Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where Brilliantly Canceled comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.
Writers adapt all types of stories to the screen. Whether they be based on works of fiction, like novels, comics, or plays; myths, handed down from generation to generation; or even real stories that happened to real people. All of them, however, communicate the subtle and not-so-subtle moments of everyday life, explaining the human condition in ways that can be as effective as they are entertaining.
Adaptation can be a tricky $#@!er, though, especially when some of the most important aspects of our lives, whether they be love, art, and/or family, come from 140-character perspectives. As every Twitter draft folder shows, such a short slice of life requires some finessing.
Social media platforms like Twitter introduced that finessing, creating a world where people said things like platform and became acutely aware of something called “web presence.” “@ShitMyDadSays” was one of the earliest Twitter phenomenons, with hardcore tweeters and computer-illiterate web crawlers taking a peek at the ramblings of the Internet’s new favorite crazy old man. Quick one-liners popped out every few hours, and hungry eyes ate them up. Soon after, CBS stepped in to cook up the main course.
Still the only Twitter-based sitcom, out of an astonishing 555,000,000 accounts, CBS’ $h*! My Dad Says adapts the original feed in the only way it can: through a series of terrible decisions, starting with, but exclusive to, a title change that makes reviewing this show a spell check’s nightmare — a preemptive strike on critics, no doubt. CBS casted William Shatner as the show’s mouth piece, with his co-stars lobbing him setup after setup.
There are several reasons as to why $h*! My Dad Says deserves inclusion in the Brilliantly Canceled canon, aside from the idea of a TV show based on some rage-fueled twitter ramblings being kind of half baked. The show, for the most part — or more precisely, for the whole part — remains altogether forgettable. Here it is in three easy bits, so you don’t have to bother finding a copy. The situation: a broke writer moves in with his father. The catch: His dad is ka-ray-zee! The question: Will this splintered father and son relationship repair itself, despite the father’s best attempts to disown his loser child? Sounds like a winner that unemployed millenials everywhere can relate to.
On the surface, this is another case of sitcom conventions gone awry. The withered father and son relationship embedded itself into TV’s core long ago, as did the character of the crotchety old man. While we all love when Grandpa Simpson and Fred Sanford point out the stupidity of the modern world, $h*! overplays its hand, and the $h*! Shattner says fails to bring the laughs.
The really interesting parts of the show lie in its very existence and very distinct place in time. Just like how everyone was surprised that David Fincher was going to be making a “Facebook movie,” most critics were skeptical of things having to do with social media, because, honestly, it all looked like a fad just waiting to go the way of the Furby. However, while the Social Network (and I can’t believe I’m comparing the two) directly engages with the website that inspired the art, $h*! primarily ignores it. There’s no mention of tweets, updates, or blogs, they only serve a vehicle for dad in another dimension.
Oh, wait, this happens:
What’s even more remarkable is how unremarkable this show made the once funny twitter feed. After the show’s premiere, “@ShitMyDadSays” had reached its zenith and proved that finding a strained father and son relationship was a lot a less exciting and funny when filmed before a live studio audience. More than that, the show showed how cliche the whole thing was; what seemed fresh in a new medium, felt tired in another.
But that’s the nature of adaptation. Writers must find a reason to change mediums, because if its being adapted, the original work must’ve had some value, impact, or connection to its original form.
What does $h*! My Dad Says offer? Nothing you can’t get for free on the Internet.
Matt Schimkowitz is a writer, TV-watcher, and talks more about canceled TV shows and other irrelevant nonsense on the twitter and blogosphere, respectively.