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Two and a Half Men aired from September 2003 until February 2015 on CBS.
Charlie and Alan ( Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer) were brothers who had
very little in common. Charlie, who wrote advertising jingles, was a
relationship-phobic, self-assured womanizer living the good life in
his beachfront Malibu home. Alan, recently divorced from his wife,
Judith was a neurotic fussbudget (" Maybe we should make a list")
chiropractor with money problems. Despite serious misgivings, Charlie
let Alan and his yound son , Jake ( Angus T. Jones), who spent
weekends with his dad, live with him until he got his finances
straightened out. The regular women in their lives were Evelyn (
Holland Taylor), their control freak, high maintenance ,
many-times-divorced mother; Berta ( Conchata Ferrell), Charlie's
sarcastic , beefy housekeeper, who ran roughshod over both of them;
Rose ( Melanie Lynskey), the unstable stalker neighbor who was totally
obsessed with Charlie and regularly crawled in through his balcony;
and Judith ( Marin Hinkle), who had dumped Alan for a woman, but by
the end of the first season was back to dating men. Charlie liked to
drink and have one-night stands while Alan almost never went out and
was concerned about the impact his brother's lifestyle would have on
impressionable , but not too bright Jake.
Late in 2005 Charlie started dating Jake's balet teacher Mia (
Emmanuelle Vaugier) and things got pretty serious. A couple of months
later Alan got involved with sexy spaced-out 22-year-old Kandi ( April
Bowlby), who had been dumped by Charlie, and in April she moved in
with him. As the season drew to a close Charlie and Mia were making
wedding arrangements but things fell apart at the chapel in Las Vegas.
Alan and Kandi, who had gone with them, got married instead. After the
wedding Alan hit a slot machine for a $500,000 jackpot and moved into
a condo with Kandi. Unfortunately she spent her way through everything
and, after he suffered a breakdown, they seperated and Alan moved back
in with Charlie. In February 2007 Rose moved to London and two months
later Judith married Jake's pediatrician Herb ( Ryan Stiles), whom she
had been dating for years. In the fall of 2009 Alan began a
relationship with Lyndsey (Courtney Thorne-Smith), the mother of one
of Jake's friends. Their relationship was temporarily suspended when
Alan cheated on her and accidentally burned down her house, but the
relationship eventually resumed.
In the fall of 2011 the series changed directions. Charlie Sheen had
developed a major drug problem and was fired from the show after
blasting creator Chuck Lorre. In the storyline it was hinted that
Charlie was killed by Rose (who had returned the previous season) when
he had spurned her advances yet again.(They had went to Paris to get
married and Charlie chickened out) .She pushed him in front of a
train. Nobody saw the body though as he had been cremated as soon as
it happened. The beach house was sold to Walden Schmidt (Ashton
Kutcher), an Internet billionaire going through a divorce from Bridget
(Judy Greer). Alan left to live with his mother Evelyn when the house
was sold, but Walden invited both Alan and Jake back to live in the
beach house. He needed friends and the three formed a tightknit
At the end of the season, Jake joined the army; he appeared
occasionally during season ten, briefly dating Tammy (Jaime Pressly),
who was 17 years his senior and had three kids, as well as Tammy's
daughter Ashley (Emily Osment). In the tenth season, Walden proposed
to his English girlfriend Zoey (Sophie Winkleman) only to be turned
down, and discovered she had another man. He became depressed.
Meanwhile, Alan got engaged to his girlfriend Lyndsey, while Judith
left Herb Melnick after he cheated on her with his receptionist
(they later reconciled). Judith later discovered that she was
pregnant but wasn't sure who the father was. She had a fling with
Alan during her separation.Alan and Lyndsey's relationship of three
years ended as she wanted to move on. Rose returned and briefly dated
Walden, later stalking him as she did to Charlie. Walden began to date
a poor but ambitious woman named Kate (Brooke D'Orsay) and changed his
name to "Sam Wilson", pretending to be poor in order to find someone
who wanted him for him, not for his money. They later broke up when he
revealed who he really was , even though Kate realized that it was
Walden's money that helped her become a successful clothing designer.
Jake announced he was being shipped to Japan for a year, and so he and
Alan went on a father-son bonding trip. Other than a cameo in the
series finale, this was the last time the Jake character appeared on
the show, though verbal references were made to him.
