The Complete First Season
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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
ersonally, I’ve always been a fan of Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer. Granted, Sheen has been in his fair share of both theatrical and straight-to-video duds over the years, and Cryer was most visible in the ‘80s through his various film work. He had a starring role in the short-lived TV show “The Famous Teddy Z,” but for whatever reasons the series wasn’t too memorable. Suffice it to say, then, that the always hilarious and wonderfully written “Two and a half Men” is probably the best thing that both Sheen and Cryer have been involved with so far in their careers. And with the show currently in its fifth season, it shows no signs of stopping. It’s simply one of those rare TV comedies that doesn’t play it for dumb yuks or the lowest common denominator. It has always been a smart, funny and often warm series with a perfect ensemble cast.
Stuck in the middle of that cast is Angus T. Jones, the “half” portion of the show’s title. In the pilot episode of “The Complete First Season” Cryer’s character Alan Harper suddenly finds himself being dumped by his wife, who lets on that she might be a lesbian. Alan has no recourse but to phone his jingle-writing brother Charlie (Sheen) and ask if it’s okay if he and his son Jake (Jones) move in temporarily. Of course, this temporary situation turns out to be more of a permanent thing, as Alan and wife Judith (Marin Hinkle) start the process of divorce during the course of the first season.
At first Charlie finds all of this too much to take, as Alan’s straight-laced semi-dorky nature is hard to deal with. But Jake warms to Charlie’s wild style of life, and soon finds himself playing poker for Charlie, learning the facts of life through Charlie’s myriad one night stands, and basically finds a second father through his uncle. Charlie, too, finds himself bonding with Jake and it brings out a side of him that he previously had not known. Together, Sheen and Cryer are the perfect joke guy and straight man, with the writers giving equal time to Cryer’s comedic talents. And there hasn’t been a better kid actor than Angus T. Jones in a long, long time. He has been consistently both hilarious and completely believable during the series’ entire run, and in this debut season, there is no “breaking in” period -- the kid is simply golden.
Most of the episodes in the first season revolve around Charlie, Alan and Jake getting to know one another and each others’ ways. Charlie often delights in making fun of Alan’s job as a chiropractor, while Alan cannot help but chide Charlie for the excessive lifestyle that being a successful jingle writer has brought him. Often, Charlie tries his damnedest to help Alan break out of his shell and become more like him, attempting to set him up with hot women and get him back into the dating pool, much to Alan’s dismay. He truly believes that he and Judith can “work things out,” even though she’s going through a sexual identity crisis, which is often played to hilarious effect, but never in a negative or belittling way, much to the writers’ credit.
The supporting actors are equally important here. Holland Taylor plays Evelyn, the overbearing mother of Charlie and Alan, who seems to have a drinking problem and loves to live the wild life as well, which Charlie and Alan both can’t seem to get a handle on. Then there is Melanie Lynskie as Rose. She is one of Charlie’s neighbors, and one with whom he had a one night stand. She also turns out to be quite a nut job. A sexy and hilarious nut job, mind you, but one with some obvious mental problems that add to the darker comedic side of the show.
But that’s what makes this series so enjoyable, especially the first season. Just watching the actors bounce off of each other effortlessly, and getting the big laughs genuinely, is refreshing to see these days on TV. The writers are to be commended for daring to go the darker route, turning serious everyday problems that we all encounter into laughs that we can all also appreciate. Through this season’s 24 episodes, the viewer really gets the sense that the writers care about their stories. The actors making them come to life, and vice-versa. “Two and a half Men” is truly one of the best TV comedies ever, period.
Special Features: This four-disc set sports all 24 episodes of the first season, as well as the featurette “Two Adults, One Kid, No Grown-Ups,” a behind-the scenes look, that is well worth watching, to get a glimpse of just how perfectly this show is made. There’s also a “backstage tour” with Angus T. Jones that makes for an amusing watch, and finally a gag reel and outtake portion that is as laugh-out-loud-funny as any of the episodes. The fun these guys have on the set is palpable and a joy to watch. “Two and a half Men – The Complete First Season” is a smart and genuinely funny comedy, a gem that is well worth being part of your TV DVD series collection.