Grumpy old man stars in first Twitcom
Son revives Hollywood career by tweeting his dad’s pearls of wisdom, writes ARCHIE BLAND
FIRST Hollywood bought up computer games to harvest them for script ideas. Then agents started to search for bloggers keen to make the leap to televised entertainment. And now Twitter has made the same landmark cultural jump, in the form of a sitcom based on 140-character missives from a curmudgeonly father.
It might seem that “sh*t my dad says”, a hugely popular feed that reprises the bilious highlights of one hangdog old man’s worldview, would be a little thin on material –there are only 73 tweets in the account.
But the messages have gained hundreds of thousands of followers whose enthusiasm has been enough to convince the US network CBS that the concept could sustain a prime time show, to be produced by the team behind Will and Grace.
The Twitter feed is the brainchild of Justin Halpern, a writer living with his parents in San Diego. Encouraged by friends who were amused by his peevish dad’s sense of humour, he began to post highlights of 73-year-old Sam’s remarks.
They largely consist of complaints and advice on topics ranging from the idiosyncrasies of modern technology to the vagaries of his diet.
“I didn’t live to be 73 years old so I could eat kale,” the first post reads, presumably referring to the frustrations of living with his 29-year-old son.
In another post, he exclaims:
● The baby will talk when he talks, relax. It ain’t like he knows the cure for cancer and he just ain’t spitting it out. ● Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it. ● That woman was sexy… Out of your league? Son. Let women figure out why they won’t screw you, don’t do it for them. ● Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald? No, I’m not gonna make a joke. I’ll let your mirror do that. ● You’re like a tornado of bullsh*t right now. We’ll talk again after your bullsh*t dies out over someone else’s house. ● Just pay the parking ticket. Don’t be so outraged. You’re not a freedom fighter in the civil rights movement. You double parked. ● I’m sitting in one of those TGI Friday’s places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth. ● Son, no one gives a sh*t about all the things your cellphone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that. ● Why would I want to live to 100? I’m 73 and it’s starting to get boring. By the way, there’s no money left when I go, just fyi. “How should I know if it’s still good? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn’t good. You people, you think I got microscopic eyes.”
The first Twitter-based sitcom showcases how the instantaneous social network is rapidly moving from the tech-savvy fringes to the mainstream. The site’s growing popularity has made successful feeds prime targets for agents looking for reliable indicators that an idea has the necessary resonance with viewers.
But Halpern Jr, who also has a book deal with HarperCollins, remains bemused by the runaway success of his brainchild, which has gone from a standing start on August 3 to nearly 800 000 followers.
“I honestly didn’t think anyone but the five people I sent it to who knew my dad would find it funny,” he said.
For Sam Halpern, who is deeply suspicious of the internet and keeps his own computer offline, it has all come as something of a surprise.
Justin initially kept his postings a secret, but when he was offered a book deal, he realised he would have to come clean. To his relief, Sam – an intensely private man – saw the funny side, warned he would do no interviews, and demanded help finding his cellphone.
Justin will be a writer and executive producer on the show. The success of his project has offered a baffling route back to a career he had all but given up on. A previous stint in Hollywood, trying to get a script of his own produced, ended in tears.
“It’s ironic to think that I busted my ass trying to get my own writing out there, and what has been successful for me is something I didn’t even write.”
Even so, his father has insisted that he will take no money from the popularity of his miserable outlook.
“Sometimes life leaves a $100 bill,” the old man says. “You don’t realise until later that it’s because it f***ed you.” – The Independent
SPECTATOR SPORTS: Justin Halpern, right, and his father, Samuel Halpern attend a baseball match with Justin’s friend Brad Lamers, sitting in the middle. PICTURE: LOS ANGELES TIMES