many quirky quips from the source material as much as possible. Thus the show didn't put as much emphasis on the need for a running plot but instead set up a series of moments when everyone could just focus on Shatner giving another one-liner. While initially funny, this kind of almost sketch-like structure to early episodes made it a bit harder to go along with.

Thankfully the series matured in time as they fleshed out more of Ed's backstory in terms of his relationship with his sons along with his efforts to make amends and be a better father, in a manner of speaking. And giving more character to the likes of Henry beyond just being a loser certainly helps.

Will Sasso, a veteran of the sketch comedy series MADtv, seemed a tad constrained at the beginning of the series as well, but I felt this was more due to the lack of story for his character. Thankfully, the writers have done well to expand on his life together with his TV series wife Bonnie, which now oddly reminds me somewhat of The King of Queens, but with him being a lot dopier. It's resulted in good comedic moments in the show and I like where the development is bringing them.

I hadn't realized that Jonathan Sadowski, who plays Henry on the show, was also in the Amanda Bynes comedy She's the Man. I guess that's why he seemed so familiar when the show started. He's not quite a knock-out as a full time comedy actor just yet, but I feel there's room for him to grow in time. Maybe he just plays gay characters better?

By the end of the season, there were significant efforts to give the show more continuity / plot, which I think did the show well. As much as the initial hype around its Twitter connections helped it get off the ground, a show needs an actual story to get somewhere. Besides, the dialog is kind of a no-brainer for William Shatner since this is all like a more extreme version of what he's done in his comedic efforts in the past. Some might argue that he's not even playing a role on the series and this is all natural to him, if the stories of his on-set behavior is to be believed.

$#*! My Dad Says shows a lot of potential for growth and a second season should focus on expanding the existing storylines and give the characters more meat. This first effort gets 3.5 excuses for Ed to pull a gun on someone out of a possible 5. Given the season only recently ended, the show isn't yet available on home video, but I doubt you'll have to wait for long.

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