2 1/2 Men – The Verdict

To follow up on my previous post, after having watched the season premiere of ‘2 1/2 Men’ as well as Charlie Sheen’s roast on Comedy Central, well – Sheen’s roast wins. Kutcher’s performance – while I’m sure was droolworthy for anyone wishing to see insinuations of his nakedness, was far too derivative of his Kelso role on ‘That 70’s Show’ to breathe the fresh air this show desperately needs. Despite his new character Walden Schmidt being an entrepreneur and a billionaire, he actually came across as just another dorky airhead – again, not far from Kelsoland. CBS garnered killer ratings for the debut (27.7 million viewers) but I predict we’re gonna see a HARD drop-off over the coming weeks – possibly not even enough to sustain the show, although it’s a little early to call the patient deceased just yet.

Sheen, on the other hand, definitively has been given the last laugh. Literally. While his roasters were tasteless, brazen and occasionally even racist, like a NASCAR spin-out it was tough to turn away. Sure, Steve-O and Mike Tyson made one cringe and “joke borrowing” Jon Lovitz confirmed his washed-up status by using material that’s been on every Facebook status page for the past 10 months (“How much cocaine did Charlie Sheen do? Enough to kill 2 1/2 men”). Fortunately, with the razor sharp ruthlessness of relative unknowns Amy Schumer, Jeffrey Ross and Anthony Jeselnik as well as veteran zingers Seth Macfarlane and William Shatner, this rag-tag ensemble proved that the prime-time roast sure as hell ain’t dead. And even Sheen’s rebuttal – well, WINNING (you knew I was gonna throw that in here somewhere, didn’t you?). I for one wouldn’t object to a Sheen roast EVERY week instead of the faltering “2 1/2 Men”. Still, hope springs eternal that the show will get it’s legs with the new cast. Had this had been a prizefight, “2 1/2 men” may not have been KO’d but they sure lost on points. And ultimately, the champion remains the same. Well played again, Mr. Sheen.

2 1/2 Sheens

Like many folks, I plan on watching the premiere of “2 and 1/2 Men” tonight live (sans DVR – EGADS!) & then most likely flipping over to the Charlie Sheen roast on Comedy Central. After it’s all over, I’m wondering which will actually be the funnier of the two (probably the roast, but it won’t be the intentional parts).

Can’t help but think that Charlie’s “tirades” and the ensuing media storm, the tour of rants etc. weren’t all some ploy on Sheen’s part to get a better contract. His apologetic presentation on last night’s Emmy’s could be construed as laying the groundwork for guest appearance discussions on the hit sitcom (probably around the May Nielsen book, I’m thinking), provided anyone still cares at that point. And if all of this IS true – well done Mr. Sheen. Played like a well oiled stripper.

But what I’m curious about, and why I even care at this point, is from a more artistic standpoint. As a writer, the challenge of substituting a pivotal character with a NEW pivotal character – well, it ain’t as easy as Chuck Lorre would like for us all to believe. It’s like a good series finale; every producer says they “know what mistakes were made by the great series before them”, and yet few (if any) actually go on to prove that they were paying attention. I’m talking to you, J. J. Abrams.

So for me, it’s not “Is Ashton Kutcher able to pull it off” because of course he will, or they wouldn’t be airing the show at all. The question to me is, will the writers? Or are we about to be treated to a rehashed, revamped, retro-fitted semblance of a transition story that could’ve been more imaginatively conceived by a junior high art class on a long bus ride to Origami Camp? I certainly hope not.

I have faith in the genius of Chuck Lorre and his writing team – arguably some the sharpest tacks in the business right now, and tonight’s episode WILL be a learning experience one way or the other from a storytelling standpoint; either a textbook “This is how it’s done” template for future sitcoms, or a cautionary tale about over-estimating one’s prowess with plot devices.

We shall see, won’t we?