Ashton Kutcher debuts on 'Two and a Half Men' - Some quick thoughts
CBS comedy says farewell to Charlie Harper and hello to Walden Schmidt
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The long-running CBS hit comedy returned to start its eighth season with its first new episode since February. Everybody, of course, knows why "Two and a Half Men" has been absent and if you somehow missed the Charlie Sheen news, the premiere spent a solid 15 minutes urinating on the memory of poor, departed Charlie Harper just in case.
I have, at most, been a sporadic "Two and a Half Men" viewer over the years, only catching it on airplanes or when I accidentally left the TV on from an earlier program, but this auspicious changing-of-the-guard -- appropriate terminology since viewers, like Buckingham Palace Queen's Guard, probably didn't laugh -- was a fine cause to peek back in.
Some quick thoughts on the season premiere of "Two and a Half Men" after the break...
He helped make them rich, but Charlie Sheen apparently didn't have any friends in the "Two and a Half Men" writers' room.
There were many ways Charlie Harper could have been written off of the show, but the "Men" writers took the approach that left the character with the least dignity possible.
The episode began, as TMZ had already spoiled for us, with Charlie's funeral, attended by an assortment of variably familiar (probably all familiar to fans) ex-girlfriends.
As Alan (Jon Cryer) attempted to maintain order and dignity, the exes lamented the graphic sexually transmitted diseases Charlie gave them and his various sexual fetishes, allowing us to celebrate genital warts and brewing Missi Pyle's underwear like tea.
Then, finally, Melanie Lynskey's Rose got up to tell the story of Charlie's death and you knew it was going to be a solemn and respectful demise, right? Short version? Charlie and Rose ran off to Paris and were going to get married. She caught him in the shower with another woman. She pushed him in front of a moving Metro car.
"I want you to know that Charlie didn't suffer. His body just exploded like a balloon full of meat," Rose said.
The funny and predictable thing is that Charlie Sheen and Charlie Harper became roughly indistinguishable so long ago that it didn't even feel like the writers were directly referencing anything about Sheen in this vicious and lengthy takedown of Harper. And Charlie Harper's funeral felt exactly like Charlie Harper's funeral probably would have felt under any circumstances, whether Sheen's departure had been entirely amicable or motivated by a Sheen-based tragedy.
What felt gratuitous wasn't the scurrilous and puerile nature of the funeral proceedings. That's "Two and a Half Men" and if you expected a reflective meditation on Charlie's passing, rather than chlamydia jokes and multiple punchlines courtesy of Jake's flatulence, your expectations were based on a different show reacting to the exit of a different leading man. "Two and a Half Men" was truthful both to its nature and to the nature of Sheen's implosion.
But good gracious, did the bitterness need to go on for so long?
The funeral, which was barely amusing to begin with, extended back to the beach house and the discovery that although Charlie had left the place to Alan, Evelyn was still trying to sell it, because Charlie had three mortgages and a ton of debt.
John Stamos got huge applause for his surprise cameo, which culminated with the revelation that Charlie Harper had sex with either John Stamos or Uncle Jesse. I'm not sure which.
Then Chuck Lorre trotted out old pals Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson in their Dharma and Greg guises to look at the house and ultimately bicker. I'm pretty confident that this was a good representation of what Dharma and Greg would actually have been like if she'd stayed together for another decade. Hotch would have been called in to investigate Greg long enough, I fear. That Greg had issues.
[The Dharma and Greg cameo was the only part of the episode which, for me, was worth the amount of secrecy CBS invested in this episode.]
We were half-way through the episode and wallowing deeply in bitterness before Ashton Kutcher's Penis even made his first appearance arriving in a hail of cremains (delivered by Joel "Fred Rumsen" Murray), which were then DustBusted up to be desecrated another day.
Kutcher's Penis arrived drenched from a suicide attempt that was truncated because the water was too cold ("I had no idea the water would be that cold. I suppose I could have worn a wet suit, but who tries to commit suicide in a wet suit?"). Cause of the suicide attempt? Deep love for his wife Bridget, who left him.
It certainly wasn't poverty, since Ashton Kutcher's Penis --- called "Walden Schmidt" on the show -- is worth 1.3 billion dollars, stemming from selling something or other to Microsoft stemming from the Zune. Yes, a Zune punchline. And if you don't have a clue what a Zune is, The CW would tell you to Bing it.
We also know Walden Schmidt isn't plagued by physical inadequacy, because within minutes he stripped and Alan was forced to gush, "1.3 billion dollars and he's hung like an elephant."
[I'm assuming that somebody in the "Two and a Half Men" writers' room thought that this was a funny transfer of power from one dick to another? Or else it was just a contract stipulation on Kutcher's part.]
From that point on, Ashton Kutcher's Penis was the basis for at least four different jokes, while Ashton Kutcher's Testicles received one punchline apiece. When you're dealing with fertile terrain like that, you hardly need any additional sources for humor. And none were presented. Walden Schmidt has a threesome with two women he meets at the bar and decides he wants to buy the house, which is fine by Berta and Judith, who are both impressed by Ashton Kutcher's Penis.
The episode ended with a "To be continued..." Presumably the second part of this episode will explain why, after purchasing the beach house, Walden Schmidt would ever want to or need to see Alan again. Presumably it will also establish the dynamic between Walden and the other characters, unless that dynamic will just continue to be "Rich Guy/ Person Impressed By Rich Guy's Penis." Walden brought out exactly the same trademark whininess from Alan that Charlie used to, so that's a natural, but unless Angus T. Jones is about to fart his way off the show (he isn't), the continuation will have to be heavily invested in giving Walden and Jake reasons for interaction. I don't think any real hints were given in this episode regarding what grand revelations are in store.
Was the "Butterfly Effect" star attached to Ashton Kutcher's Penis all that funny in this episode? Well, no. I laughed at a couple of his line-readings -- Ashton Kutcher has always been a fine traditional sitcom star -- but after the funeral took more than half of the episode, there wasn't any time to introduce his whole character beyond one signature appendage.
The choice was made that decimating all remaining traces of Charlie Harper was more important than thoroughly introducing the new guy and giving viewers the chance to see how he might fit in and how the overall flow of the show would be impacted by Sheen's absence. I understand that as a temptation, but to this viewer it felt kinda selfish and not in the best interest in the show as a whole.
But oh well. Maybe next week?
What'd you think of the way "Two and a Half Men" handled Charlie Sheen's departure and Ashton Kutcher's arrival? If you're a regular viewer, will you be back next week? And if you just checked in to see what Kutcher would be like, will you be back?