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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
t says quite a bit about America when “Two and a Half Men” is the most popular sitcom on TV. It’s a foul, misogynistic, relentlessly immoral program. It also happens to be very, very funny. For all of the many cries of longing for a different, more innocent time, the truth is this country has loved this trashy show for seven years now, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that love slowing down. Even its lead actor being arrested on charges of domestic violence and all the legal brouhaha that ensued doesn’t appear to have tainted America’s view of Charlie Sheen or the program itself. I’m not here to judge, but it’s impossible not to take into account some of this stuff at this stage of the game. So what’s the lesson here, kids? You can beat your wife, but as long as there’s a good fart joke after the fact, everything will be all right? Stars have fallen for far more mundane reasons, and yet we keep giving Sheen a free pass. Color me perplexed. Also color me guilty, because I, too, still think it’s a funny show, and tend to put these facts out of mind while the DVDs are spinning.
In any case, allow me to at least explain that I never bothered with this show for the first five or so years it was on. It wasn’t until I became addicted to “The Big Bang Theory,” which followed “Two and a Half Men” for a season or two, that I begrudgingly started giving it a chance. Turns out, I really liked the show, although now that “Big Bang” is on Thursday nights, I haven’t found myself tuning in to “Men” on Monday nights. So clearly I didn’t like it that much. The problem with this show isn’t that it isn’t any good, it’s just that it really only excels in two areas: Bathroom humor and sex jokes. And yet you have to give it a kind of credit for that when there’s a surplus of writers in Hollywood who can’t get either of those things right. Its plots may be wholly unmemorable, but boy is it the master of double entendre.
Most series would’ve started running out of steam by their seventh season, but not “Two and a Half Men.” If anything, it may even be at the height of its flatulent powers. It’s anyone’s guess as to why this is, but part of it may have to do with the fact that the half a man, Jake (Angus T. Jones), is a teenager at this point. He’s now at the age where he can get in on the jokes, and be a part of them, and while I have grave doubts that he’s going to have much of a career outside of this show, he’s the perfect middleman between his slicker-than-shit Uncle Charlie (Sheen) and his doofus of a father Alan (Jon Cryer).
Speaking of Cryer, it’d be tempting to describe him as having the most thankless job on TV, if not for the fact that he actually won an Emmy a couple years ago, all for playing a total boob once a week. It’s painful to watch what this man puts himself through over and over again, never learning a lesson. But that’s the key to earning the “long-running” label for sitcoms – don’t allow the characters to change. People don’t like change. They tune in every week for comfort, not to have their world rocked. The suits know this, and that’s why Sheen is now earning an alleged $1.88 million an episode. 1.88 million dollars – to show up and basically play a version of yourself week in and out. You do the math.
The series rarely offers up a “great” episode. They’re all pretty much variations on the same type of fare. If you like one, you’ll like the rest. This year revolves heavily around Charlie’s relationship with Chelsea (Jennifer Taylor), who’s just a doll, and totally undeserving of the prison cell that is Charlie Harper. Good thing the show knows this, too, because they only make it about two thirds of the way through the season before splitting up. Actually, there is one particularly memorable installment involving Chelsea’s parents, and then later just her father, played by Stacey Keach, as you’ve never seen him before. I’d tell you what goes down, but that wouldn’t really be fair, would it?
Chances are you already know whether or not this show is for you, and chances are, given the ratings, it is for you. And that’s cool, because it’s kinda sorta for me, too. What’s worrisome is that it may be for my mom as well. Good thing I turned her on to “The Big Bang Theory” last year.
Special Features: “A Charlie Harper Ex Reunion” is a 10-minute interview featurette with all of the actresses who play Charlie’s exes in his pot-induced hallucination in the season's penultimate episode, “Gumby with a Pokey.” It’s nothing more than a talking heads and clips piece where they all discuss his character. There is also a gag reel.