When you go to a taping of CBS' new sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, you actually get two shows rolled into one. The first is the four camera sitcom based on the blog, Twitter feed, and bestselling book of the same name, starring William Shatner, Jonathan Sadowski, Will Sasso, and Nicole Sullivan. The other is the "William Shatner Show."
The veteran TV star is always a little off-beat and kooky, so admittedly My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture was a bit worried about just how long it would take for him to get through each scene. Shatner is a pro, but he likes to riff with the best of them. Unlike most other sitcoms that do a take, rewrite a couple of lines, and then do a new take, $#*! My Dad Says plays off its actors strengths and lets them be loose even if not quite adlibby.
Sometimes they slightly talk over each other; often they catch each other off-guard and make them break character with a smile or a chuckle; but they always manage to keep the dialogue feeling real and relatable. Shatner may not change lines on purpose or because he doesn't think they're funny, but inevitably from take to take he will challenge his scene partner and mix it up a little, even if only with emphasis or inflection. This allows the camera crew to just "roll through" takes, but it has to be a killer in the editing room!
Shatner also puts on a show for the live studio audience. While the cameras are being reset, or in the case of the episode My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture sat in on, set walls being moved in and one room transformed into another, Shatner repeatedly stood in front of the audience bleachers and talked about the process or just plain made everyone laugh. His openness allowed his co-stars to do the same, and Sadowski in particular seemed to enjoy watching the warm-up guy interact with those in the audience who had traveled from far and wide to be there that evening. It's nice to see that no matter what level of fame they're at, they're still genuinely enjoying their time on set!
Admittedly some of the humor in $#*! My Dad Says relies on the stereotypes of generation gaps between father (Shatner) and son (Sadowski), but the relationships are all so endearing that they don't come off as "hammy." Sasso and Sullivan manage to pull off playing a married couple who banter without bickering; they have such a rich history (their acting education included bouncing off each other on the sketch comedy show MADtv) that they feel like a real couple even in the short few minutes of screen time they are given.
Shatner steals the scenes, as expected, but the supporting cast around him is so great their characters will have to be expanded and evolved as the episodes go on. With Shatner getting the lines that made over a million Twitter followers both LOL and actually laugh, that often makes Sadowski the straight man. But it is a title he wears well. He brings real heart and often manages to ground the scenes which allows for some tender moments rather than just over-the-top reactions. It's why My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture named him as one of the Fresh Faces to Watch, after all!
$#*! My Dad Says premieres on CBS on September 23rd. My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture will certainly be tuning in to see if the fun of being on set and watching the scenes and characters come to life live in front of me will translate to watching via the solitary nature of the television screen.