In the eleventh season, a young woman arrived at the beach house,
announcing that she was Charlie 's biological daughter, Jenny (Amber
Tamblyn). She moved in with Walden and Alan, later revealing many of
Charlie's traits, including a love of women and booze. Lyndsey began
dating Larry (D. B. Sweeney) and in an attempt to learn more about
Larry, Alan took on the pseudonym "Jeff Strongman". His double-life
became complicated when "Jeff" began dating Larry's sister, Gretchen
(Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Courtney
Thorne -Smith who played Lindsay had both co-starred on According To
In the twelfth season, Walden decided to reprioritize his life after a
health scare by deciding to adopt a baby. He realizes that the only
way to do this was to be married, but didn't know anyone that would
do it, so he asked Alan to marry him and pretended that they were a
gay couple, thus ensuring success at adopting. Jenny moved out of the
house and moved in with Evelyn due to Walden and Alan preparing to
adopt. They adopted an African-American child, Louis (Edan Alexander),
and subsequently divorced in order to pursue relationships with women.
Alan proposed to Lyndsey a second time, and she accepted. But it was
really the engagement ring that Walden had given Alan to give to her that
she was in love with.
In the series finale Charlie was eventually revealed to be alive, having
been kept prisoner by Rose until escaping, but he was killed before he
could confront Walden and Alan. A Charlie Sheen lookalike appeared in
the distance on this episode.
A Review from Variety
Two and a Half Men
(Series; CBS, Mon. Sept. 22, 9:30 p.m.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
Filmed in Los Angeles by Chuck Lorre Prods. in association with the Tannenbaum Company and Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Chuck Lorre, Lee Aronsohn, Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Mark Burg, Oren Koules; producer, Annette Sahakian Davis; director, James Burrows; writers, Lorre, Aronsohn;
Charlie Harper - Charlie Sheen
Alan Harper - Jon Cryer
Jake - Angus T. Jones
Evelyn - Holland Taylor
Not to put any additional pressure on "Two and a Half Men," but if it doesn't work, someone at Warner Bros. is going to need at least 2 Advil. That's because the series is the first from producer Chuck Lorre since the studio signed him to a megabuck deal a few years back, and it's landed CBS' best new-sitcom slot -- a hammocked half-hour where even the dreary "Still Standing" managed to earn a second season. The good news is that "Men" offers the sort of breezy diversion that should perform solidly, assuming that Fox's new porn industry drama "Skin" doesn't strip away too much of its audience.
Lorre landed at Warner Bros. with a rich overall deal after generating such hits as "Cybill" and "Grace Under Fire," but his first few stabs at birthing another cash machine didn't escape the womb -- among them the intriguing premise "Nathan's Choice," which would have featured alternative endings with each rerun.
By comparison, "Two and a Half Men" hardly qualifies as groundbreaking, but it's smooth and self-assured in its "Odd Couple" milieu, with two mismatched brothers (one with a 10-year-old son) thrown together as awkward roommates.
Charlie Sheen plays Charlie, a womanizing jingle writer living the bachelor life at his beach house, only to have the persnickety Alan (Jon Cryer) turn up uninvited, his marriage in a shambles. Alan remains in denial about the prospects of a reconciliation, while Charlie takes the young boy (Angus T. Jones of "Bringing Down the House") under his wing -- which means teaching him to play poker while learning that having him around is a great way to pick up women. "You're better than a dog," Charlie marvels after a brief encounter in the supermarket.
Under James Burrows' always-capable direction, Lorre and co-creator Lee Aronsohn have the rhythms of these characters down, including an underused (in the pilot, anyway) Holland Taylor as the family's domineering matriarch. They also seem to realize that even if Charlie starts to warm toward the kid, having fuzzy after-school special moments between them isn't the way to go.
Passable as a substitute for Michael J. Fox in "Spin City," Sheen's comedic depth doesn't extend much further than his role in the "Hot Shots!" movies, but fortunately, that's about all that's required. Cryer has the more challenging part in humanizing the tightly wound Alan, while Jones registers about a 7 on the cute and precocious sitcom kid meter. Less effective is a crazed fling of Charlie's (Melanie Lynskey) who keeps breaking into his house -- the kind of gag that figures to grow stale awfully fast.
