Anyone who makes a "Winning!" joke will get slapped by Judge Patrick Bromley.
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 Fifth Season (published June 11th, 2009), Two And A Half Men: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 7th, 2009), and Two And A Half Men: The Complete Seventh Season (published November 3rd, 2010) are also available.
"Everyone has a little baggage. I drink and try to mouth kiss hookers. You, you're cheap, annoying and no one likes you."—Charlie Harper
Charlie Sheen's final season on one of TV's biggest, most inexplicable success stories arrives on DVD in all its truncated glory. Does he go out with a whimper or a bang?
Facts of the Case
• "A Bottle of Wine and a Jackhammer"—Alan and Lyndsey decide to move in together, but their plans are interrupted when he runs into his ex-girlfriend Melissa (Kelly Stables, The Ring Two).
• "A Pudding-Filled Cactus"—Alan has trouble juggling two relationships.
• "Hookers, Hookers, Hookers"—A fire lands Alan back at Charlie's house, much to Charlie's disappointment.
• "The Immortal Mr. Billy Joel"—When Charlie leaves town for some cosmetic surgery, Alan heads out on the town pretending to be his brother.
• "Twanging Your Magic Clanger"—Charlie finds a great new girl (Liz Vassey, The Tick), but she's older than he would like. What's worse is that she has a young, beautiful daughter.
• "The Crazy Bitch Gazette"—Charlie's new girlfriend reaches her breaking point with his baggage; a surprise announcement from Rose (Melanie Lynskey, Serial Slayer) has Charlie rethinking his feelings.
• "Springtime on a Stick"—Charlie and Alan try setting their mother Evelyn (Holland Taylor, Romancing the Stone up on a date with Russell the pharmacist (Martin Mull, Mr. Mom) for her birthday, but are surprised when he doesn't arrive alone.
• "Ow, Ow, Don't Stop"—Charlie's ex-girlfriend Courtney (Jenny McCarthy, Scream 3) is released from prison and the two pick up right where they left off, leaving Charlie in more than a little pain.
• "Dead From the Waist Down"—Alan goes moonlighting as a mall masseuse to earn enough money to buy Lyndsey a birthday present. • "Chocolate Diddlers or My Puppy's Dead" Charlie returns to his psychiatrist (Jane Lynch, Role Models) following his latest breakup.
• "Skunk, Dog Crap and Ketchup"—Alan can't handle it when Charlie and Lyndsey strike up a friendship.
• "Lookin' for Japanese Subs"—Rose returns from her honeymoon, and Charlie has never found her more appealing; Jake and Eldridge (Graham Patrick Martin, Rising Stars) begin filming their very own Jackass stunts.
• "Three Hookers and a Philly Cheesesteak"—Alan gets his friends and family to invest in a new business opportunity that quickly turns into a ponzi scheme; Charlie and Rose continue their secret relationship.
• "That Darn Priest"—Alan and Rose learn major secrets about one another.
I had never watched a full episode of Two and a Half Men prior to a few months ago. I was aware of its status as the most popular sitcom on television, but the minutes I would catch here and there just seemed so lowest-common denominator that it failed to hold my interest. The structure was always the same: two lines of exposition, obvious setup for a joke, obvious punchline, cue laugh track, repeat. Plus, all of the jokes seemed to be things a 12-year-old would find funny—lots of double innuendo (and sometimes single innuendo) and jokes about bodily functions. The show seemed crass and simplistic and not nearly in the same league as some of the incredible half-hour comedies currently airing on competing networks. I didn't want to give it my time. I'm a snob that way.
Then a few months ago, Two and a Half Men's star and the highest paid actor on television, one Charlie Sheen, had his very public flameout with series creator Chuck Lorre, in which he was first suspended and then fired, and ultimately production was shut down on one of the highest-rated comedies on TV (I think it has by now been surpassed by The Big Bang Theory—another Lorre show—and possibly Modern Family, but I'm not sure about that) before it could even finish out the current season. It was a fascinating story, and one that I don't think we've ever seen the likes of before; CBS has this enormous cash chow on its hands and has to lose out on all that money because the star can't get it together and can't seem to get along with the showrunner. Plenty of TV shows have suffered from what is politely referred to in the industry as "creative differences," but rarely to this extent, and never this publicly. As a result, Charlie Sheen became the biggest star in the country for a few weeks—mostly ironically, of course (by hipsters who thought just saying "Winning!" was funny), but, for some, fame is fame.
It was at this point that I began to take an interest in Two and a Half Men, which thankfully (or not, depending on your point of view), is in almost constant rotation in syndication, allowing me to catch up on seven missed seasons. I finally wanted to see what all the fuss was about—why the show was so popular, and if it was even worth hanging on to once all the dust had settled. Having now seen more of the show than I ever could have hoped to imagine, I can say that it is all the things I always thought it was. Yet for whatever reason—call it familiarity or being worn down or even Stockholm Syndrome—after a while, I didn't really mind it. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Two and a Half Men is a "funny" or "good" show, but I find something comforting in its predictable sameness. The three-camera sitcom is pretty dead at this point, and it's precisely the rhythms and writing of shows like Two and a Half Men that helped to kill it, but at this point it's like eating at McDonald's: there's no value in it, it's not good for me, but that doesn't mean that I don't like it from time to time.
Season Seven of the show was really the first season that tried to push Two and a Half Men into a slightly different direction, putting Charlie into his first serious, long-term relationship and seeing how he and the characters around him deal with that change. By Season Eight, the status quo of the series has basically been restored, making it pretty redundant; except for the fact that Jake is now a full-blown teenager (and, for my money, is playing one of the most convincing teenagers on TV), there's not much in this season of Two and a Half Men that hasn't been done before. Things start to go in an interesting direction as the season winds down, but the behind-the-scenes conflicts shut the series down before those developments could really go anywhere. In a way, though, it's a good place to leave Sheen's character; I guess it's too bad, then, that Chuck Lorre has other plans for the characters' off-screen fate in the upcoming Sheen-less season.
If I have any affection for the show—and I guess I kind of do, even though I recognize that it is the polar opposite of a half-hour comedy like Community, currently my favorite on the air—I can't really explain why that is. The snob in me wants to reject it outright, but the guy who grew up loving Saved by the Bell despite the fact that it was not any good (and I didn't love it ironically; I genuinely liked that show) has built up enough a tolerance to the predictable three-camera sitcom that the form is comfortable and agreeable from time to time. Besides, there are other sitcoms on TV that are just as broadly drawn in their characterization and just as predictable in their joke structure, but have somehow convinced audiences that they're for the smart and discriminating viewer. Two and a Half Men, on the other hand, isn't interested in pretending it's anything but what it is, and doesn't make any apologies for that—it's a lot like Charlie Sheen himself in that way. There's something almost refreshing about a sitcom willing to be as base and silly as this one is in the age of hip, post-modern deconstruction. It is what it is. Take it or leave it.
Chuck Sheen's final season of Two and a Half Men arrives on DVD in a two-disc set, with eight episodes appearing on each disc (remember the season was truncated) in their original 1.78:1 broadcast aspect ratio, enhanced for anamorphic playback. If you've been collecting these DVD sets to this point—and, honestly, why would you be buying Season Eight if you weren't?—you won't be disappointed with the transfers, which are bright and colorful and look very nice. The 5.1 surround audio track is very focused in the front center channel, which delivers all of the dialogue and most of the laugh track as well. The surround channels are used mainly for the music and main title theme. It's a totally unremarkable audio presentation, but it gets the job done. There are no extras included—not even an outtake reel—probably because any bonus feature would have had to address the elephant in the room.
Season Nine of Two and a Half Men will premiere on CBS in just a few weeks, with Ashton Kutcher taking Charlie Sheen's place as a rich guy who moves into the beach house and allows Alan and Jake to stay. I have no idea what that show is going to look like, but it will be interesting to see if the series maintains its enormous popularity after the departure of its biggest star. Part of the fascination of the sitcom is how much its lead character resembles its former star—Sheen was basically just playing himself—and that a top-rated network sitcom featured a protagonist who was openly alcoholic and who openly frequented prostitutes. If the show loses its "edge" in the Kutcher incarnation, all that will be left is bathroom jokes. I never thought I would say it, but Two and a Half Men could probably do better.
So long, Ma-Sheen.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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