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One of the btter ones; Not art, but excellent vaudeville
on December 28, 2012
Chuck Lorre is a brilliant man; a complex but calm man who has realized that as the boss in a performing arts company he must remain calm and staid because almost no one else will, He got his start, as most of the Hollywood writing staff did, on Roseanne, where his writing skills were honed under the demands of a woman who planned out an entire series between season two and three.
Roseanne was making a plug for women's rights and it centered on the fact that women were capable of doing just about anything. Sadly, in the late 80'ws and early 90's the methods she used were by making men seem like idiots. John Goodman is not only a brilliant actor and a man who clearly wanted out of his contract in season nine, managed to come across as a wonderful man; a feminist who refused to give up his maleness. Still, we watched Roseanne hit him in the head with a cast iron skillet one too many times. When Roseanna (who had a philosophy that any writer had one or two good season in him and then it was time to cut him loose- she was wrong) released Lorre, he went on to create Dharma and Greg, Becker, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Lorre manages to do well by surrounding himself with outstanding people and allowing them to do their jobs. There is plenty of laughter on the set and Charlie Sheen aside, there are no "stars" on his shows. The Big Bang Theory is an excellent example of ensemble work we haven't seen since Marta Kaufman and David Crane gave us "Friends."
Two and a Half Men is about two unmarried brothers. Charlie (played by Charlie Sheen), two years older, who has managed a career as a musician writing jingles for advertising- bringing in vast amounts of money, a house on Malibu Beach and an endless supply of single malt scotch. Alan (Jon Cryer) is an anal retentive chiropractor- not quite a doctor- who was kicked out of his home a la Felix Unger by his wife of twelve years named Judith.(Marin Hatch) They share custody of a boy, Jake (expertly played by Angus T. Jones) whp is lazy, fraqnk and has the typical locker room humor of a young adolescent. The premise- at first- was to see how an adolescent boy would co-exist with a single uncle who is living with a Peter Pan comp-lex, bringing in woman after woman foir meaningless one night stands, developing a reputation where by almost anywhere he goes woman are saying "Hi, Charlie" or "Charlie, you filthy creep! You ruined my life."
On the surface, Alan comes across as the better behaved of the two and we strongly suspect that Lorre intended this. However, Alan begins to make up for last time and despite the many jokes about Charlie thinking with his penis, we noticed that soon enough Alans penis was doing all of HIS thinking and at a substantially lower IQ than that of Charlie's. Aolan spends all of his time comp0laining about how easily things come to Charlie while he has had t5o dfight for every single failure in his life. What is left to us to see is that Charlie has just as many challenges and failures as Alan but has learned not to complain about them. His relaxed attitude serves him better than Alan's constant anxiety and explosive diarrhea. Still, it is often Charlie who gets a surprise trip to the Emergency room. Charlie is the one who's got a stalker and had his testicles super glued to his thighs. Charlie is the one who is a kind man and wants nothing more than kindness in return. Alan is unable to see this and thus feels great jealousy about the fact that he feels that he struggles and struggles, loses everything, while Charlie has gold falling from the sky.
Alan wastes every opportunity he has. His second marriage comes about a year and a half after Judith has thrown him out and he ends up in a weekend long sex marathon with a girl whose body is spectacular and her very loe I.Q. somehow makes her even more sexy. She is enamored by Alan;s sweetness and doesn;lt mind that she is half his age. She struts around the house in a bikini, to the delight of young Jakes and, during a foolish moment in Las Vegas, Alan marries her. Fifteen minutes later a single coin in the slot wins him a half million dollars and then four months after that she has thrown him out and he has eleven dollars left.;
And Charlie is the fool?
The show doesn't make any attempts to teach us lessons and this is nice. After all we wept through Family Ties, M*A*S*H*, Designing Women and even Roseanna, but it is nice to have a TV series where there is never any growth- a pure half hour of comedy.