As the meat in an "Everybody Loves Raymond"-"CSI: Miami" sandwich, "Two and a Half Men" finds itself in one of those positions where the audience is pretty much its to lose. On the plus side for CBS, the show is better than other Monday-night comedies that have fared reasonably well and should provide viewers little incentive to reach for the remote, or even clap the set off.
Tech credits are fine, though score this as another one of those sitcom "beach houses" that gives off a stronger smell of Burbank back lot than salt water and sea air.
A Review from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Swinging Bachelor's Peril: Beware of Geek Bearing Kid
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Published: September 22, 2003
With its title ''Two and a Half Men'' invites viewers to think -- half-think -- about fractions. It's the story of Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen), a self-satisfied ad man who sleeps around; Alan Harper (Jon Cryer), his pompous, stuttering brother; and Jake (Angus T. Jones), Alan's clingy, bothersome son. None of these guys excite, or deliver a single inspired line. Still, CBS apparently puts the show's total virility at around five-sixths of capacity. Other tallies may get a lower number.
As on two other new shows, ''All About the Andersons'' and ''Like Family,'' characters in ''Two and a Half Men,'' in an effort to economize, move in with reluctant family. And just as on the first episodes of the other shows, the pilot of ''Two and a Half Men,'' being shown tonight, concerns a host's vain efforts to get the freeloaders out.
Here Mr. Sheen plays the beleaguered host, but it's not middle-class comfort that Alan disrupts when he shows up at Charlie's house with his luggage. Rather, Charlie lives in a swinging Malibu bachelor palace, and it's Alan who brings the banality, in the form of his tubby son. Charlie fears his nerdy kin will spook girls, but he fails to get rid of them.
No lifestyle gets a decent hearing on ''Two and a Half Men.'' Alan, whose lesbian wife has just left him, is almost despicably pathetic. Mr. Cryer's sloping profile and mannered geek delivery is not endearing; it's sad. And Mr. Sheen, who, as a notorious onetime frequenter of prostitutes, might be expected to work up enthusiasm for this womanizer, paces through his role as if disgusted and soul-sick. His face looks strained; his shoulders, narrow and sloped. Though Charlie's meant to be decadent and living large (''I drive a Jag, I live at the beach''), he appears to be having no more fun than Alan, who at least has a reason to be heartbroken.
Jake, the 10-year-old, must have been cast to bring freshness to the proceedings, except that even he seems to have a hangover. His precocity is irritating.
The show's one successful conceit involves a stalker of Charlie's, a madwoman who initially seems frightening but to whom Charlie finally turns to for advice. A stalker comes to seem like just the kind of useful and reliable supporter that everyone could use.
If you're feeling charitable, too, you might wrench a laugh out of the final line of the pilot, one in which a woman in a grocery store mistakes Charlie and Alan for boyfriends. But it's testament to the show's thoroughgoing dreariness that an old gay-misunderstanding joke is the best line in it. Or maybe the moment is happy because the show's over.
TWO AND A HALF MEN
CBS, tonight at 9:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 8:30, Central time
Created and written by Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn; directed by James Burrows. Produced by Chuck Lorre Productions Inc. and the Tannenbaum Company in association with Warner Brothers Television Production Inc.
WITH: Charlie Sheen (Charlie Harper), Jon Cryer (Alan Harper), Angus T. Jones (Jake Harper), Marin Hinkle (Judith), Melanie Lynskey (Rose) and Holland Taylor (Evelyn Harper).
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
Published on April 9, 2004
Two and a Half Men
B-By Gillian Flynn
The idiot male and the put-upon wife. The desperate single sibling or the annoying old folks. The kids scattered about like cheese-curl crumbs. The disdain and dismay. The bickering and the bitching. In short, the modern family sitcom -- and the reasons I watch very few modern family sitcoms.
