Monday, October 18, 2010

Poll result and $#*!, it's a hair joke!

A truly surprising set of results. Only 19% of voters believe that Bill Shatner's current "Denny whatever-it-is" hair is a toupee. 21% believe that it's a straight up transplant, while a further 45% believe that it's a transplant sometimes supplemented with toupees or thickener (a total of 66% in favor of the transplant theory). 13% believe that it's a mysterious new technology possibly given to Bill Shatner by aliens. Thanks for voting!

Now to an interesting moment from the latest (fourth) episode of Bill Shatner's new sitcom $#*! My Dad Says!. Ed's (Shatner) older son Vince (Will Sasso) and his wife stop by the house to pick up some old baby pictures. Why? Watch below:

"Bonnie wants to hang some [pictures] in the house so when people come in they can see what I used to look like when I only had a few hairs on my head and those chubby cheeks," he says before turning to his father and giving him a probing grin. Ed, pauses to process the thought.

His younger son, Henry (Jonathan Sadowski) also throws a brief knowing grin in his father's direction.

On the surface, this is a joke about the son. He's still chubby and still has very few hairs on his head. But, as our (suddenly very busy) "Department of Toupological Symbolism, Artistic Criticism and Metaphorical Subtextual Interpretation" notes, this moment could have a deeper meaning too.

The son is bald, but why? His dad's gene's, right? And why is everyone looking at Bill Shatner at that moment and not at Vince? It's possibly a very subtle toupological reference, with the triple entendre implying that there is a similarity between the baby with "a few hairs on my head and those chubby cheeks" and Bill Shatner, who is a little, shall we say, round and also in real life has very few hairs on his head.

The actors are apparently visibly all aware of the sub-subtext of the moment, as evidenced by their expressions, with Bill Shatner also apparently willingly along for the ride (messing with our minds).

We can't leave this particular installment (called "Code Ed") without mentioning that the episode also features (the producers apparently pulled out all the stops - hair jokes and singing) a classic moment of Bill Shatner singing, including a reference to his infamous performance of "Rocket Man" back in the late 1970s.

Of the entire series, the prevailing view seems to be that it started off pretty bad, but is improving - "better, much better" starts a recent review. We entirely agree; the first two episodes, we think, were pretty bland, the third episode was better and the fourth (the one with the hair joke and singing) actually kind of good. See here for another review in which the writer, begrudgingly, shifts from disdain about $#*! My Dad Says to a sense that maybe the show isn't so bad after all - the phrases "continue to loathe" and "awesome" are both included...

So can this show become great? And will it survive or will it be canceled? The latter question is likely answered by a "no" for now - as the ratings are surprisingly strong. Of course, new shows like this can be canceled after six episodes, thirteen episodes, after one season...networks tend to commit to the life of such projects in small chunks, while the threat of the axe hovers from on high and ratings fluctuations are analyzed on a weekly basis. But for now, the show lives.

The first question is a little tougher to answer. When we first heard about the series and watched the initial clips from the pilot (which was subsequently re-cast and entirely re-shot - two pilots, where have we heard that before?), we were worried. An entire series based on saying things rather than doing them seemed to fly in the face of the most basic rules of any drama, including comedy. This, our staff thought, could be a disaster.

But the writers evidently figured out some of the inherent problems quite quickly. A surprising amount of word-of-mouth publicity likely compounded the fear among the show's producers of creating something mediocre or disastrous, especially with expectations and interest so high.

Meanwhile, the two main actors, the father and son pair portrayed by Bill Shatner and Jonathan Sadowski, have slowly developed a genuine chemistry as a classic double act. And that double act (Shatner as the funny man, Sadowski as the straight man) is where the potential for this series arguably lies.

Allowing Shatner to be Shatner (rather than having him sitting around in his armchair saying stuff) seems to be yielding results and gradually, slowly, the seeds of something special could be germinating.

But there are still, in our view, several problems: having the supporting characters of the married duo of Vince and Bonnie endlessly finding ways of wandering into Ed's house for a few minutes each episode seems very "outdated sitcom-style" and arguably doesn't quite work, often coming across as a distraction from the central plot. Nicole Sullivan as Bonnie, with the greatest respect to the actress' talents, we feel, doesn't work. Her character lacks any meaningful character dynamics with the two leading players. Should she be re-cast or indeed should both of these characters be dropped entirely? Perhaps, or at least change the way that they are used.

Secondly, as critics noted at the start of the series, the conventional road is proving to be the disappointing one. Be bolder. Be weirder. Be sillier. Be less conventional sitcom. Breaking the fourth wall with "Rocket Man" and hair in-jokes is great (too much of this could cheapen the effect, but the potential for stories is limitless). How about some stunt casting for guest stars? Crucially, the show as "$#*! My Dad Does" seems to work, while the homely, innocent tone arguably provides viewers an uplifting respite from real world gloom.

UPDATE: CBS has picked up the show for a full season.


  1. maybe walter koenig as shatner's brother who felt that shat wanted all the attention in their family when they were growing up and is still bitter about it.

  2. I don't know if $#*! My Dad Says will last. But Bill's plugs are good.

  3. Ratty Lost Years PeiceOctober 20, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Glad to see Shatner's new show is starting to build momentum and find an identity of its own. Based on these hair jokes, the producers should change the name to $#*! My Dad Wears on His Head.

    I'm not sure what Bill's got up there for the filming, but man, that thing is thick! I doubt that light can penetrate it, or bullets. ST, if this show is renewed for another season, please let us know, so I can buy stock in Toppik.