LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - William Shatner confesses he has problems with the digital age. At 79 years old, he doesn’t use Twitter and can’t remember computer passwords.
So what is the actor -- who started in television when it was aired exclusively live and became a pop culture hero in “Star Trek” 40 years ago -- doing in the first TV series dreamed up from a Twitter account?
“It is beyond irony,” Shatner said on Wednesday of his role as an outspoken, politically incorrect dad in the new comedy series “$#*! My Dad Says”.
“This show is the first show that was built on the electronic age. It is an electronic miracle. It is a show that stems from the culture of now,” Shatner told TV reporters gathered here for a presentation of upcoming programs on CBS.
The ironies don’t end there.
“$#*! My Dad Says”, which makes its CBS debut in September, is based on a Twitter feed started by struggling comedy writer Justin Halpern in 2003, which captured his own father’s salty language and forthright observations.
Called “Shit My Dad Says” Halpern’s Twitter feed now has some 1.4 million followers. It has produced a best-selling book of the same name and the CBS TV show involving the creators of the Emmy award winning TV show “Will & Grace”.
But bans on “fleeting expletives” in U.S. network broadcasting caused CBS to “bleep” the title (they use the word “bleep” in place “$#*!” when describing the show) even though producers say there are few, if any, profanities in the TV series itself.
“What is distinctive about Justin’s Twitter is not the profanity, but the voice” of the character, said executive producer David Kohan. “So far we’ve not come up with the need to use curse words on the show. You can always find different ways to say things.”
Kohan’s writing partner Max Mutchnick said Halpern’s original Twitter feed had inspired the tone of the show but was a mere starting point for a program about a relationship between a cranky older man and his son.
“It is fantastic that we have this point of departure. Now our job is to turn out a fantastic sitcom for viewers every week,” Mutchnick said.
The mere hint of the “S” word in the show’s title has already infuriated the Parents Television Council watchdog group, even before an episode has been aired.
PTC president Tim Winter said in May that his organization “couldn’t imagine that a network would actually name a program either with an expletive or with the expletive ostensibly bleeped out.”
CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler told TV journalists on Wednesday that there had been no protests so far from advertisers about the upcoming show, or its not-so-ambiguous title.
Like Winter, Shatner said he didn’t much like the title either, but for very different reasons.
“I wish they’d call it ‘Shit My Dad Says’,” the actor and grandfather said. “The word shit is around us. It isn’t a terrible term, It’s a natural function. Why are we pussyfooting around?.”
“$#*! My Dad Says” makes its debut on CBS on September 23.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte