From Twitter to CBS pilot: 'Stuff My Dad Says' to star William Shatner
CBS has green-lighted a pilot based on the tweets of an angry old man. William Shatner is set to play the well-intentioned curmudgeon in the production based on Justin Halpern's Twitter account called "Stuff My Dad Says." (We're replacing the swear word in the title, and be warned -- the site is full of words that network television won't broadcast).
It's unclear how CBS will adapt the potty-mouth show title. Halpern, who's co-penning the show about his cranky dad with long-time writing partner Patrick Schumacker, says he hopes the network lands on a name like "S#&% My Dad Says" -- bleeping the first word during spoken-word promotions.
But that's a small obstacle in a long, fortuitous process for the 29-year-old comedy writer since moving back home with Samuel, his 74-year-old father, in San Diego. Now, his vision finally looks to be coming to a realization.
In September, The Times' Technology Blog wrote about the chance events that took Halpern's paternal-biographical messages from a few friends watching on Twitter to a book deal.
Since then, Halpern has nearly finished writing the book of stories -- some go in-depth behind popular tweets and others tell of childhood experiences with his father. The book will be in stores before Father's Day.
The Twitter account has passed 1 million followers. By some accounts, it was the first profile on Twitter to reach such a milestone without the help of Twitter's prized suggested users list -- though Halpern's page has made it onto the newest list.
On Twitter, he's turned down numerous public business propositions -- movies, cartoons, merchandising. One company offered him $25,000 to send out a single, sub-140-character message promoting its product. Halpern rejected the deal because he thought it was "the exact opposite of my dad," he said over coffee recently.
"Even though he already was like, [censored] do it!" Halpern said. "He just doesn't want to have to support me when I'm older."
The likelihood of Halpern moving out of his parents' house is looking pretty good. Even now, he spends much of his time living in Echo Park with a friend.
"Will and Grace's" Max Mutchnik and David Kohan are producing the show, providing experience that Halpern calls invaluable. They've had to struggle with producing a show that, at first glance, sounds a lot like "All in the Family" -- "one of my all-time favorite shows," Halpern said.
"Archie Bunker is like so blue collar," Halpern said. "My dad went to medical school. He lectured at Harvard. He's [censored] way smarter than I could ever hope to be."
The show focuses intently on unemployment among Justin's generation. CBS is betting on a concept that pokes fun at U.S. economic turmoil.
"Most of my friends live at home in San Diego. They're guys that went to college and stuff," Halpern said. "It's interesting that there's this generation of people that are educated and sort of went through the route that our parents went through. But then when they got out, with the way that the economy is, they're just kind of [out of luck.]"
When Halpern called his father Thursday night to ecstatically tell him about CBS picking up his show, his dad reacted in his unbeknown comedic style.
"Great to hear. Here's your mom," Halpern recalled his dad saying. "I was like, 'That's it?' And he goes, 'You're on a cellphone. I don't like talking on those. It's muffled. Here's mom.' "
Halpern endorsed Shatner for the role, saying, "He was our first choice." Shatner won an Emmy for his work on "Boston Legal." However, the "Star Trek" legend wasn't Halpern's dad's pick.
"He wanted James Earl Jones to play him," Halpern said. "I was like, 'But you're white.' He was like, 'Well, we don't have to be! Who gives a [censored]? You asked me who I thought, and that's who I think.'"
Samuel will soon be immortalized on screen with or without Darth Vader's contribution.
-- Mark Milian
Photo: Justin Halpern. Credit: Mark Milian / Los Angeles Times