After months of highly anticipated public feuding, substance abuse, failed stage shows, manic behavior, and WINNING, “Two and a Half Men” finally returned to say goodbye to Charlie Sheen’s character, and welcome in his replacement. I must admit that I have never been an avid fan of this show, but was curious to see if the premiere would live up to the hype. Judging by the high ratings (27.8 million viewers), so were a few other people.
The show begins with Charlie’s funeral, as Alan (Jon Cryer) is attempting to eulogize his late brother in a packed house, filled with bowling shirts, scorned ex’s with rants of STDs, and others with an axe to grind against the now deceased character. If you’re wondering how his character died… he cheated on his “wife” three days into the marriage, and she threw him in front of a train. Harper’s mother used the occasion to announce that the house was up for sale, and guest star Martin Mull took shots at Charlie’s excessive drug use. Much like The Office finale, possible replacements for Sheen were paraded through his house as potential buyers, including John Stamos, and TV’s Dharma and Greg. After a kind of touching and metaphorical farewell between Cryer’s character and Charlie’s ashes, Ashton Kutcher appeared at the back door as the love scorned and suicidal billionaire Walden Schmidt, startling Alan and causing him to spill the remains of his brother. When the metaphorical and literal dust settles, Alan and Walden go for a drink, where the billionaire is coached to get back on the horse. Almost immediately Kutcher’s character is having a threesome with two women in Charlie’s house, Cryer’s character is left on the outside wishing it was him, and the dynamic of the show is returned to its cliche and redundant roots.
Men has never been one of the more creatively interesting or intelligent shows on TV, and that certainly isn’t going to change with the arrival of Kutcher. For a brief moment in the bar, it appeared that there might be a slight role reversal in the new cast, with Alan schooling Walden on getting back on the horse, but it was short lived once they went back to the house. The entire episode was used as a mechanism to integrate the new actor, and make it clear to the audience that the tone isn’t really going to change. It was also a half-hour attack on Sheen by show creator Chuck Lorre, who’s public feud with the star has clearly not come to an end. Kutcher spent an unnecessary amount of time running around naked, in what seemed like a way to get female viewers to forget the other guy ever existed. No matter how you look at it, Men is nearing the end of its run. The show is in its ninth season and the 1/2 man (Angus T. Jones who barely appears) is 17 years old. Kutcher’s arrival might infuse some temporary new life, but I wouldn’t expect it to change the character dynamic very much. The show is what it always was-sophomoric, immature, mainstream, nothing more and nothing less. The season premiere concludes with part two next Monday on CBS.