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STUDIO Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME 484 minutes
“So a nerd, a sex addict, and a teenager move into a house together…see, that’s the joke here, guys.”
Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, and Angus T. Jones
Season eight of Two and a Half Men have the same shenanigans happening as the other seasons. Charlie is still a sex craving booze hound, Alan is still pursuing meaningful relationships, and the half man Jake is more of an idiot than ever. This season, you get Alan burning down a house, though. And a mannequin wedding. That makes it different enough.
Inoffensively offensive. That’s what this show is. That is the entire nature and purpose of this show and it HAS to be why it’s been so popular for so long. It’s also incredibly consistent on the delivery of the safe sex jokes, which is why I give this show a fair review. I’ll explain why much later. But, now, the reason you people read these columns: my personal opinion.
I don’t know why you would even start watching this show with season eight (Yet, that’s exactly what I did.). Perhaps its the morbid curiosity factor connected with this season. This was Charlie Sheen’s last hurrah on the show before he had his body drained and refilled with cocaine and tiger blood. You can definitely see how gaunt he looks, but it certainly doesn’t affect his performance on the show in the slightest. Granted, you don’t watch Two and a Half Men for the nuanced performances. Sheen is playing a character named “Charlie,” a character for whom it would not be terribly out of the way to have his body drained and refilled with cocaine and tiger blood. So to say that Sheen is giving a convincing performance would be…well, it would be pointless, wouldn’t it?
Keeping with critiquing performances, let’s talk about the other one and a half men. So you have the kid, Jake, who doesn’t really have a character. He exists as a joke machine, a teenager so devoid of intelligence that you’ve got to laugh at him. Except it’s not particularly funny. For example, in one episode, Jake and his friend make a Jackass knockoff called “Dumbass.” They proceed to engage in stunts that involve Coke and Mentos, falling off of a roof in a shopping cart, and I’m assuming something else (rule of threes). That’s the writers’ idea of doing something funny with this character. Mind you, this was only two years ago, so Jackass’s relevance was not particularly prevalent. That’s pretentious language for saying this stuff is old and tired. The joke is that Jake’s stupid. The whole show.
Which brings us to Alan, played by Jon Cryer. It sucks that Cryer is surrounded by all the terribleness that is this show because he actually ekes out some humor. He doesn’t have any funny lines, per se, but his deliveries are always unique and humorous. Add to that Cryer’s over-the-top physicality combined with the somewhat conservative nature of Alan and it makes for a character that can be tolerated. I say tolerated because Alan is still some sex-crazed semi-sociopath that’s also a manchild despite being an accomplished chiropractor. For all the attempts that Alan makes in doing the right thing, he is lambasted even more.
I know I’m pondering the nature of a sitcom where being in love with your stalker because, “they were always there for you” is rational logic (Real plot line, gang.). And I’ve never sold a sitcom before, so I can’t technically say why the audience loves one show, but hates another. I have, however, consumed an inordinately large amount of media, so much so that it might precipitate some people to go, “Dear heavens, why don’t you go outside and toss a ball around, you doof?,” to which I would reply, “What’s a ball?” I feel like this gives me license to talk about why this show doesn’t work as well as it should.
I also watched Big Bang Theory this year for a DVD review and, this being the second Chuck Lorre co-created show I’ve watched, I’ve noticed a pattern. Chuck Lorre has complete disdain for all of the characters under his CBS wheelhouse. I haven’t watched Mike & Molly, but I bet dollars to donuts that they are equally not cared about. You see, Lorre has this thing he does where he doesn’t create one sympathetic protagonist. Not one. You can’t sympathize with any of the characters because the world those characters inhabit constantly ridicule them. Furthermore, the characters within the world ridicule each other. There isn’t some kind of standard that these people are striving towards.
I realize that this is a modular sitcom that we’re talking about, but the great sitcoms have some sort of goal within them that they strive towards along with some kind of “moral” center. Roseanne, for example. That sitcom was a great sitcom for the most part. You can relate to Roseanne because she’s a blue collar woman that’s working a billion jobs just to have her family squeak out a living. She’s incredibly flawed, but you understand those flaws because you know that she is striving towards a better world. She might be loud, rude, and a whole bunch of other descriptors, but, at the end of the day, you knew Roseanne was a person of a decent cloth because she had a consistent conviction that she tried to imbue her family with. In the world she inhabited, she was a good person and you knew it.
Let’s compare that to Charlie Harper of Two and a Half Men. Charlie drinks a bunch and has sex with a tremendous amount of hookers. That’s not particularly good, but it can also be the moral that this show can strive towards. It’s a sucky, misogynist world, but if the universe says that’s the moral, that’s the moral. The show definitely glorifies this lifestyle, too. When Jake has two women leave his room in the morning, Charlie congratulates him and their made finds it hard to believe Jake could be so lucky. Yet, when Charlie goes to therapy, he says he wants a stable, lasting relationship. I suppose that life is full of these inconsistencies and people are complex, but Charlie, the “cool” guy, has two different, diametrically opposing goals. There are two moral universes that exist with this statement, made all the more prevalent by the fact that we also laugh at Charlie’s lifestyle. We laugh with and laugh at Charlie sleeping with hookers because he’s cool but he’s also not monogamous. For TV, you have to pick one or the other or else you muddle the statement you’re trying to make.
Because all television has to have a statement.
Please know I’m being facetious. Please know I’m not that pretentious. Please.
So let’s go back to the inoffensively offensive part of the review. After dissecting why Two and a Half Men doesn’t work, the show actually works. I know, muddled goals and crap, but it does. The show never acts like it’s trying to change the world or even tell a story. It’s 22 minutes of inoffensively offensive sex jokes. It rarely devolves into character examination and, when it does, it spends maybe a minute on it. The show is consistent in tone and accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, which is be raunchy to middle America. It demeans women, sex is the only joke, you never see any of the lewd acts that Charlie allegedly takes part in and only hear about them, and having lots of sex is awesome and the ultimate goal, but you have to be monogamous and have lots of sex because that’s what middle America wants. It’s a show that seems written by 15 year olds, but is consistently written by 15 year olds. If you’re looking for that kind of a show, here it is and it is the best at being that. If you’re looking for a nuanced comedy that mines the gold out of a makeshift family of men living together…not really here.
Nothing. Not one thing. Not even a trailer for anything. Not even a production designer saying, “Boy, we sure put a lot of design into the shirts this season, making us the greatest show on television.”
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars