TITLE: TWO AND A HALF MEN - THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009 (Warner Home Video)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 19
Running Time: 409 minutes
Running Time of Special Features: approx. 62 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital English, Portuguese!
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese; Closed Captioned
* Two and a Half Men at 100
* The Lore of Chuck Lorre: Must Pause TV
* Two and a Half Men: Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard
* Bonus Episode of *CSI!* - Two And a Half Deaths.
Season 5 of Two and a Half Men is on DVD, and I really think you’re going to enjoy the show. If you’ve never seen the plot, it’s really an absurd premise but somehow it works. Charlie Sheen, playing one of the biggest stretches of his acting career, plays the character Charlie Harper -- a persistent bachelor known for his numerous one-night-stands with a wild and eclectic variety of women. How Charlie managed to get into character for this taxing role I don’t know, but it surely speaks to his acting talent. On the flip-side we have Charlie’s lovably annoying brother Alan (played by actor Jon Cryer). Alan is an annoying pain in the rear end to Charlie’s fun and all around stick in the mud -- but since they’re brothers and The Odd Couple was such a successful formula, there you go. Thrown into the mix is Alan’s son from a prior marriage Jake, played by Angus T. Jones.
The reason this show has proven to be so popular is that it’s a mixture of several favorite sitcom traditions -- the mismatched roommates of The Odd Couple, the mile-long list of family comedies, and many more -- plus it mixes in Charlie Sheen getting to play the role he truly was born to play. I mention this, a lot, but really the Charlie *character* is just Charlie Sheen slightly cleaned up into a sitcom package and placed into a family situation. Nothing more. And that’s part of the charm.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
This season was shortened due to the 2007-08 writers’ strike, and as a result we have 5 fewer episodes to select the highlights from this go-around. I think my favorite episode this season can be summed in the phrase “Charlie Waffles.” In the season’s 8th episode, “Is There a Mrs. Waffles?” Charlie finds a strange amount of success as children’s song singer Charlie Waffles, drawing admiration from kids and parents alike. Charlie is, of course, mostly interested in the admiration from the moms. Naturally, Alan is just a little bit jealous of it all. Sometimes all you need for an amazingly hilarious episode of a TV show is a slightly oddball idea mixed with a classic theme (IE: sibling jealousy), and boom -- instant classic.
Another great one from this season occurs when Alan discovers that back in high school Charlie stole a girlfriend of his, and plots revenge. Over something that happened decades prior. Towards the end of the season, the episode “Fish in a Drawer” is the Two and a Half Men component of the CSI/Men writing crossover stunt that CBS pulled last May. It’s not often you see a writing crossover between two different series. It’s far less often you see a writing crossover between a comedy and drama. Even rarer is when the writing crossover is between two series owned by different companies! Two and a Half Men is owned by Warner Brothers, while CSI is owned by Paramount/CBS. This writing crossover also means that a lot of corporate agreements had to go into place to see one of the special features mentioned below.
Richard Kind, who co-starred with Charlie Sheen on the waning years of Spin City, appears in “Is There a Mrs. Waffles?” Jenny McCarthy appears in “Shoes, Hats, Pickle Jar Lids.” Jenny would reappear in “Look at Me, Mommy, I’m Pretty” alongside Robert Wagner (they guest-starred with each other on another sitcom Hope & Faith as well). Jenny and Robert both turn up again in the CSI cross-over Fish in a Drawer (their final appearances). As the episode is an indirect-writing crossover and not an outright cast swap, none of the primary actors from CSI appear. George Eads, who plays Nick Stokes, does appear as a guest at the wedding, however.
I babbled about packaging a lot in the last review, and apparently it caught someone’s attention. We’ve now moved from my second least favorite packaging -- the unfolding digipak -- to I’ve had to historically consider to be my least favorite; starting with this season’s release Two and a Half Men now uses those translucent plastic cases with the fragile disc trays in the center. CBS/Paramount has used these for years, and now Warner is apparently transitioning to them as well -- this is the 5th DVD from them I’ve come into possession of in recent months using the packaging style (Dallas, Knots Landing, Tiny Toon Adventures, Freakazoid). In fact, a DVD set from a *3rd* studio -- Boston Legal season 5 from Fox -- ALSO uses this package type. It appears the era of the digipak and the slimcase has passed, and now we’ve moved firmly into the era of these cases. They’re really not that bad, I just desperately wish they’d make the connectors holding the disc trays a little sturdier.