As each season passes we see that both men are destroyed by childhood issues stemming from a terrible mother played expertly by the clkassic Holland Taylor). The boys father died when they were swtill in elementary school by food poisoning of fish. "( I was a new housewife and learning to cook, ": Said Evelyn- their mother, "How was I to know that fish couldn't be kept in a drawer? "
Charlie contends that his father KNEW the fish was bad and he ate it anyway. Alan refuses to discuss it. After his death came a string of "Uncles" who helped to raise the boys. Alan became the type A child who did anything he could to please but never succeeded. Charlie simply began to drink and have indiscriminate sex. They endured boarding school, Charlie got out as fast as he could and Alan married a duplicate of his mother. Alan gets reamed for both Alimony and Child Support. He loses the house, all the money, the furniture and the car. Why? Because Charlie couldn't heolp himself and slept with, then dumped, Alan;s attorney.
Similar episodes occurred with Jake's Karate teacher, den mother, fifth grade teacher and countless others.Charlie falls in love more often and Alan ends up in terrible situations because off his loud but stupid penis. (a true highlight is his venture into computer dating when Alison JAnney plays a date who leaves, saying good night to Charlie, explaining she has to get up for work and that Alan has turned into bed for the night. Charlie who is plagued by being in love with a ballet dancer who will be traveling, enters Alan's room to see him cuffed at fours in red stockings, arm gloves and leather corset and panties.
Alison Janney is an excellent example of the remarkable guest stars that visit this show. Martin Sheen plays an emotionally unbalanced father of Charlie's stalker, Rose (perhaps the gem of the series), Robert Wagner plays the boys father and as a result of a fun conversation between Chuck Lorre and the creator of CSI, a switch of writing staffs occur creating a hysterical episode here and a wonderful CSI parody. CLoris Leachman moves in next door, Sean Penn and Elvis Costello play themselves in a support group with Charlie. Martin Mull is a remarkable pharmacist trying to compete with the larger chains and copes by delving into the sample drawers. He pays three sets of alimony but not a cent of child support. It goes on and on.
The gem of the series is Conchetta Ferrall who plays Berta, Charlie's housekeeper who does much more than keeps house. She is part of the family and her wit and wisdom is curt and cute. Nothing disgusts her (one morning after finding a bra abd panties on the kitchen table with the bananas and the butter says, "Good God, I'm workin;' for Caligula." She's a good woman, the mother of a handful of failure girls for whom she'd face a meth chemist to extort $5,000 in pre-paid child support. She could have only five lines in a scene and still manage to steal it. The house can't run without Berta and she and Charlie have a strong relationship, well defined and honed over the course of many years.
Okay. The writing is full of 8th grade fart jokes but they're cleverly written so that one must delve into intelligence to get the meaning. There's a great deal of gas, as a result of a 12 year old boy who will (and can) eat anything and has no shame. We have watched only up to season six and we suppose that there's not a soul in America who has not heard of the medical condition that crashed Charlie Sheen. We have not seen that final season as his illness took him down nor have we viewed any of the new seasons with the adorable and perpetually adolescent Ashton Kutcher. The series is approaching it';s 200tgh episode, something rarely seen in television so that there are 8 seasons before Mr Sheen's illness affects the show- if at all. We will revisit this subject when the time comes, but in the mean time, score this one as a way of understanding men- of making up for the men hating Roseanne and at looking at two emotionally damaged men and why. All the women in this series are depicted as equally damaged with the expception of Berta and Charlie's stalker. There is the regular appearance of a therapist- a [psychiatrist who still does therapy at $250 an hour and from time to time all two and a half men have sat with her. She played a phys ed teacher on Old Christine and now has a lead in the show Glee- the only actress in Hollywood taller than Alison Janney, she spends most of her scenes seated in her expensive chair making jokes at the expens fo Charlie or Alan and helping them to come to terms with what haunts them.
Yes, it took us years to open our arms to Two and a half Men because at first, it appears to be arm-pit farts and network Pokys, but it is ever so much more. This is a good one for everyone and even more so for any man who has been under the control over the stronger sex.