Two and a Half Men fares better with its variation on a theme (call it Bringing Up Bachelor). Here the clueless dude who begrudgingly loves his family is Charlie (Charlie Sheen in his first sitcom outing since ''Spin City''), a boozing womanizer who opens his home to his nerdy, newly dumped brother Alan (Jon Cryer) and Alan's 10-year-old son (a thankfully unprecious Angus T. Jones). With Cryer in the wifely (i.e., killjoy) role and Holland Taylor doing double duty as the brothers' cloying mother who also happens to be a wild single gal, ''Two and a Half'''s setup ain't edgy, but its humor is a tad more genial -- brotherly ribbing as opposed to bad-tempered potshots. Its one nasty spot revolves around, unsurprisingly, women: In addition to Taylor, who reprises her saucy sexagenarian role for like the sexagenarianth time, the other female regulars are Alan's estranged, sexually exploring wife (Marin Hinkle), a spiteful, chilly pill who may be gay, and a neighbor girl who's stalking Charlie (Melanie Lynskey, who, I'll admit, makes mild insanity adorable).
Still, this is a show about men (the theme song -- which goes something like ''menmenmenmen'' -- warns us as much), and in recent episodes ''Two and a Half'' has wisely scaled back on gender warfare and played more with the yo-yo between its Felix and Oscar (or Kate and Allie). Cryer, the epitome of weenie vulnerability in numerous TV and movie roles, has honed this vibe to make Alan a likable -- if overshadowed and underconfident -- twerp. Sheen, with his casually vulpine persona, is nearly impossible not to enjoy. Maybe it's the residual goodwill from ''Hot Shots!'', but he's able to sell the broadest of gags, like the following exchange, when Alan meets Charlie's old flame: ''Poker buddy?'' Alan asks. ''Used to,'' Sheen answers with his glaze-eyed gaze. In honor of the show's fondness for fractions, I say that's easily a laugh and a half.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on September 17, 2004
Charlie Sheen talks about being a grown-up: For one thing, it makes playing an out-of-control bachelor on ''Two and a Half Men'' a little tedious
By Liane Bonin
On Two and a Half Men (Monday, 9:30 p.m.; premieres Sept. 20 on CBS), Charlie Sheen plays a smooth bachelor with an appetite for the good things in life, like fast cars and fast women. But if Charlie Harper the character sounds like Charlie Sheen the real person to you, you haven't been paying attention. Since marrying Denise Richards (Scary Movie 3) in 2002 and having daughter Sam this March, the former party boy says he has been tamed. Here are the ways that Sheen, 39, has embraced his inner grown-up.
HE'S NOT CRAZY ABOUT RELIVING HIS WILD YEARS Playing a character who resembles a prime-time-friendly version of his younger self doesn't rekindle fond memories for the actor. ''I'm not gonna lie to you,'' says Sheen. ''It's not great. I think I'm higher evolved than this guy.'' He knows that's not the kind of spin likely to please CBS execs, but he doesn't care if the truth hurts. ''I'm tired of lying, like saying, 'Doing this is great and then I get to go home to my real life!' Bulls---. It's juvenile. You've definitely got to grow up. I'm glad that I can play this character and provide entertainment in this world and people think it's great. But personally, it's not uncomfortable, but it's tedious.'' Tell us how you really feel, Chuck.
HE'S LEARNED TO LISTEN Sheen, who's had some career mishaps (1990's Men at Work, 1994's Major League II) now makes a point of getting other opinions before he commits to a project. ''My dad's pretty tactful when it comes to critiques, and my wife's the one who read the [Two and a Half Men] script and said, 'You've got to do this show.' I was feeling on the fence about it, but she read it and said, 'This thing is a hit, it's a gem. Do this.'''
HE CAN ENJOY FATHERHOOD Sheen, who became a parent for the first time with daughter Cassandra almost 20 years ago, says that being a daddy is a very different experience for him now. ''I appreciate certain things a lot more. I have an older daughter, but I didn't raise her. I wasn't a screw-up or a deadbeat dad -- I was just working two or three movies a year and was never home and never present. I had a chance to do it right this time.''
An Article from The New York Times
Everybody Loves Coming After 'Raymond'
By ALEXANDRA JACOBS
Published: December 12, 2004
THE mood was jolly at a prewinter break taping earlier this month of the CBS comedy "Two and a Half Men" on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, Calif. Writers were exchanging Christmas presents. The guy assigned to "warm up" the studio audience was holding a booty-shaking dance contest. "Oh, me - me," imploringly shrieked a middle-aged woman in a red chenille sweater as he dangled an 8-by-10 glossy photograph of the show's two stars, Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen, above her head.