The package art is very...orange. Otherwise the overall style of the sets is very similar to previous sets. You get the usual photos of the three primary cast members, show logo at top right, season number in top left. The rear cover art is more interesting than most -- it’s an actual photo of the three cast members, all in matching black suits, appearing in front of a star trailer. Unlike most photos that adorn these sets, this one is clearly an actual photo, and is one of the more unique shots to turn up on a DVD set I think. Each of the three discs uses artwork extremely similar to the main cover, with the only difference being that each disc has one cast member instead of all three. The photos aren’t identical, but they are clearly from the same shoot. Discs one and two each have seven episodes apiece, about the ideal number for a TV DVD set. Any more and you run into VQ issues, any fewer and you’re wasting space. The third disc contains the final five episodes, but when you add in the full episode of CSI -- it turns out disc 3 actually has the most content.
Menu Design and Navigation:
As you might have guessed, menus are orange. As I said regarding the purple choice for last season, orange is an interesting color choice, but for a show on the air still you have to get to colors like green and orange and purple now so that you still have a color palette left at season 23. Otherwise you wind up with the problem that Everybody Loves Raymond eventually ran into where one set’s packaging was a fluorescent yellow.
The regular version of the main theme plays in the background. The colors and diamonds motif is once again in-play. Cast appears center-right, show logo is center-top-left, and options are center-left. Episodes appear on a strip center-right, with thumbnail stills center-left. A diamond highlights the selectable option. The other sub-menus follow this same style. The episode menu uses alternating white and golden yellow font colors, and against the orange background the orange is a little hard to read.
Video and Audio Quality:
There’s something slightly off with the video, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. If you watch on a large enough TV and look at solid colors, you’ll notice some strange picture noise on the video. Audio is great -- all the various audio elements balance out nicely. No element overpowers the other, and the audio sounds good. Chapter stops occur in synchronicity with the placement of commercial breaks on TV. Play All is included.
Large Birds, Spiders, and Mom: 20:51
Media Room Slash Dungeon: 22:02
Dum Diddy Dum Diddy Doo: 21:45
City of Great Racks: 22:04
Putting Swim Fins on a Cat: 22:03
Help Daddy Find His Toenail: 21:16
The Leather Gear is in the Guest Room: 20:52
Is There a Mrs. Waffles?: 20:10
Shoes, Hats, Pickle Jar Lids: 20:54
Kinda Like Necrophilia: 22:03
Meander to Your Dander: 22:03
A Little Clammy and None Too Fresh: 22:03
The Soil is Moist: 20:03
Winky-Dink Time: 22:03
Rough Night in Hump Junction: 21:49
Look at Me, Mommy, I’m Pretty: 21:59
Fish in a Drawer: 20:58
If My Hole Could Talk: 21:48
Waiting for the Right Snapper: 22:04
Two and a Half Men at 100 (5:20): The show crossed the 100 episodes milestone in the 5th season, and this feature, found on the first disc, features interviews with the cast and crew shot during the filming of the 100th show, with a few clips thrown in for good measure.
The Lore of Chuck Lorre: Must Pause TV (4:56): A featurette about Chuck Lorre’s numerous freeze-frame graphics included in the credits of his shows over the years. Includes a lot of interviews from the man himself, Mr. Chuck Lorre. The feature warns you when a card is coming up on display in the piece so that you have time to pause it. You can catch some great gags you may have missed the first time around this way.
Two and a Half Men: Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard (10:24): A making-of featurette detailing the production of the CSI/Men writing crossover series.
CSI Episode: Two and a Half Deaths (42:01): Video quality is fabulous. The episode itself is great. Katey Segal (8 Simple Rules, Married with Children, Futurama) plays a nearly-Rosanne like character that ultimately turns up dead in her hotel room. Chuck has openly admitted who the character is based on and this episode was his way of finally getting to let off some steam in a creative way. The episode also features sitcom actors Diedrich Bader (Drew Carey Show) and Constance Marie (George Lopez) -- of course the episode also features the regular CSI cast.
Total running time of special features: Approx 62 minutes.
This show is absolutely great TV. I’m also thrilled that Warner has put more effort into the special features for this set. Negotiating the rights to include a CSI episode in the set couldn’t have been easy, but it’s an effort well appreciated by me. The gag reel seems to have disappeared this year, though, and I mourn its missing status. More commentaries would have been nice as well.
We’re now largely caught up to the current TV season. The only episodes not on DVD are the ones that just wrapped this May, and obviously won’t be available for DVD until a few months from now. Hopefully when it’s released we’ll see the return of the gag reel, and another two dozen great episodes of a great show. This set is STRONGLY recommended.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Final Score: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 05/24/09
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