Grumpy old man to star in first Twitcom

Popular Twitter feed about irascible father snapped up by US network
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The Independent Online

First Hollywood bought up computer games to harvest them for script ideas. Then agents started to search for bloggers keen to make the leap to televised entertainment. And now Twitter has made the same landmark cultural jump, in the form of a sitcom based on 140-character missives from a curmudgeonly father.

It might seem that "shitmydadsays", a hugely popular feed that reprises the bilious highlights of one hangdog old man's unique world view, would be a little thin on material. There are, after all, only 73 tweets in the account.

But in the few months since they started to appear, the messages have gained hundreds of thousands of followers, whose enthusiasm has been enough to convince the American network CBS that the concept could sustain a prime-time show, to be produced by the team behind the hit series Will and Grace.

The Twitter feed is the brainchild of one Justin Halpern, a writer living with his parents in San Diego. Encouraged by friends who were amused by his peevish dad's sense of humour, he began to post highlights of 73-year-old Sam's remarks.

They largely consist of complaints and advice on topics ranging from the idiosyncrasies of modern technology to the vagaries of his diet. "I didn't live to be 73 years old so I could eat kale," the first post reads, presumably referring to the frustrations of living with his 29-year-old son. "Don't fix me your breakfast and pretend you're fixing mine."

In another post, raging at the health-consciousness of his nearest and dearest, he exclaims: "How should I know if it's still good? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn't good. You people, you think I got microscopic eyes."

The prospective show, thought to be the first Twitter-based sitcom, showcases how the instantaneous social network is rapidly moving from the tech-savvy fringes to the mainstream. The site's growing popularity has made successful feeds prime targets for enterprising agents looking for reliable indicators that an idea has the necessary resonance with viewers.

But Halpern Jr, who also has a book deal with HarperCollins, remains bemused by the runaway success of his brainchild, which has gone from a standing start on 3 August to 762,091 followers yesterday afternoon. "I honestly didn't think anyone but the five people I sent it to who knew my dad would find it funny," he said.

For Sam Halpern, who is deeply suspicious of the internet and keeps his own computer offline, it has all come as something of a surprise. Perhaps fearing the full brunt of his father's derision, Justin initially kept his postings a secret: when he was offered a book deal, though, he realised he would have to come clean. To his son's relief, Sam – an intensely private man – saw the funny side, warned that he would do no interviews, and then demanded help finding his mobile phone.

Justin Halpern, meanwhile, will be taken on as a writer and executive producer on the show. The success of his project has offered a baffling route back to a career he had all but given up on. A previous stint in Hollywood, trying to get a script of his own produced, ended in tears.

"It's ironic to think that I busted my ass trying to get my own writing out there, and what has been successful for me is something I didn't even write," Halpern, now a writer for maxim.com, told the Wall Street Journal.

Even so, his father has insisted that he will take no money from the popularity of his miserable outlook. Indeed, if the Tweets in his name are anything to go by, he may be sceptical about whether his son's new-found success is even good news. "Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser," one says. "You don't realise until later that it's because it fucked you."

Top tweets: The best one-liners

* The baby will talk when he talks, relax. It ain't like he knows the cure for cancer and he just ain't spitting it out.

* Oh please, you practically invented lazy. People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it.

* That woman was sexy... Out of your league? Son. Let women figure out why they won't screw you, don't do it for them.

* Remember how you used to make fun of me for being bald? No, I'm not gonna make a joke. I'll let your mirror do that.

* You're like a tornado of bullshit right now. We'll talk again after your bullshit dies out over someone else's house.

* Just pay the parking ticket. Don't be so outraged. You're not a freedom fighter in the civil rights movement. You double parked.

* I'm sitting in one of those TGI Friday's places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth.

* Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cellphone does. You didn't invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.

* Why would I want to live to 100? I'm 73 and shit's starting to get boring. By the way, there's no money left when I go, just fyi [for your information].

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