I keep getting surprised by Two and a Half Men. I assumed that when I took on this assignment, writing every week about Two and a Half Men, a show I’ve never watched before, I thought that I would regret it eventually and that my regret would drive my writing about the show.
Thankfully, I have been repeatedly surprised by how amusing the show is. Jon Cryer has consistently made me laugh with Alan’s fussy, frustrated asides and self-referential humor. That self-referential humor was on strong display in “Nine Magic Fingers.”
Alan has finally convinced Lindsey (Courtney Thorne Smith) to give him another chance. Now, he is hoping that Walden (Ashton Kutcher) won’t mind if he has Lindsey over after the date; a guest having a guest overnight is a rather awkward situation after all.
Walden agrees though with some reservation. The fact that Alan is dating and finding later that Berta has invited a nine fingered man over for some private time as well, has left Walden feeling lonely. Rejected once again by his ex-wife Bridget (Judy Greer), Walden eventually heads to a bar where he meets someone familiar to longtime fans of Two and a Half Men.
Jenny McCarthy’s Courtney has popped up before on the show, she was at Charlie Harper’s funeral and I can infer she shared Charlie’s bed a few times before he died. Courtney is a con-artist and when she stumbles on a lonely Walden at a bar he’s easy to pick up on. She knows that Walden bought Charlie’s house and is aware of his millions of dollars.
Of course, Alan needs to tell Walden about Courtney’s past but in doing so he risks Walden not believing him and kicking him out of the house. Cleverly, Alan enlists Bridget’s help. The elimination of Courtney via a check for 50,000 dollars is quick and clean and is demonstrable of the stock approach of Two and a Half Men.
The key to the humor of the new Two and a Half Men is not in ongoing stories, of which there are few, but rather in one off jokes that can be repeated as needed in different variations from show to show and storylines that can be discarded quickly so as not to get in the way of Two and a Half Men‘s strongest source of humor, Alan’s self-loathing.
When the Emmy nominations were announced, I questioned the inclusion of Jon Cryer among the nominees. My contention was that he’d been included as a token from voters for having so graciously weathered the Charlie Sheen storm.
Now, however, after four episodes of the new Two and a Half Men, I can see why people would be impressed with Jon Cryer. Cryer’s delivery of a line is a full body expression of Alan’s intense discomfort. Yet, his lines are so witty, and spot on they defy his insecurity. This dichotomy gives Alan a strange sort of depth.
I realize that I am greatly over thinking a sitcom character here but I am merely attempting to illustrate how impressed I am with Jon Cryer; the man is a great deal more talented than I had given him credit for.
As for Ashton Kutcher, nothing much has changed for Walden over four episodes. The man-child aspect of his personality has been established as has his love for Bridget. Beyond that, there isn’t much to the character. Walden, to this point, exists as a foil for Alan’s many insecurities and shortcomings.
That dynamic was well expressed when Courtney Thorne Smith’s Lindsey clearly used Walden as her motivation in bed with Alan. Cryer’s genius in this moment is recognizing what has happened and not commenting on it. He lets this humiliating realization settle over the moment and the laugh comes from not acknowledging what’s happened.
A clumsier show, like 2 Broke Girls which airs before Two and a Half Men, doesn’t have the maturity to let the joke tell itself; the writers of that show feel the need to underline jokes with other lowbrow jokes. Two and a Half Men, having been around for nine years, have a group of writers and star Jon Cryer who knows when to simply let the moment be funny.
I refer to Two and a Half Men as mature only in the sense of age, the show engages in as much childish, low-brow humor as any other show on TV. This week it was Berta (Conchata Ferrell) and a nine fingered man that went for the lowest of the low humor. Why the episode was named for this character I have no idea.
The close of the episode found Alan getting the OK from Walden to stay as long as he wants. This led Berta to move out giving Alan his, astonished at Alan’s cockroach like survivability, giving Alan his old room back and giving him a sense that things were going his way. If there is one thing I have learned about Two and a Half Men however, in the short time I have been watching, it is that Alan cannot be happy for very long.
The show ended with Alan choking on a piece of popcorn. We don’t see whether Alan survived but I’d say it’s a safe bet he’ll be back next week. Surprisingly, so will I.