Thursday, October 13, 2011

Without Charlie

I guess my personal verdict is in on the new Two and a Half Men: I didn’t feel like watching it last Monday.

I had decided to try approaching the show like a spin-off, since I thought eliminating Charlie Sheen was going to require too much plot demolition to retain continuity as it existed. I felt this could be a chance to retool a show that had begun to get tired and weird. I also realized it would be a long shot. I’m not sure what the producers and writers were thinking. I get the impression so far that they aren’t sure either.

To their credit, they handled the awkward part – getting rid of Sheen – fairly well. The funeral had a mix of comedy and sadness and an overall feel consistent with the series. Ashton Kutcher’s introduction also had a jarring suddenness that fit in with this show’s lack of subtlety. But since then, the show seems to reflect a conflict between the desire of the producers to prove it could continue as it was without Sheen and the writers’ inability to let him go.

They dropped Kutcher into a plot contrived to try to keep the remaining characters more or less as they were despite the radical change. Sheen’s old girlfriends are turning up to hit on Kutcher and Judy Greer - who once played Myra, Judith’s new sister-in-law and one of Sheen’s more entertaining flings – is now cast as Kutcher’s estranged wife. (I must say that this is also consistent with the show’s past. Jennifer Taylor, who played Chelsea, Sheen’s last big love interest, had appeared on the show three times before as different characters, and April Bowlby had been on as someone else before she played Kandi.) The result feels like they’re trying to go back and forth between two shows with the same actors.

Kutcher’s performance suggests he realizes that he was hired strictly as a gimmick to keep the show going. Hopefully the creative team will put more enthusiasm into his character, which might give this a chance to succeed, although the ratings trend isn’t encouraging. I’ll probably tune in again to see how they’re doing. But they have to finish mourning Sheen and move on.

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