The same catchy song keeps playing over and over in Judge Kent Dixon's head.
Our reviews of Two And A Half Men: The Complete Second Season (published February 13th, 2008), Two And A Half Men: The Complete Third Season (published May 26th, 2008), Two And A Half Men: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 27th, 2008), Two And A Half Men: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 7th, 2009), Two And A Half Men: The Complete Seventh Season (published November 3rd, 2010), and Two And A Half Men: The Complete Eighth Season (published September 2nd, 2011) are also available.
Men men men men, manly men men men!
Watching the Harper family in action is a bit like a roadside accident: you know you shouldn't watch, but you just can't help yourself. Yes, the show crosses more than a few lines, but now into its fifth season the show continues to win both audiences and awards.
Facts of the Case
Charlie (Charlie Sheen, Wall Street), Alan (John Cryer, Pretty in Pink) and Jake (Angus T. Jones, The Rookie) share more than just a last name, they all live under Charlie's former bachelor pad roof. Somehow this highly dysfunctional family manages to keep it together through rocky relationships, awkward situations and life's challenges, delivering hearty laughs along the way.
Two and a Half Men: The Complete Fifth Season includes all 19 season five episodes, spread over three discs as follows:
In my mind, there are two essential elements to great comedy writing: addressing a topic or situation that is universally recognizable and occasionally playing with fire as you deal with issues that are often considered taboo. Two and a Half Men usually offers both, as viewers can likely relate to the often dysfunctional family issues and sibling tension in the Harper family, while sympathizing with Alan as he does his best to raise Jake in as normal and morally sound an environment as possible, in spite of his hedonistic brother Charlie .
For the first few seasons, the show felt a bit like The Simpsons, often crossing the line of taste, but never so significantly that the audience felt more than slightly embarrassed while they laughed at the awkward situations. As the character of Jake has gotten older and entered puberty during the course of the past few seasons, the writing and subject matter has become less controlled and considerably more offensive, venturing deep into territory previously reserved for shows like The Family Guy. Obviously there's a market for this type of content given the success of both Two and a Half Men and Family Guy, but I quickly find myself losing interest and looking for a better way to spend my time than laughing at one vulgar joke after another. It's disappointing to me that earlier episodes in the series were cleverly written while not resorting to the amount of vulgar humor that began to pervade the show in more recent seasons.
In thinking about how the show has changed, I immediately thought of the term "pornomedy," which may be the best way to characterize the show, certainly for much of Season Five. The kind of witty double entendres which appeared in earlier episodes of the series have been replaced with in-your-face sexual references and cheap vulgar jokes that, at least for me, fall below the usual skill of the series' writing staff. As a side note, while the often misogynistic humor on the show creates a chuckle here and there, many viewers may find it grows thin after a while, especially in today's equal-opportunity culture.
On the positive side, the quality of writing on the show remains strong, thankfully not always relying on juvenile jokes, but delivering witty banter between the characters. Complementing Sheen, Cryer and Jones beautifully are the show's supporting cast: Charlie's acerbic housekeeper Berta (Conchata Ferrell), Alan and Charlie's mother Evelyn (Holland Taylor), Alan's ex wife Judith (Marin Hinkle) and Judith's new husband Dr. Herbert Melnick (Ryan Stiles). Season five also does an impressive job of maintaining the series' reputation of including impressive guests stars, as Janeane Garafolo, Robert Wagner, Jenny McCarthy, Ming-Na, Richard Kind and George Eads all appear during the season.
The series was another unfortunate casualty of the Writer's Strike, clocking in at just 19 episodes, versus the usual 24 delivered in previous seasons. Despite the abbreviated season, fans were still treated to some entertaining stories and situations. The subplot of Charlie's rise to successful children's entertainer catches fans off guard and takes the character in new directions. Another storyline has Charlie's stalker and fan-favorite Rose return to care for Charlie when he becomes ill. While the show's core cast get the bulk of the laughs, the series' supporting cast each contribute in their own way to make Two and a Half Men: The Complete Fifth Season a welcome addition to fans' series libraries.
This release delivers an impressive package on both the audio and video fronts. The anamorphically-enhanced widescreen image is vibrant and crisp, with solid color, contrast and detail…you've never seen Charlie's bowling shirts look this good! Although a bit of a head-scratcher that the mix is merely 2.0, the audio is faithfully reproduced with dialog dominating the mix, as it should with this style of show.
Crossing the 100 episode mark during Season Five, "Two and a Half Men at 100" leads off the extras with highlights from the 100th episode celebration as cast, producers and crew reflect on the show's success since it launched in 2003. "The Lore of Chuck Lorre: Must Pause TV" enlightens viewers about the story behind the vanity cards that appear for a few brief seconds at the end of each show's credits. 'What's a vanity card?' you say? For many of us, all I need to do is say "Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog." and you immediately know what I'm talking about. Vanity cards are an opportunity for one of the main creative driving forces behind a show to get their personal recognition for their role in a series' production. With "Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard," viewers learn how the CSI/Two and a Half Men crossover episode came to be and the behind-the-scenes scoop on how the two series' switched writing staff and genres for a single episode. The Complete Fifth Season also includes the thoroughly enjoyable crossover CSI episode "Two and a Half Deaths."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While the subject matter of the series has never been very well suited for family viewing, more recent seasons have crossed the line of taste and vulgarity considerably more than in the past. Two and a Half Men is not suited for younger viewers. Period.
The Harpers are back and in fine form, delivering funny adult-oriented situations with a healthy dose of jokes that don't pull any punches in the taste department. Having already pushed the envelope as far as network executives are likely to allow, the future of Two and a Half Men is likely to be more of what we've seen so far. While more than a little light on the extra features, fans of the series will likely be delighted with Two and a Half Men: The Complete Fifth Season. If you've never checked out the show, you'd be smart to start at the beginning to get a sense of what the comedy was like before the locker room humor became a series staple.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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