Rebooted Two and a Half Men: About as Funny as a Funeral

Categories: Film and TV

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Don't worry: There are still fart jokes.

There's a choking bitterness to Two and a Half Men that has absolutely nothing to do with the recently departed Charlie Sheen. The season premiere, "Nice to Meet You, Walden Schmidt," was the series' attempt to reboot itself in the wake of Sheen's abrupt exit after a series of public tirades against the show's producers, the media, and the world in general. And as present-day multi-camera CBS sitcoms go, it was as predictable and broad and flat as you'd expect, right down to the transparent dialogue that the writers didn't even try to pretend wasn't about Sheen's epic mania.

But what really made the episode so off-putting was its weird hatefulness, and the way that air of self-loathing ran through every story, not just the bits about Sheen's character. This is a sitcom that's entering its ninth season, and it's been a Top 20 show every year. It has earned its status not as a comedy about characters worth liking or hanging out with, or even empathizing with, but about people who just shit on each other for 22 minutes a week. Ashton Kutcher's presence changes nothing. It doesn't matter what face you put on a body when there's no soul inside.

The episode opened with a funeral for Charlie Harper (Sheen) that sidestepped any semblance of reality, even sitcom reality, and just went for the easy jokes about Sheen's -- excuse me, "Charlie's" -- persona that felt dated back in April. Charlie likes sex, Charlie's crazy, Charlie used a woman's panties to make tea, etc. The thing is that there's nothing wrong with staging a funeral for a major character after the actor's public meltdown. The TV shows we watch have entire pop culture identities of which the actual episodes are only a small part. We all know Sheen was fired, and that there's no way around that but by killing his character. Yet the show missed out on some potentially great (well, good) comedy by making the funeral a public venting session instead of a joke at the expense of the characters who are still around. Jon Cryer's Alan felt like a spokesman for creator Chuck Lorre, not a neurotic guy whose brother just died. The creators forgot that, though Sheen was fired, Charlie Harper actually lost his life. The episode ceased to be a TV show and just became a read-through of Lorre's blog.

It just got weirder from there. Alan, forced to sell Charlie's house, entertained a number of potential buyers that turned out to be guest stars/characters from Lorre's other series. John Stamos showed up as, ostensibly, John Stamos. Then Dharma and Greg showed up, played again by Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson. Dharma & Greg ended its run a year and a half before Two and a Half Men debuted, but let me refresh your memory: They were a slightly mismatched couple but still very much in love, and not the bitter, sniping, making-jokes-about-divorce-and-suicide people Lorre's had them become. But what do you expect? Two and a Half Men started out revolving around a hopeless cad who used women like Kleenex and his sour brother who hated every second of his existence. How could two happy characters walk into a world like that?

Eventually, Ashton Kutcher shows up and plays Ashton Kutcher, or at least the on-screen version of himself he crafted on That '70s Show. He's drifty and dopey, utterly at ease with the world around him. This is a bit of a tough sell since his character, Walden Schmidt, is technically dealing with a broken heart after being dumped by his wife. But Kutcher, at least in the context of this show, can't find anything remotely approximating emotional depth. He's just kind of there. Walden's a dot-com billionaire, and by the end of the episode he announced he's buying Alan's house. From here, he'll decide to let Alan and Half Man live with him while they get into a series of bitter and unfun misadventures. It doesn't happen in this episode, but come on. We all read the papers.

Walden's a pretty standard replacement character, meaning he's the tonal opposite of Charlie. Charlie drank constantly, but Walden doesn't like the taste of booze; Charlie was a sociopathic man-child who saw women as disembodied vaginas, but Walden's a romantic with a broken heart; etc., etc. But again, it doesn't matter. That's all surface. There's no heart or brain to back it up. The ensemble has changed slightly, but the broad jokes, bitter pills, and hate masquerading as humor aren't going anywhere. Two and a Half Men can end in May or live for years to come. Its empty legacy is secure.

Scattered thoughts:

• "He used my panties to make tea." Actual line of dialogue from the funeral scene. Couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

• I don't recall Angus T. Jones speaking in this episode. He farted, though.

• Right after Dharma and Greg left, Alan got another visitor: a delivery man played by Joel Murray. What makes this kind of mind-splittingly surreal is that Murray actually starred on Dharma & Greg as Pete, Greg's friend and coworker. He wasn't some random player, either. He was in every episode. Elfman and Wilson get walk-ons as old characters they've long since abandoned, and they probably got a nice check out of it. Murray plays a nameless courier who delivers Charlie's ashes. Hollywood's a fickle bitch.

• Wait, OK, Angus Jones did speak. At his uncle's funeral, he said, "I'm hungry." Hilarious!

• I've never felt as old as I did watching the ads for other CBS shows. Hawaii Five-O? Jeff Probst? Seventeen different NCIS and CSI titles? Who lives like this?


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19 comments
Ginny
Ginny

The show is awful now.  Without Charlie Sheen it is nothing- Ashton does not 'cut' it here, he does not fit in well and his character is really terrible.  I don't know which writer thought he was a good idea or put that character together but THEY should be fired instead.  Lorre used that first show for his own ego and to let people know HIS point of view. Big deal - you could read that anywhere you wanted on any day at any time. I personally find Lorre to be a big blowhard with an ego to match.  I won't watch the show and no one else I know likes it anymore.  We've all turned it off and then we go to channel 7 or to cable until 9:30 - and then we flip back for MIKE AND MOLLY. 

Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson

I'm late to respond to this but I agree that the episode wasn't that funny. They could've did way better during the funeral. If they wanted to make jokes, why not do it Roast style? The jokes they used seemed bland and generic. I'm not so concerned about Jones' lines. I don't think he could've said much that would be funny since him and Charlie were kinda close (on the show). I would have liked to have seen more guest stars but I guess Chuck just wanted people from his past shows so never mind (not a big deal). The rest of the episode was ok but not as funny as past episodes were. Has anyone watched it since the premiere? Has it gotten better?

Capnrichie
Capnrichie

It would seem that the writers left with Sheen. The show simply is not funny but sophomoric. Please, someone tell the writers that Walden's self pity will get funny no matter how long the laugh tracks are played. 

Robert Larson
Robert Larson

I watched the first show with Ashton, not impressed. Then I watched the show last night. 10/3 2011. A whiney crybaby, that gets into a food fight with a little girl. WTF? I'll just stick with Monday night football.  The new show is crap. I give it 3 or 4 more weeks before it's over. Not even close to what It used to be. I still watch the old reruns though. Sheen, is Charlie Harper, a womaniser and a cad, but he was believable. The show was based on his real life. Ashton is still Kelso. but without any story line and Kelso was supposed to be shallow and stupid.Sorry but Ashton Kutcher has no range as an actor. The original show with Charlie Sheen was, by far a better show. Better inuindo, and Charlie Harper may have been a bad boy, but he did have a heart of gold. Hey Charlie Sheen, it looks like you are "WINNING". And I am glad for you.

KATE
KATE

Dharma was Frankie in two and a half men too. soo as I'd never watched Dharma&Greg I was seriously confused. Plus the delivery guy was the man from the dmv in series 1 or 2

Leo Gates
Leo Gates

Having read you review, if I didn't know better I'd have guessed the series limped through 1 season; moreover, this is Hollywood and it very much matters what kind of face you put on a body, soul or no soul.  Don't be so negative right out of the gate.  Give it time.

Jlpleo
Jlpleo

I knew it would start with a Funeral scene! Because no on could fill Charlies shoes! This show wont last the season! Too bad....Charlie will be back!

David Whitten
David Whitten

What would you expect from CBS?  The original show was rather boring as well.  But, attempting to insert another actor is the CBS way.  Yes, I found the first show to good for slow regularity. 

Scottiemac
Scottiemac

Don't worry too much about Joel Murray. He did have a line (about the package being from a crematorium) and he has been back on Mad Men as the newly sober Freddy Rumsen. MM - not a bad gig.

BILL W WOOD
BILL W WOOD

Last time I will watch this 'new' pathetic show... was last night.  If the producer, stars, writers, etc. had any brains at all... Charlie would have died in a respectful manner.  After all l, Charlie did allow his looser brother (Allen) to live at his home almost rent free for years... putting up with his near constant whining and complaining.  For over 20 minuets... the 'Star' that made this show what it was... was totally bashed by all of his family and friends.  Aston K is nothing but an over Hollywood glorified cave-man... and the only two attributes he made to the show is that he is a billionaire... and supposedly has a big penis... that is suppose to now cause all of the women to admire and want him.  This showed died when Charlie was dismissed.  Bill W Wood.

MPerorsNuClothes
MPerorsNuClothes

... did they even try to make a go at continuing the show? Because I didn't believe a second of that $#!+ that aired last night! It was like watching Howard Stern hating someone for a half-hour, except Mr. Stern (aka The King Of All Media [pha-pah-phooey]) does it with style!

Damn, I really, REALLY tried to be neutral, NOT being a Kutcher-fan & loving Charlie Sheen's potrayal of Charlie Harper in the past, but I think it's fair to say I didn't laugh ONCE! Even Alan, Evelyn, Berta & Rose didn't do it for me! And what was with Jake? Did he even have a line? And Kutcher did his usual yawn of a performance. It should be illegal for that guy to be allowed to be called an actor. Him, Kevin Costner & Ben Affleck are walking, breathing flat-lines.

Bottom-line is, you cannot make a Superman film WITHOUT Superman, stands to reason you can't do Two And A Half Men without Charlie Harper! And there it is! Last night all the hate that the behind-the-scenes big-wigs spewed was supposed to be at Sheen, BUT it looked like they hated Charlie Harper! Y'know the guy we (& they) laughed at & with for many a season!

If last night is an example of the direction this series is going, they seriouly need to re-title the show, "Let's-Hate-Charlie-Sheen And A Half Men.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I can't  believe I watched this, but I did. The tea line was disgusting. I was so excited when Elfman & Gibson showed up but then they weren't Dharma and Greg AT ALL, so that sucked, too.

I hated this show when Sheen was on and somehow it's even worse. No need to season pass this one on the DVR.

Jlpleo
Jlpleo

I believe Charlie Sheen was LHAO! And If I were his agent, I would be preparing for his return to the show for about 3 mill an episode!

Me
Me

I thought it was funny.You sound like a dumb cnunt!

Tfan0927
Tfan0927

I've been an avid fan of 2 and a Half men from the beginning.  I tuned in last night out of curiosity and it confirmed to me that there is no show without Charlie Sheen.  I found the funeral scene to be out of taste and disrespectful.  There was no comedic chemistry between Jon Cryer and Aston Kutcher .  I don't see how CBS thought they could continue this show without Sheen.  I know ratings were high for the premiere, but I think it was more out of curiosity than anything else.  I won't be tuning in again.

Jaycee
Jaycee

I totally agree.Charlie was a bad boy,but he never went naked on the show,or had nudity,if Ashton K has to pose nude to be funny,then it wont last long.it is a family show,we will see what happens after a couple more weeks,but he is not Charlie!!!!! thats what made the show.

Me
Me

A family show?  I wouldn't say a show based on sexual innuendos every 5 minutes is a family show.  lolYou people are morons!!!!

Too funny.

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