Is the new Two and a Half Men setting up to become a trenchant satire of the ongoing battle between the 99% and the richest 1%? Probably not, but there were moments in “A Fishbowl Full of Glass Eyeballs” that laid the foundation for such a satire.
Alan (Jon Cryer) has serious money problems. While his IRS audit thankfully turned out to be part of his looney bin fever dream he is nevertheless broke and in need. In a rare moment of selflessness however, he refuses to simply ask Walden (Ashton Kutcher) to bail him out.
With that, we head to a pawn shop where Alan attempts to sell what few things of value he has. In a moment that is purely, classically, Alan, the gorgeous Swarovski Crystal bowl, the one thing of value he has to his name, breaks as a result Alan’s victory dance over selling it.
Meanwhile, Walden is indulging in doing things for himself for the first time. This includes grocery shopping; a task he enlists Jake (Angus T. Jones) to help him with. These two characters have a strange dynamic in that Jake is dumb and Walden is frighteningly naïve to the point of being dumb. That dynamic produces more awkward moments than laughs so far but there could be a spark of something there.
The trip to the store leads Walden to meet Zoey (Sophie Winkleman), a beautiful English woman with a five year old daughter. Walden and Zoey end up on a date that goes terribly wrong when Walden can’t stop talking about his ex-wife Bridget (Judy Greer).
The most unexpected turn of events in Two and a Half Men “A Fishbowl Full of Glass Eyeballs” comes when Walden gives Alan his wedding ring and Alan takes it to the pawn shop. Here we expect that Alan will sell the ring and then in typically sitcom fashion he will have to find some convoluted way to get it back.
Instead, we get a surprisingly poignant moment on the beach when Walden asks for his ring back and Alan gives it to him having turned down the chance to sell the ring for a significant amount of money. This choice by the writers to avoid convention led to an even funnier scene of manic comedy with Alan diving into the ocean after Walden decides to give up the ring for good.
Alan’s Gollum-esque cries for his ‘precious’ were very funny and a perfectly Alan reference. Just as good was the post-script in which Walden asks Alan about his money problems and why he simply hasn’t asked Walden for money. These moments were funny and kind of sweet and did more to cement the bond between Alan and Walden than anything in the previous nine episodes of the new Two and a Half Men.
Returning to my original point about how Two and a Half Men is building the potential for an honest commentary about rich vs. poor or the 1% vs. the 99%, I am only sort of kidding. No, I don’t think the show has the brains or the balls to try something this daring.
That said, Ashton Kutcher’s Walden is the kind of rich that bothers people. He’s among that elitist group who really has no idea what it’s like to struggle. He’s lost the concept of the value of money. Pairing him with someone like Alan who is struggling bad enough to frequent a pawn shop and you have the potential to tell quite a socially conscious modern story.
As I said, I don’t think the writers of Two and a Half Men have the nerve for this but it’s intriguing and the elements are all there in “A Fishbowl Full of Glass Eyeballs.”
- When Walden gave Jake a few million frequent flier miles did you think he would know what to do with them? Jake going to Paris and then telling Alan over the phone that he had no idea where he was, as he stood in front of a makeshift Eiffel Tower was really funny; possibly Angus T. Jones’ best moment of the season thus far. Pitch perfect delivery.
- Did you recognize the pawn broker? If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad you did.