A potty-mouthed 74-year-old man has become a Twitter sensation, a publishing darling and is on the verge of TV stardom. But it seems he's having trouble winning over at least one group of people: parents.
Earlier this week, the Parents Television Council issued a warning to 300 advertisers, urging them to boycott the upcoming CBS show "$#*! My Dad Says," based on a popular Twitter account launched by 29-year-old comedy writer Justin Halpern.
Since August 2009, Halpern has amassed more than 1.5 million Twitter followers by posting daily doses of his father' profanity-riddled reflections.
In a letter, the watchdog group said advertisers should stay away from the new show, unless "they wish to associate their hard earned brands with excrement."
"The Parents Television Council and its members want to know the names of each and every advertiser that chooses to associate its products and services with excrement. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use; yet CBS decided to use the 's-word' in the title of this show, putting its blatant contempt for children and families front and center," said PTC President Tim Winter. "Unless or until CBS chooses a different title for this program, we are urging advertisers to avoid sponsoring such an abomination purported to be lighthearted fun."
According to CBS, the show starring actor William Shatner will contain fairly mild language.
But, in its letter, the PTC said that isn't good enough.
"The premise of the show offers potential for good entertainment. The question is why CBS feels the need to shove harsh profanity into the faces of Americans through the program's title," Winter said.
The group said it requested a response from advertisers by Aug. 15 and would publicize the names of those companies that are supporting the show.
Advertisers seem unfazed by the parenting group's threat.
Greg Poulos, president of events agency Bluefin Productioins, told Reuters that the group's campaign might draw even more attention to the new TV program.
"The show's target demographics of 19- to 35-somethings make the Grandpa Network immediately hipper," he said.
"$#*! My Dad Says" is slated to launch this fall on CBS and loosely paralells the relationship between Halpern and his father. The show follows a best-selling book which caught a publisher's eye after Halpern's Twitter account started attracting followers by the thousands.
Commentary on the Everyday Attracts Thousands
At first glance, the "tweets" seem like snippets from mostly innocuous, slightly off-color family conversations:
"You need to flush the toilet more than once ... No, YOU, YOU specifically need to," reads one of the tamer posts on Halpern's Twitter page, which itself has a not-so-family-friendly Internet address. "You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet."
But Sam's crusty comments, even on subjects as mundane as a father-son breakfast, have managed to pull in readers by the thousands:
"Don't touch the bacon, it's not done yet. You let me handle the bacon, and i'll let you handle ... what ever it is you do. I guess nothing."
Among Halpern's Twitter followers are a number of social media-savvy celebrities.
Celebrities, Blogs, Book Publishers Praise Dad's Musings on Twitter
"The Daily Show's" Rob Corddry told the Twittersphere that it is "the best thing ever." Kristen Bell, star of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," recommended that her followers read it, "unless you're allergic to laughing hysterically."
Halpern said he waited about a month to tell his dad, a retired doctor who grew up on a Kentucky farm, that he had thousands of fans on the Internet -- and in Hollywood.
"I really just put these online just to keep a record of them," Halpern said, adding that, as an "angsty kid" he used to keep journals of his dad's more infuriating comments.
Halpern Created Twitter Account Without Dad's Knowledge
As he grew older, Halpern entertained friends by posting his dad's juiciest gems on his Google chat status. Soon after he moved in with his parents earlier this summer, a friend suggested he preserve them on Twitter.
So he started choosing one winner a day to post online.
"I honestly didn't think anyone but the five people I sent it to who knew my dad would find it funny," he said. But he woke up one day to find 40,000 new followers. And then 100,000. And then 200,000. And the numbers kept climbing.
"It's super weird. It's cool," he said. "I was not expecting any of that."
When he told his father about the book, Halperin says his dad had two stipulations: No interviews and no money.
"'I don't want any money. I have my own,'" Halperin recalled his dad's reaction.