Later, at a staff party, Mr. Cryer, a neurotic, recently divorced man who plays the neurotic, recently divorced Alan Harper, drank three margaritas - or so he confessed the next morning. "I have my first hangover in 17 years," he said cheerfully. "The prop mistress - I love that name, by the way, it sounds so dominatrix - had to drive me home."
Even without the holiday, the actor and his colleagues had ample reason to celebrate. Now in its second season, "Two and a Half Men" is the second-most-watched comedy on television. A not-exactly-groundbreaking cocktail of "My Two Dads" meets "The Odd Couple," with the requisite dash of coy sex humor, it is beaten only by its lead-in "Everybody Loves Raymond," which will end a nine-year run next spring and to whose plum 9 p.m. Monday time slot "Two and a Half Men" is now the presumptive heir.
This gives CBS a good shot at keeping the male audience they all but abandoned in the 1990's with shows like "Murphy Brown" and "Designing Women," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, vice president and director of global research at Interactive, a media analysis firm. When football season is over, she said, " 'Two and a Half Men' is not going to do 'Raymond's' numbers, but it will be strong enough to hold the time period. It has a male point of view without alienating women."
On Nov. 22, when Mr. Sheen's sultry starlet wife, Denise Richards, made a guest appearance with the couple's baby girl, Sam, the show beat "Raymond" by about 43,000 households - some number of whom, perhaps, also noticed Ms. Richards' glistening, sand-dusted nude appearance in the December issue of Playboy. The show might lack critical buzz (In 2003, Virginia Heffernan of The New York Times bemoaned its "thoroughgoing dreariness"), but the 16.7 million viewers each week seem happily impervious.
At the taping, female audience members reserve their biggest whoops and hollers for the reformed womanizer Mr. Sheen, who plays Alan Harper's womanizing songwriter brother - who, conforming to some ancient sitcom scripture, is also named Charlie. After Alan moves in to Charlie's Malibu home, Felix Unger-style - "There was some talk of him being a compulsive cleaner, but we jettisoned that," said Mr. Cryer - they both become uneasy role models for Alan's young son, Jake (Angus T. Jones).
This particular evening's performance involved a story line about earthquakes. The two leads played true to type: Mr. Cryer bungled his lines several times, necessitating multiple takes; Mr. Sheen was a perfect smoothie. For those who remember these two men's earlier incarnations as Brat Packers, there is something very endearing about seeing them, now both 39 and a bit battered-looking, sequestered in the cozily domestic confines of a television comedy.
"I think the 80's baggage that Charlie and I both have really works in our favor," said Mr. Cryer, best known for the hyperactive, nattily nerdy Duckie Dale in "Pretty in Pink." He then appeared in a string of forgettable series that included "The Trouble With Normal," "Partners" and "The Famous Teddy Z." In 1997, he worked with "Two and a Half Men's" co-creator, Chuck Lorre, on "It's Good to Be King," which never made it out of the pilot stage.
But that did not dampen his enthusiasm for the new project. "I personally am a guy who is very uncomfortable with disorder," Mr. Cryer said, "so it's very easy for me to plug into Alan, a guy who is constantly at war with the disorder in his life - rigid and anal-retentive and compulsive. I thought 'Oh my God, if I don't have a shot at this, I don't have a shot at anything.' " But, he said, "There was a lot of resistance on the network level. It was hard for them to get excited about me. They were looking for a new face."
Mr. Sheen faced no such obstacles. "Without Charlie saying he would do this, our script would've been landfill," Mr. Lorre said. The son of "The West Wing's" Martin Sheen and brother of fellow Brat Packer Emilio Estevez, Mr. Sheen came with a far glossier 80's film resume - "Platoon," "Wall Street" - but also heavier baggage: drink, drugs, prostitutes and tabloid attention that threatened to eclipse his talent. In 2000 after he began a career-reviving turn in Michael J. Fox's former spot on "Spin City," he told Maxim that he had slept with 5,000 women. As the boozy lothario of "Two and a Half Men," Mr. Cryer said, "he's playing, let's face it, some version of himself."
