His good luck instantly breeds hostility, he says, “and it’s kind of a justified feeling because it’s just a Twitter page.”
Hits on the Web haven’t typically transferred well to TV (see “quarterlife”), but Halpern might be an exception.
His Twitter feed, “S– My Dad Says,” amassed a huge following (now more than 1.7 million followers) simply by quotes he relayed from his 74-year-old father, Sam Halpern, a classic curmudgeon with a penchant for expletives.
His similarly titled book debuted on The New York Times list of best sellers. Then, the CBS sitcom starring William Shatner as Halpern’s father premiered to 12.5 million viewers, more than twice that of “30 Rock,” its much more acclaimed 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday competition.
Ratings for “(Bleep) My Dad Says” (the Twitter feed’s title was changed for the CBS show) have since declined each week and reviews have been bad. But the show hopes it has cast off its novelty label and become one of the few Internet-to-TV success stories.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride. The pilot, produced by Warner Bros., had to be reshot, and the part of the son was recast with Jonathan Sadowski. The changes may have improved things, but critics were still unimpressed. The New York Times, for one, called it “a bad idea from the moment it was announced” and “a wholly generic sitcom so divorced from its source material that you have to pinch yourself.”
The show is oddly old-school in its reliance on sitcom tradition. But to a certain extent, the Twitter feed that started it all was classically sitcomish: There’s no more familiar TV trope than the crabby father.
One of the ingredients that set Halpern’s Twitter feed apart was its vulgarity. His father’s musings and advice are harsh. One of few examples without an offensive word: “Pressure? Get married when you want. Your wedding’s just one more day in my life I can’t wear sweat pants.”
Halpern ended up living with his parents in San Diego after he got a job with Maxim.com and his girlfriend unexpectedly dumped him. In the book, he fleshes out the details of his life and his relationship with his dad, whom he describes as “the least passive-aggressive human being on the planet.”
He started the Twitter account as a lark at the suggestion of a friend.
“I had no idea what to expect,” he says. “It was just funny to tell my friends, `Look at all these people that follow what my dad says.’”
Halpern believes the book gave him some credence and “changed a lot of people’s minds about how that jump can work,” referring to the transfers from the Internet to television.
Executive producers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, creators of “Will & Grace,” were brought in to run the show. Halpern is a co-executive producer and writer.
The most notable change in the adaptation was sanitizing the vulgarity. The character based on Halpern, too, was turned from merely a bemused onlooker into a son craving love and sympathy from his father.