So! Did you watch Two and Half Men last night? Odds are you did—the season premiere raked in 28 million viewers. And heaven help me, I was one of them. There’s no DVR up in this piece, either, so I had to miss an entire half-hour of The Sing-Off. Grr! (I also missed Dancing with the Stars and the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. I was also curious about David Krumholtz in The Playboy Club. Ah, well.)
Here’s a recapitulation of last night’s episode of Two and a Half Men:
At Charlie Harper’s funeral—which is attended only by angry women with various venereal diseases—we discover that Charlie had embarked on a brand-new, whirlwind romance with his erstwhile stalker, Rose (Melanie Lynskey). Rose explains during her eulogy how, on their romantic getaway to Paris, Rose discovered Charlie with another woman (already!) in their hotel room. Imagine her horror, Rose adds, when the very next day Charlie tragically ‘slipped’ off a train platform and fell into the path of an oncoming train. (But he didn’t suffer, Rose concludes—”his body just exploded like a balloon full of meat.”)
Early in the episode, Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) discovers he’ll have to sell the house. Then Jake Harper farts—I guess that was a joke?—and with that, Angus T. Jones vanishes for the rest of the episode. Seems like a pretty smart choice, actually.
We reestablish that Alan’s mother is a shrew. Also, Alan’s ex-wife is a shrew. Also, the maid. Also, Dharma of Dharma and Greg.
The first time I really laughed was when Alan was on the couch, cradling Charlie’s urn and talking to it—something about “just like old times: me, up here, you down in the bottle.” Maybe they didn’t need to cast Ashton Kutcher at all; maybe they could have just cast the urn. Hey, that works! The “half-a-man” could be the pile of ashes!
As Alan crosses the room to sprinkle Charlie’s ashes on the beach, you are already shrieking at the TV set, “I wonder how the writers will keep the urn from making it all the way across the room!” At that very moment, Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher)—dejected billionaire and all-around deus ex machina—appears at the patio doors. Startled, Alan spills Charlie Harper all over the floor. (Ha, ha. Pretty good.) And from the “ham-handed literalism” files, Kutcher appears to rise from Charlie’s ashes. (Ha, ha, not bad at all.)
Walden establishes a rapport with Alan for the rest of the episode. That’s it.
Of course, Alan hopes he’s found a kindred spirit in lovelorn Walden, but he is inevitably discomfited when it turns out Walden is, however blithely, an inadvertent Lothario—Alan’s bed, meanwhile, remains cold and lonely. (Insert obvious joke about Alan crying himself to sleep with hand lotion.)
Like Charlie Sheen before him, Kutcher ought to be a natural fit for the ensemble because, after all, he isn’t acting. But Kutcher’s dynamic with Cryer is really weird. (Prediction: Kutcher and Angus T. Jones, shopping together at an H&M, discuss how best to flatten the voice so that it is devoid of all inflection and emotion.)
One reviewer noted that Charlie Sheen had always been a “generous reactor” to Jon Cryer, and I’d never noticed before now. Indeed, Cryer has always been the straight man, but compared to Ashton, he’s really broad, really trying to sell all his punchlines, while Ashton isn’t all that committed to capacious comedy. He seems kind of unyielding. C’mon! Where’s that Kelso?
And although the season premiere has already garnered mixed reviews, a lot of critics are eager to see what else Ashton has up his pipe. One skeptic from the Chicago Tribune notes, “It was a promising beginning: Kutcher brings a softness to a series that could be brittle and sour, misanthropic and misogynistic, and temperamentally middle-aged.”
FINAL VERDICT: This show is cheesy, lowest-common-denominator horsesh—t, but I’m impressed that its writers were able to totally reinvent the premise and reintroduce the characters within 23 minutes. Send Angus T. Jones to college, already.