$#*! My Dad Says: twitter phenom hits primetime

It all started with the Twitter feed: shitmydadsays. And within a few months a wannabe screenwriter had a golden TV contract in hand.

$#*! My Dad Says- William Shatner, Will Sasso, Nicole SullivanImage: CTV

By Heather Camlot

It all started with a Twitter feed.

After splitting with his girlfriend and moving back home to save money, Justin Halpern came to realize just how filthily endearing his father could be. In August 2009, he started a Twitter feed called shitmydadsays, featuring his pop’s potty-mouthed quips. Soon he had more than a million followers. A month later, literary agents came knocking with contracts in hand. By November, CBS and Warner Brothers had Halpern signed to write a pilot script for a television series. It’s a dream situation for any wannabe screenwriter.

But somehow the move seems kind of old-fashioned.

According to a recent Ipsos Reid report, Canadians are spending more time online (18.1 hours) than watching television (16.9 hours). “Today, online Canadians are finding a myriad of entertainment options available to them within the walls of their homes,” says Mark Laver, the study’s author. “While some entertainment content has simply shifted from television to online, the internet is also providing new content to Canadians.”

A number of companies – namely Apple TV, Google TV and Boxee– are picking up on the trend and attempting to sway viewers away from regular television broadcasting (and their cable providers) by streaming TV shows, movies and internet content right to the television for viewing anytime and anywhere.

Even CTV, the Canadian broadcaster for $#*! My Dad Says, is boasting about its online viewership. At the end of the 2009/2010 season, it reported a 55.5% increase in online video consumption from the year before. That’s 138.7 million video views. Sure, the ratings winners were primetime TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Amazing Race, but the popularity of on-demand media is evident.

$#*! My Dad Says isn’t the first web hit to move to television – homegrown Sanctuary comes to mind — but it certainly has the potential to be the biggest, especially with Quebec-born William Shatner as Halpern senior, as well as B.C.-born Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan (both MADtvalums) as his son and daughter-in-law. And from the screener, the show definitely has some good laughs (the pilot is said to include five quips from the Twitter feed).

Kudos to Halpern for his dream of becoming a television screenwriter come true. But based on the numbers, it’s a wonder whether making it onto television means making it in the entertainment business anymore — and if it does, how much longer that will last.

$#*! My Dad Says debuts September 26 on CTV.

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