When Justin Halpern started the Shit My Dad Says Twitter account several years ago, he probably didn’t anticipate it would be picked up by CBS and made into a total shitty sitcom that no one liked. After Splitsider took a critical look at the sanitized for TV Sh*! My Dad Says a couple of weeks ago, Halpern reached out to the site to talk about just what the heck happenedbehind the scenes that made the series so goddamn bad.
Halpern says that the gist of the show came from several short stories he wrote about his dad as part of a book proposal. Unfortunately, since the stories he wrote were fairly dark, they didn’t actually work as a multi-cam primetime TV show, and that’s where the monkeying around comes in. He says that multi-cam shows, while not without their merits, have a tendency to change the nature of the story, noting that,
“in this case, my dad is a guy who is not trying to be funny, which is why I think the twitter feed and my book were so successful. He's not a guy who's "jokey." In multi-cam, you tend to play to the joke, it's more setup/punchline, just by nature of shooting in front of a live audience, and that kind of cuts the nuts off my dad as a character. So even when we shot the pilot I thought, "fuuuuuuuuuck. This is not my book. This is not working for this character."
He also notes that in addition to his dad having his metaphorical nuts cut off, he was also essentially silenced by the network, who didn’t think audiences would want to watch a wacky older guy talking about atheism or swearing. As Halpern notes, “I realized this wasn't my father after I got the standards and practices notes when we turned in the first script and we couldn't say ANY of the words my father uses, nor discuss any of the things my dad discusses.”
Perhaps most interesting, though, are Halpern’s thoughts on what it’s like to actually write for a shitty show. Noting that, generally, people working on shitty shows know that their shows suck, he likens it to “being in an a relationship with someone you hate, but you're not sure how to end it, and then you go over to your friends house and they're like ‘Oh my god, why are you dating that piece of shit? You're a fucking idiot.’ It's like ‘I KNOW YOU FUCKING DICKHEAD BUT I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO.’” He also notes that there are great writers working on bad shows, but that if the show is flawed from the beginning, they’re all just basically bailing water out of a sinking ship. Then, as he explains, “the network gets scared because they invested a shit ton of money into the show. And when they freak out, the notes get larger and suddenly you have 12 people saying ‘Why is that plumber walking through the front door?’ and you're like ‘Fuck I don't know, he's the plumber. I guess this needs a page one rewrite?’”