Watching the Sheen-to-Kutcher Transition on Two and a Half Men

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I kept an open mind, I really did. Before watching last night’s episode of Two and a Half Men, I dismissed everything I knew about the show: the boffo ratings, the slimy acting of Charlie Sheen, the “why are you doing this, Duckie?” feeling I get every time Jon Cryer is in on screen, the perplexing appeal of Angus T. Jones, etc. I didn’t want to immediately dismiss the show, because that’s what people who like Parks and Recreation and Community are supposed to do. That felt too easy, too expected. Besides, it was starting anew, with Kelso!

But god damn was that a bad episode.

The season nine (I know, right?) premiere of Two and a Half Men, “Nice to Meet You, Walden Schmidt,” begins at Charlie Harper’s funeral, where a crowd made up of Alan (Cryer), half man Jake (Angus T. Jones), mom Evelyn (Holland Taylor), housekeeper Bertha (Conchata Ferrell), Martin Mull, and dozens of attractive, STD-riddled women who are reflecting his legacy. The phrase “his body just exploded like a balloon full of meat” is used to explain why we didn’t see his death on-screen (it happened in Paris, when he was pushed in front of a train by his stalker/lover Rose) and why his casket is closed. Another phrase comes to mind: “That’s fucking lazy.” Not showing the killing off of Charlie isn’t a bad idea (although they didn’t really have any other options, cash cow that is), but at least give the viewers, who have been watching the show for eight years because of Charlie Sheen, more than that. It was weak writing, and the episode had only just begun.

Back at Alan’s Malibu beach house, it’s discovered that the residence must be sold to settle some old debts of Charlie’s. Even in death, he’s fucking with Alan, who begins letting people see the place, including John Stamos (who more than implies he and Charlie had a threesome…yeah, you read that right) and Dharma and Greg (not Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson, but Dharma and Greg), the most unnecessary cameo since Bob Dylan appeared on, well, Dharma & Greg. (Also, Ryan Stiles is on Two and a Half Men? Poor tall, brilliant bastard.)

Neither Uncle Jesse nor D&G buy the place, and Alan is left alone, accompanied only by Charlie’s ashes in an urn. BLAH BLAH BLAH FEELINGS AND STUFF (that’s pretty much how the writers handled the emotional part of the episode). Then the moment we’ve all been waiting for: dripping-wet Drifter Jesus appears, accompanied by Alan dropping Charlie’s ashes on the floor.

MENNNNNNNNNNN.

Ashton Kutcher’s character, the titular Walden, is an Internet billionaire who sold his start-up to Microsoft. To the writers credit, I’m glad they didn’t make him an idiot like he was on That 70’s Show (he’s more naïve than anything else), because as much as I dislike Kutcher the actor (we’ve ALL seen Dude, Where’s My Car?), he seems like an intelligent enough guy in real life, or at least smart to know when to latch on to a good (read: successful) thing, i.e. Two and a Half Men. But that’s about where my credit-giving stops, because Walden is insufferably boring. He stumbles upon Alan’s house after a botched suicide attempt; he’s sad that his wife (who will played by Judy Greer…sigh) left him; he doesn’t know what to do with his life; he cries; he picks up two girls at a bar; and he has a threesome. Sexy? No. Boring? Yes.

Two and a Half Men is an extremely vulgar show (not three minutes went by before someone said vaginal herpes, or virginal warts, or vaginal something, and the biggest joke of the episode is Drifter Jesus taking two ladies to his bed, while Alan tries a little tenderness on himself…in a different room; he’s not John Stamos), and while it’s not my taste, I appreciate that the show’s willing to “Go There.” That’s why Charlie Sheen was such a perfect fit for Men. He may have been/continues to be an awful human being, but he played up his awfulness on the show, and viewers couldn’t help but watch him, wondering what awful thing he’ll do next. He wasn’t all that different from the gang at Puddy’s Pub, or at least if It’s Always Sunny was set in a creepy Las Vegas lounge; if you ever said to yourself, “I’m so Charlie,” referring to either Harper or Kelly, that’s not a good thing. Also: it’s not like anyone really cares about Angus or Jon (who just looked tired in the episode; after so many episodes of the same three plots, you can’t but feel he’s in the “I’m too old for this shit”-era of his character, and he’s only 46). Charlie Sheen is to Two and a Half Men as Peyton Manning is to the Indianapolis Colts; it’s only when they’re gone do you realize how much they were needed.

Because like Kerry Collins, Drifter Jesus just kind of floated through the episode, without ever really landing a punchline or even setting up a joke. He’s not malicious to Allan, and he doesn’t appear on-screen with the Half Man for more than a minute. The only real “joke,” and I’m using the term loosely, in his part episode was the sight of seeing Kutcher walking around naked, apparently with a big dick. He also actually says, “I am tall, good looking, and smart.” Ha? I didn’t think it’s possible, but: Two and a Half Men has gotten that much shoddier. Actually, no, that’s true; it did something worse. It became boring.

Josh Kurp apologies for the sports analogy