The way I see it, when it comes to Charlie Sheen, the rest of the world is only just now catching up to where I’ve been for a long time: I’ve never found him a charming rogue. For at least a decade, I’ve found him an unbearable, entitled a**hole.
Which is probably why I’ve never seen an episode of Two and a Half Men before. Which isn’t to say I wasn’t aware of it. It’s one of those shows that’s so incredibly popular that you have some “sense” of what it is and what it’s about even if you’ve never seen it.
But like the rest of the world, I was curious to see how they’d kill Sheen’s character and bring in a high-profile movie star like Ashton Kutcher to replace him, so I watched last night’s episode.
It was actually a bit better than I expected. (I happened to also watch the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother last night, and let’s just say: Two and a Half Men looked a lot better after that! Oh, man, talk about a show that’s running on fumes!)
The show opened on “Charlie’s” funeral, and since they used “name” actresses as mourners, I can only assume this was all a big in-joke at Sheen’s expense that I didn’t quite get (I don’t follow Charlie Sheen’s career either).
But the show quickly got to the introduction of Kutcher’s character, potential suicide and internet billionaire Walden Schmidt, and then the episode wisely became a two-man (pun intended) show between Kutcher and Jon Cryer.
Everyone is saying the same thing about Kutcher, but I’ll say it too: everyone forgets that he got his big break in a sitcom (That 70s Show). He knows his sitcom timing, and he knows exactly how broad to go without going over-the-top (a lesson the cast and writers of How I Met Your Mother would do well to learn!).
One of the gimmicks of the character is that Walden likes to get naked. In front of everyone, even people he doesn’t know. He hugs people while naked. He doesn’t see this as strange, and apparently this has never been an issue in his life before. This makes absolutely no sense, of course, but hey, it’s Ashton Kutcher naked. Allowances must be made.
Another of the show’s running jokes is that Walden, despite trying to kill himself, has actually won life’s lottery: he’s tall, gorgeous, a billionaire, and “hung like an elephant” (which is a variation on a theme I wrote about earlier this year, about how when celebrities play themselves on TV, the writers always give them massive penises: apparently, when attracting big movie stars to TV roles, it helps to give them big penises too!).
So how’d the show do on our SnapCap meter?
BEEFCAKE: Aston Kutcher naked? I believe this speaks for itself.
HEART/DRAMA: This definitely isn’t “heart,” but I have to say, I thought the show was deliciously, hilariously cruel about the “Charlie” character (and, by implication, about Charlie Sheen). Hosing vomit off of hookers? Women who complain about an endless stream of STDs? Wow. I guess these are all old Charlie Sheen jokes at this point, but still, kudos for actually going there about an ex-co-worker!
AFTERELTON BAIT: No gay characters, but an interesting joke about a threeway “gone bad” between Charlie, John Stamos, and a woman: the woman passed out, but Charlie and John “kept going.” Again, there’s no way someone would actually say this to the guy’s mother, especially the day after his funeral. But John Stamos getting it on with another guy, even if that guy is Charlie Sheen, is a pleasant enough image in my mind. And then there was Alan (Cryer’s character) telling Walden he couldn’t stop thinking about his penis.
HUMOR: It’s not Modern Family, but Kutcher and Cryer are both gifted comedians (as are Holland Taylor and Conchata Farrell), and the episode was pretty consistently funny. It was a great bit when Walden surprised Cryer and he spilled the ashes, but the pay-off to the joke was that no one really cared. “Oh, I’ll dust-bust it later.” But fart jokes? Often the show went for the very, very broad and obvious. Why do three-camera sitcoms always feel the need to do this while one-camera ones usually don’t?
PRODUCTION VALUES/ACTING: Like Frasier (or Modern Family), the cast is uniformly good (although I’m wondering why the kid, who I assume is the “half” man, had no actual lines, just a fart or two. Is he really that bad?).
Truthfully, I probably won’t watch another episode of Two and Half Men. But I am curious to know if the Ashton-Kutcher-naked (which is obviously also a running gag in his career) will continue to factor into the show.