The two men previously worked together on the 1991 "Top Gun" spoof "Hot Shots!" "Charlie was just out of rehab, still living the lifestyle," Mr. Cryer said. "I remember him showing up one day in his convertible with a pretty well-known porn star. What I loved is that this guy still hit his marks and got it on the first take - and I couldn't do that, having never been to rehab, or with porn stars."
Perhaps tellingly, Mr. Sheen does not remember Mr. Cryer from those days in quite such vivid detail. "We didn't know each other," he said in a telephone interview from his dressing room a few hours before a Dec. 3 taping. (They are now good friends.) Asked if Charlie Harper was in fact a version of Charlie Sheen, he said, "I don't think so. I just saw an opportunity to play a guy that has some faults, that has some shortcomings. People can point to the obvious and talk about my crazy past, but it's a lifetime ago. A lifetime ago. I mean, they're still talking about stuff that took place in 1992! People need to move on. I don't look at this as revisiting my past in any way. This is tasteful. A lot of my past wasn't. This is funny. A lot of my past wasn't."
Did he have any qualms about settling into a new sitcom so soon after "Spin City"? "It's more about opportunity," Mr. Sheen said. "And you know, I have a new family."
There was a timely knock on the door from the show's young actor, Mr. Jones, who had come bearing a gift. "Oh gosh - well, thank you very much," Mr. Sheen said. Then followed the rustling sound of paper being unwrapped. "It's a candle," Mr. Sheen said with mild pleasure, taking a sniff. "Sort of fruity." "Two and a Half Men's" co-creators, Mr. Lorre and Lee Aronsohn, are also drawing from experience; both have been through divorces and custody negotiations of their own. Mr. Lorre, a creator of "Cybill" and "Dharma and Greg" was also a writer and producer on "Roseanne" and, as it happens, "My Two Dads." Initially, he was reluctant to take on the project. "I certainly didn't want to do 'The Odd Couple,' " he said.
Mr. Aronsohn, however, needed to get a project produced to keep his Writer's Guild health insurance. He persuaded Mr. Lorre to reconsider, and together they layered on feminine elements: a lingering ex-wife, a tart-talking grandmother, a wisecracking, heavyset housekeeper.
He professed particular pride in a recent episode about a girlfriend of Charlie's who got a sex change, which he said was inspired by "Middlesex," Jeffrey Eugenides's epic novel about the family of a Greek-American hermaphrodite. "Is gender the reason we care for each other or is it beyond that?" he mused, sounding briefly more like a Radcliffe women's studies professor than a Hollywood hit maker. But he conceded that there was nothing particularly revolutionary about "Two and a Half Men," which contains many of the staple elements of his other work.
One of his regrets about "Dharma," Mr. Lorre said, was letting that series end in gimmickry rather than "trusting the wonder of good character played by good actors - the fundamental theatrical element" of the sitcom. "I've tried to reinvent this medium at times and failed miserably." In the end, he said, "the question is just do you care about these characters, and can you entertain the audience and make them laugh?"When it came to "Two and a Half Men," he restrained himself to a subtle readjustment. "We're all familiar with the cliches and brain-dead elements that make the genre hateful," he said. "It can be nudged. Anybody who watches 'couch-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room sitcoms' - they fade in with 'Hi honey, I'm home!' - and you're running to put your head in the oven, or at least switch over to cable. Heck, when we designed this set, we made the effort to turn the couch around."
An Article from The New York Times
The TV Watch
Heir to 'Raymond' Makes Him More Lovable
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
Published: May 18, 2005
It isn't so much that everybody really did love Raymond. It's that "Two and a Half Men," the sitcom which follows "Everybody Loves Raymond" and which CBS hopes will takes its place in the ratings, is so hateful. Charlie Sheen as Charlie, a promiscuous Malibu bachelor, and Jon Cryer as his high-strung divorced brother, Alan, are ghastly on many levels. But the show's flaws do at least highlight why "Raymond" was both good and popular for so many years.
