Sunday, August 5, 2012

Outside My Comfort Zone: Two and a Half Men

seriously. fuck these guys
In Outside My Comfort Zone I watch a single episode of a television show I would never have watched otherwise, and record my impressions. For the inaugural entry I decided to go way outside that titular comfort zone with the hyper successful CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. Maybe it will become my new favorite show! Find out after the break.

Two and a Half Men
“Thank You For the Intercourse”
Season 9, Episode 8
Original Airdate- 11/7/11

It’s easy to pile snark on Two and Half Men, but I resolved to go into it with an open mind and judge the episode on its own merits. For me, part of that open mindedness meant setting aside the one thing I knew about the show going in- former star Charlie Sheen’s very public meltdown and subsequent firing from the show (apparently covered narratively with a Poochy-style off-screen death for his character). It turns out I need not have bothered, as this episode is basically all about Sheen, oddly trashing and worshipping him at the same time.

It starts right away in the cold open. Roommates Walden (Ashton Kutcher) and Alan (Jon Cryer) are having breakfast when Walden suddenly starts shout-singing the dire advertising jingle for the cereal he is eating. Alan, rather than stabbing him to death as a normal human would, points out that the jingle in question was written by his dead brother Charlie (Charlie Sheen). Walden answers by singing another horrible jingle. Charlie wrote that one too! This goes on for what feels like a very long time, until Walden sings a Dr. Pepper jingle, mugging at the camera. “That wasn’t one of Charlie’s” Alan says, to uproarious laughter from the laugh track/studio audience, and that’s it. Cut to commercial. At no point in that cold open, which is supposed to bait me into watching the rest of the show, was there a detectable joke. It was just actors yelling fake jingles at each other while Kutcher dances around. This did not bode well.

When we come back, Alan is sitting at a piano playing and singing the same goddamn terrible jingles from the cold open. Walden enters, shouting and dancing along (at this point it became necessary to hit pause for a moment in order to prevent myself from flying into a red rage). This leads into a conversation about how much Alan misses his dead brother that takes the form of a series of clunky parallel sentences that start by praising Charlie and end with a joke about how perverted he was (Example: “I miss seeing him every morning, though I don’t miss the smell of lubricant and bodily fluids coming from his room.”). The studio audience eats this stuff up, but given Sheen’s public struggles with sex and drug addiction it feels like a bunch of creepy cheap shots.

This for some reason inspires them both to head to the local bar in order to have casual sex, like Charlie would have. The first woman to show up at the bar wants to sleep with Walden, so they immediately head back to the house so he can “score”, apparently only minutes after arriving. Alan is sulking on the porch while Walden is inside sexing, when a large breasted lady happens by. She’s implausibly interested in him, and when she asks him his name he smiles and says “Charlie”. A man impersonating his dead brother in order to get sex is a decidedly dark concept, and its downright disturbing the way it is played for laughs here.

The rest of the episode deals with Alan’s descent into madness and delusion as he goes from impersonating to actually believing himself to be his dead brother. This mostly takes the form of Jon Cryer wearing bowling shirts, smoking cigars, and doing a poor Charlie Sheen impersonation. At this point the show makes a bungled attempt at pathos by having Walden sit down for a heart to heart with Alan’s son (the titular “half man”) to discuss their concerns about Alan’s mental health. The attempt at drama is admirable and all, but someone should have told them it doesn’t work to have Ashton Kutcher say a line like “I’m still trying to process the grief from my divorce” only minutes after having sex with a woman from a bar and announcing “Mr. penis is happy!!”.

(SIDE NOTE- I couldn’t remember Ashton Kutcher’s name while I was watching the episode, so throughout my notes I identify him as “Awful Jesus”. I laughed more about that than any joke attempted in the episode)

For a show that has such obvious contempt for Charlie Sheen - a human man who used to be their coworker - they spend an awful lot of time emulating his style of humor (such as it is) and reminding people of what the show used to be like when he was on it. The spite and admiration seemed so fresh that I was surprised to find that this was the eighth episode since Sheen’s departure, airing a full three months after his meltdown.

In the end, Walden tells Alan he is taking him to Vegas when in fact he is committing him to an insane asylum. The big joke is that Alan is so far gone at this point that he thinks the asylum is Vegas. Hilarious! The episode ends with Alan holding an imaginary phone to his head and ordering Asian hookers up to his penthouse suite, which is in fact his hospital room. Then he leans back satisfied and hangs up the phone saying “Winning!”. Classy.

WILL I KEEP WATCHING? – Not a chance in hell. In fact, I think Chuck Lorre owes me twenty-two minutes of my life back. 

1 comment:

  1. I don't begin to understand how they could think that a descent into hospitalization-necessary madness is funny, especially you know, without jokes.