Monday, November 28, 2011

Orginially Posted on Blogcritics

The New Two and a Half Men With Ashton Kutcher is Over.

It took me a long time to get over the blatant misogyny of Two and a Half Men. I must have seen a really bad episode once and it turned me off. However, while visiting my 80-year-old mother four years ago, she insisted I watch it. We watched a new episode and I chuckled a bit. We then watched about five additional episodes in syndication during that visit. I was a convert! Once I returned home I made sure to catch up on all the episodes I had missed. I couldn’t help it. It was always on one channel or another.

I loved how the show was raunchy in some places and yet very clever. I decided it wasn’t misogynistic, it was a fantastic juxtaposition between the extremes in men: one sweet and sensitive man considered a “loser” and one man considered a “winner” who was up-front with what he wanted from women. The loser, Alan Harper (played by Jon Cryer) lived happily off his brother while trying to raise his son Jake (played by Angus T. Jones) after his divorce. The winner, the infamous Charlie Sheen, lives the lifestyle of which many people dream. The supporting cast of the disapproving mother Evelyn (played by Holland Taylor) and Berta (played by Conchata Ferrell) were a riot. Jane Lynch as the psychiatrist was truly wonderful.

We watched Jake grow up and into his role as a dumb-but-loveable teenager. We heard Berta tell her tales of an interesting past life and her disappointing family members and many of us could relate to her. Berta often stole the show, but then, at some point, each of the supporting cast did.

The “Squab” episode still makes me howl in laughter as I watch Jake finally break Evelyn, a feat neither Charlie nor Alan ever accomplished. Each season I wondered how they were going to keep the show interesting and funny. As Jake got older, so did Charlie. I was glad they brought in the colonoscopy episode (“Yay, no polyps!”) and showed Charlie’s mojo not being what it used to be. The writers were brilliant. Even though Alan was a mooch, there was humanity and kindness that surrounded him. Even though Charlie was a sleaze, he never lied to women about who he was. He was noble in his own way. The writers made these caricatures real to us and yet the viewer could see that, when all is said and done, this was a family. Speaking of family, I also loved the cameos with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. This show was about family: the quirks and the love-hate relationships.

Everyone by now knows the premise of the show and all the drama that ensued after Charlie had his breakdown. Everyone by now has their own opinion about the people involved and the aftermath. They “exploded” Charlie off the show so that he could never return; a transparent and vengeful act. I was so disappointed in the first Season 9 episode.

Last year, if Charlie had died, there would have been some meaningful feelings about Charlie’s death. After all, the family members were portrayed for eight seasons as loving each other in their own way. Not one tear was shed for Charlie. It was a tear-down of his character and it was not at all funny. Even if you abhor Charlie Sheen, I think it is the writers’ job to make the change seamless. We survived the changing Darrins on Bewitched, Spin City survived changing Michael J. Fox for Charlie Sheen, and Drew Carey took over for Bob Barker on The Price is Right with no problems. On Roseanne, they changed out the Becky character by talking smack about the Darrin change. It was very cleverly done. But in all cases of switching main characters, the shows that lasted have stayed true to the integrity of the show.

Ashton Kutcher was brought in to replace Charlie Sheen. The entire premise (a sad-sack billionaire lands on Charlie’s doorstep after a failed suicide attempt) was ridiculous. I was hoping they were going to bring Ashton in as Charlie’s illegitimate son, which I think would have had more depth of character.

Regardless, I wasn’t consulted, so we are stuck with this ludicrous plot. In the six episodes I have watched in the new Sheen-less season, I see nothing left of the original fun. Jake has become a conniving high-school-dropout wannabe, Alan has become a pathetic parasite, Berta has become nothing more than mean and lust-filled, and Ashton, well, he’s Ashton. First, why do they have Ashton naked all the time? He has a fine body, but it isn’t that great. Why do they have his hair long and stringy? He looks like Jesus. They make him out to have a big schlong and he is supposedly to-die-for attractive, but who wants to schtup Jesus? It’s gross.

My impression is they are trying to take our minds off the fact that Ashton Kutcher can’t act his way out of a paper bag. He was great on Punk’d but that was about it. Again, they didn’t ask my opinion but I think Daniel Tosh would have been a better addition to the cast. He has the same unapologetic manner of Charlie Sheen and has a dark, edgy humor. OK, maybe that’s crazy talk, but the thought of Tosh getting therapy from Jane Lynch made me laugh which is more than this new show has done. Speaking of laughter, the laugh-track on the new episodes is either way too loud or it only appears louder because no one else is laughing.

Berta used to be so funny but all she does now is fantasize over Ashton and take mean shots at Alan. Alan used to be the symbol of hope that life would get better if you try to be good in life. Now he is content living off a stranger. Jake used to be a great character because he was innocent and sweet. They are all so one-dimensional now that the show is painful to watch. This picture demonstrates how uncomfortable these actors are together. They don't even believe in themselves in this new season. In one week's show, Evelyn winds up in bed with Ashton. There is nothing fun about this turn of events.

I understand that there were “creative differences” with Charlie Sheen. And sure, Charlie made his own bed. I’m not asking for them to bring Charlie back. However, I don’t think it is too much to ask that the writers stay true to the original theme and keep the characters loveable and realistic. This new Two and a Half Men show really disappoints those of us who spent the last several years becoming immersed in the characters. I’ll continue to watch the show, but only in syndication. It seems to me that even the writers are done with this show and are now just going through the motions. Stick a fork in it CBS, it’s done.

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