Sitcoms are the television equivalent of the ozone layer: almost all indicators suggest that both are imperiled, yet there is just enough evidence to allow stubborn contrarians to hold out hope. In the mid-1980's, the success of "The Cosby Show" put a damper on the end-of-the-sitcom theory for a while, but the gloomy predictions regained momentum after "Friends" and "Frasier" went off the air last year, leaving "Raymond" as the only sitcom included in Nielsen's top 10 rated shows. "Two and a Half Men" is in the top 20, and it owes much of its success to its placement between "Raymond" and "CSI Miami." Whether it will hold its own next season will provide the next big test of the genre's viability.
Both "Raymond" and "Two and a Half Men" are sardonic, jabbing at the 50's myth of happy "Father Knows Best" families. But at its best "Raymond" was a kind of suburban "Seinfeld," focused on a loopy guy, built around Ray Romano's comic persona, and his bracingly weird neighbors - though in Ray Barone's case, they were his wife and family. As Debra, Patricia Heaton used aggrieved eye-rolls and pursed-lip disapproval that barely masked a brash, Elaine-style nuttiness, while his parents, Marie (Doris Roberts) and Frank (Peter Boyle), were so uncivilized that they could well have doubled as George's parents. In the season finale on Monday, Ray needed to have his adenoids removed, prompting Frank to make crude jokes about his virility. "Do you even know where adenoids are?" Robert asks his father. "Sure, around back with all the rest of the 'oids," Frank replies.
"Two and a Half Men" tries to be a modern twist on "The Odd Couple," and the half refers to Alan's ill-behaved son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), who spends alternate weekends with his dad. But actually, the show is alarmingly anachronistic: it has been decades since a libidinous cad seemed harmless or endearing; in the age of H.I.V. and S.T.D.'s, Charlie's heedless promiscuity seems like a health risk, not a hobby. The character was largely based on Mr. Sheen's real-life reputation, and yet the actor is miscast in his own part: he is less an adorable scamp than a seedy middle-aged sleaze. If high-definition television also included scents, Charlie would reek of Drakkar Noir.
And the show's misogynistic streak robs the rest of the characters of their charm. Holland Taylor is a wonderful character actress who has expertly played the brittle, haughty older woman in a number of shows ("The Naked Truth," "Bosom Buddies"), but here, her role as Evelyn, the brothers' narcissistic, alcoholic mother, is more disturbing than amusing. Similarly, the humor of the zany next-door-stalker Rose (Melanie Lynskey) is drowned out by the depressing portraits of jilted bimbos and Alan's mean, neurotic ex-wife, Judith (Marin Hinkle). The two flawed brothers are supposed to be redeemed by their shared love for Jake, but the unsavory nastiness trumps sentiment every time.
The opposite was true on "Raymond." He and all his relatives bickered constantly, and Marie's contempt for Debra's housekeeping skills was a leitmotif that somehow never grew old. In the finale, Marie brought homemade minestrone to heal Ray, prompting Debra to snarl, "Do you really think food is going to help Ray's adenoids?" To which Marie replies sweetly, "I think good food will."
The show's unexpected success in 1996 encouraged all kinds of imitations, and "Raymond" is often blamed for the glut of male-dominated sitcoms, from "All About Jim" on ABC to "Yes, Dear," "The King of Queens" and "Listen Up," CBS shows that improbably match fat, weak husbands to gorgeous, smart wives. "Raymond" could be just as prosaic and predictable, but it was always funnier.
It is notoriously hard for writers to match fans' expectations in the final episode of a popular show; endings too often are hastily contrived, be it the denouement of "The Fugitive" in 1967 or last year's finale of "Friends." The writers on "Raymond" were more delicate, using a minor complication in Ray's adenoid surgery (for a few minutes, he fails to wake up from his anesthesia) to allow his family to panic and suddenly imagine life without Raymond. That fleeting glimpse of sentiment was quickly covered up with sarcastic jokes and silly pratfalls, making it all the more enjoyable.
Restraint was as much the secret to "Raymond" as skillful acting and writing, and that carefully calibrated ending made the opening joke of Monday's episode of "Two and a Half Men" all the flatter: Alan tries to pick up bikini-clad beach volleyball players by asking them if they worry about melanoma. Charlie says, "No man has gotten into a woman's pants chit-chatting about skin cancer."
"Raymond" got a lot farther with adenoids.
