Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shatner's Show is a Piece of You Know What

I had to laugh at the question headline in Tuesday's Buffalo News about the new CBS comedy, “$#*! My Dad Says,” starring William Shatner: “Is Shatner’s new show cursed by its title?”

I laughed harder at the headline than I did while recently watching the pilot that comes from the same writing-producing team behind the longstanding NBC hit “Will & Grace.”

The answer is it isn't cursed by its title. To put it bluntly, it’s cursed because it is a crappy show that should only benefit from the controversy surrounding the title that has been fueled by the conservative Parents Television Council.

The PTC is doing Shatner and CBS a favor to draw attention to this series about a lifelong, gun-toting, thrice married, verbally abusive 72-year-old father named Ed with two sons from different wives.

This being a sitcom, Ed gets an epiphany in the pilot from a gay man behind the counter of a local department of motor vehicles and decides to become a more supportive dad to his younger son.

Shatner isn’t far off from his “Boston Legal” character, Denny Crane. He totes a shotgun, riles against Andy Rooney and says countless inappropriate things that are supposed to be funny because they are said by Wiliiam Shatner, the female version of Betty White (whose late-in-life comedy career also got a boost from "Legal").

Unfortunately, Shatner is machine-gunning painfully unfunny lines rather than sharing clever dialogue with James Spader.

The mildly suggestive title isn’t the only thing that may upset PTC members. Ed’s daughter-in-law, Kathleen (Nicole Sullivan), shouts out she has a “broken vagina,” Ed talks about urinating three times early in this mess and there are an assorted number of sophomoric jokes dealing with bodily functions.

In short, it is a piece of ----.

Hmm. I forgot. I no longer have to be that politically-correct. One of the frustrations of writing for a daily newspaper concerned the dirty language barrier. The clues about the title given in Tuesday's News article are unintentionally, hysterically-funny.

Under one editor, I often couldn’t insert dialogue in my column that was declared suitable by networks for all audiences at 8 p.m. in prime time. It was like newspapers had to live in the old, pre-cable world for fear of offending someone or some organization.

It would have been better if the paper could have labeled my column “mature” for audiences over the age of 12 who have attended a sporting event once in their lives.

If PG-13 language offends you, then stop reading now because I’m about to give the offensive word in the title of the Twitter feed that inspired the best-selling book (listed by the New York Times as “---- My Dad Says”) that led to the TV series. Here goes the actual title: “S-H-*-T My Dad Says.”

OK. I just couldn’t break years of newspaper suppression and use all the initials. But you get the picture.

The PTC needed some historical context to ignore this issue.

Twenty years ago, the big language controversy was over an early line in the CBS comedy, “Uncle Buck,” that was based on the John Candy hit movie.

A very young character said “you suck” early in the pilot. During an interview session in Los Angeles with TV critics before the show premiered, you might have thought the republic was doomed because a kid said something that had become known to mean “you stink.”

The series, which starred Kevin Meaney, went on the air and quickly died because it was lousy. Like “S-H-*T My Dad Says.”

I probably should add that my kids know that I’m much more offended by bad behavior than bad language. I don’t advocate cursing around the house and certainly don’t want my adult children doing it in front of adults because it makes one look classless.

But a curse now and then among friends can be tolerated and practically is inevitable in some loose phone conversations involving sporting events.

Recently, I caught myself before I was about to use a mild expletive when talking to my 17-year-old son Max.

Max got upset with me. Not because I almost cursed – but because I tried to catch myself. He said he used to be in the backseat after his older brother Ben finished high school basketball games and he’d hear an occasional expletive as we replayed the games.

In Max’s view, repressing the curse word meant I wasn’t as comfortable or as close to him as I was to Ben.

So I did what any father would do at that point and told him he shouldn’t give “a sh*t” about that.

Of course, I didn’t say that. Max had me over a barrel because of my longstanding belief that mild expletives between friends and relatives occasionally don’t harm anyone.

I couldn’t win my argument with Max. Just like the PTC can’t win in its battle over the title of this crappy CBS comedy.

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