Sure, the new CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says is based on a very thin gimmick: a snarky but funny and very popular Twitter feed by Justin Halpern. And sure, William Shatner plays a parody of his recent TV persona, as the weird blowhard named in the show’s title. And yes, sitcoms populated with quirky characters are a dime a dozen.
But Shatner is a really talented comic actor, and he and the producers have given the show and its main characters a good deal more depth than one might have any right to expect. The concept turns out to have some potential for interesting situations reminiscent of real-life problems most people encounter.
The story is laid out in a simple and direct manner in the pilot, but festooned with plenty of comical one-liners. A young, unemployed man and his cantankerous, hard-nosed father attempt to reconnect after years apart because of a divorce. The son barely knows the father, but he shows up on his doorstep anyway because he has nowhere else to go, having been laid off from his job. He is in fact rather afraid of the old man, for good reason, as the latter has always been very tart in his observations of others’ imperfections.
This being a situation comedy, however, the two eventually come to an understanding and recognize that they not only do love each other but that they can help each other–the son can help the father through the troubles of old age, and the father can help the son financially and teach him lessons about how to get on in life. The father, after all, received a medal in Vietnam for “sewing a guy’s sack back on.” And he is not presented as a jackass–he has something of value to offer the world and his son, behind his comical bluster.
Although told in the superficial terms of a situation comedy, this is a real relationship, and it even leads to a rather poignant moment near the episode’s conclusion (the inevitable but still satisfying “awwwww” moment).
But there’s no lingering sentimentality to any of it, as the writers recognize that the humor in Shatner’s vivid observations about the world around him will remain the show’s major selling point. And it’s rather refreshing in this time of boring political correctness in the mainstream media.
Shatner is excellent as the father, funny in his tartness but also perceptive and considerate in those rare times when he thinks others merit it. The rest of the cast are quite good, too. The jokes are funny. It’s a justifiable way to while away a half-hour.
‘$#*! My Dad Says’ airs tonight on CBS.