An Article from Variety
Published on October 4, 2007
Angus T. Jones
The 'Half' CBS star does his homework
By SANDIE ANGULO CHEN
While some sitcom kids are relegated to being background fillers with the occasional punchline, Angus T. Jones is the third lead, with his role referenced right in the "Two and a Half Men" title. Every week on CBS' hit show, Jones' character Jake goes toe-to-toe, comedically speaking, with Emmy nominees Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer.
"I feel really lucky to be on the show every episode and get a lot of really funny lines," says the actor.
According to Jones, the only downside to co-starring on a highly rated TV show is the overwhelming number of middle-school assignments he has to do during breaks.
"I just started eighth grade, and there is just a ton of work to do," the soon-to-be 14-year-old says. "I hardly have any time during the week, so there are piles of schoolwork everywhere."
As for the oft-mentioned criticism that the dialogue is too racy for a comedy featuring a young star, Jones says it's not an issue for him or his family.
He even thinks it's funny that the Emmy telecast cut to him during the "Family Guy's" primetime-skewering opening song: "Today they've got some shows that are remarkably obscene/Like that show about the little boy who lives with Charlie Sheen."
"The jokes used to just go over (Jake's) head," he says. "Now that he's growing up, I guess he kinda gets it -- but not really."
With the 100th episode coming up and the ratings unwaveringly high, it's probable "Men" will be on the air well into Jones' teens, and the actor says he'd be happy to stay on the air for another four or five seasons.
"What's not to like?" he muses. "I'm learning a lot about comedy, and everyone is just hilarious. Sometimes the hardest thing for me is not to laugh."
Recent breakthrough: Jones owes his primetime gig to one performance. "'The Rookie' is what got me 'Two and a Half Men.' Chuck (Lorre), our executive producer, saw me in that and said, 'That's the kid.'"
Role model: "I like Chris Farley and Jack Black. They're both hilarious."
What's next: Jones says he's happy focusing on "Men" and using his hiatuses as down time.
A Review from Variety
Published on May 6, 2008
Two and a Half Men
(Series; CBS, Mon. May 5, 9 p.m.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
Taped in L.A. by Chuck Lorre Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Chuck Lorre, Lee Aronsohn; director, Jeff Melman; writers, Sarah Goldfinger, Evan Dunsky.
As sweeps stunts go, the "Two and a Half Men"-"CSI" writer crossover -- you do one of mine, I'll do one of yours -- isn't exactly a guest spot by Britney, but the results were amusing and inspired. Wrapping "Men" in a murder mystery introduced a "CSI"-ish twist, while the crime drama's scribes demonstrated they can sling dick jokes with the best of them. Thursday's "Men"-scripted "CSI" will likely be the more intriguing mesh of sensibilities, but credit CBS with letting two of its hits take a chance and clearly have some fun in the process.
The initial idea sprang from an encounter between "Men" producer Chuck Lorre and "CSI" showrunner Carol Mendelsohn. (Lorre even graciously handed over his vanity card -- the little weekly manifesto through which he both vents and settles scores -- to the "CSI" team.)
The episode began with a rather grim twist for brothers Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and Alan (Jon Cryer): On the wedding day of their mother (Holland Taylor), her new husband (recurring guest Robert Wagner) winds up flat on his back for the wrong reasons, resulting in a hasty investigation -- conducted by suspiciously buff-looking detectives -- as to who or what killed him.
Not everything worked equally well here, such as adopting those "CSI"-style CGI graphics to chronicle the doings of half-man Jake (Angus T. Jones) and his insatiable appetite, zooming down his throat and into his stomach. Funny enough the first time, the gag grew a little stale by the time it devolved into the inevitable gas bubble at the end.
Still, the cast -- especially Taylor, as the often-widowed Evelyn -- appeared to be having a ball with the stunt. Even if the ratings didn't spike, then, that's a morale-building boon to series such as these, which, given their episodic nature, generally don't provide their casts with big multi-episode "For your consideration" character arcs to play.
Even the opening theme -- blending the Who with "Men's" muttered anthem -- exhibited a cheeky charm. So chalk this up as a successful experiment, allowing the "CSI" gang to try their hand at slaying 'em in an entirely different way.
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� Date: Sat October 30, 2004 � Filesize: 48.4kb � Dimensions: 389 x 272 �
Keywords: Two And A Half Men: Cast Photo