TV Review: “$#*! My Dad Says” Is Still $#*!

Written by Television, TV Reviews

How did I end up here, on a Thursday night, flipping through the channels and suddenly landing on CBS; y’know, the Tiffany Network, or more accurately as of late, the network where the cops are hunting down the killer/abductor/threatening presence against some stripper (as Roger Daltrey sings “Behind Blue Eyes” behind them). Worse than that, how did I land on $#*! My Dad Says, and when I did, was there any way the impact could have killed it?

I’m not living in a bubble, I assure you. I know what people have been saying about the show, and in defiance of it, CBS not only seems to be behind it all the way, the organization has also optioned another Twitter-feed-based sitcom. A look at the credits would sway someone inclined to draw opinion from credits (TV nerds all, I assure you), with a cast including Mad TV alums Nicole Sullivan and Will Sasso, a go-for-broke  lead in William Shatner, and an equally game Missi Pyle as a boss-from-Hell. An associate producer is Laura Kightlinger who, on her brief stint on Saturday Night Live, was one of the few bright spots of that otherwise unbalanced season of 1994/1995. $#*! was shepherded by the executive producers of Will and Grace, a show I wasn’t interested in, but at least showed a sliver of heart.

Not this. Even Fred Sandford had more warm fuzziness than Shatner’s Ed, a former workaday dad who is so estranged from his now-grown sons, the only thing separating him from true deadbeat status is that he allows Henry (played by Jonathan Sadowski) to live with him. Other than that it’s just one insult, put-down and hateful non-sequitur after another. Sasso plays the other son Vince who wants, more than anything else, to have some semblance of a loving relationship with his dad, and is glanced over again and again. Some might find the means by which he’s frequently rebuffed funny, but it struck me as genuinely sad. Surely, this is all leading up to a “very special episode” where one of these characters is on a hospital bed, bemoaning a possibly terrible fate, and the emotional doors creak open a tiny bit, but it will likely be chased quickly with a “full bedpan” gag.

The premise, that Ed is an unlikeable guy, a grouch prone to saying the wacky, the shocking, and the advertised $#*!, is only a third of the gas tank. You still need to fill the rest of that tank with the octane of characters that don’t send you sprinting to the phone to call the Department of Youth and Family Services. Ed is, in many respects, the male version of Estelle Getty’s Sophia from the Golden Girls, whose erratic lapses of verbal judgment were explained as “that door that shuts before something awful is said is permanently off its hinges.” And yet, even through her insults and gleeful taunting, the viewer sensed she loved her daughter Dorothy, as well as her dopey and slutty friends, no matter how often she called them dopey and slutty.

Ed, on the other hand, exudes contempt at every turn. He is a man that wishes he had worn the condom and is never afraid to say so. Without the benefit of several marriages, he would have died alone in a gutter somewhere, most likely spewing acid and blaming the world for his misfortunes. Yeah, a total barrel of laughs. With a clear-eyed captain at the helm, the show runners would have realized this one-note catastrophe needed to be written out, and super fast, but it’s hard to get rid of the dad when the show is called $#*! My Dad Says.

Fortunately, since there’s nothing remotely enjoyable to be seen here, the next time I fall on CBS, I’ll know to just roll over and keep falling. The conclusion should be much less painful.