Now and Then: Two and a Half Men

The Dangers of keeping shows past their expiration date

I wouldn’t say I was ever a huge Two & a Half Men fan; however, when it first came out, it was a comedy I enjoyed. I thought it was a new and interesting idea for a sitcom, the cast was good and the writing was funny. I watched every episode for at least 3 seasons but then I slowly started to lose interest. I still watched it occasionally and had a good time, but now… I feel like throwing something at my TV set every time an episode is on.

I started to think about it… and I tried to pinpoint where exactly this show went wrong.
Was it the changes in the cast? I am not entirely sure… it is probably a factor. Say whatever you want about Charlie Sheen, but he is a good comedic actor. He was a good leading man and for the time he was on the show he did a good job (on camera, whatever happened behind cameras I don’t know). Charlie leaving was definitely not good for the show, although I don’t think it was the only issue. I do like Ashton Kutcher, I think he did an amazing job for 8 years on That 70s Show, so we know he has what it takes to work on a sit-com. However, I believe he could be doing something better right now, something younger and fresher instead of taking over an aging show which is creatively on decline.

The Charlie Sheen debacle wasn’t the end of the behind the scenes drama for this show. This year, it was the turn of Angus T. Jones to make headlines calling the show “filth” and creating a media scandal. Even if you agree with him, that is no way to talk about the show that pretty much made your career (or that IS your career, since I have no idea what other things that kid has done). The whole thing was very unclassy and just added to the negative image of the show. Angus will not be a part of the next season, which leaves Jon Cryer as the only original cast member. So pretty much, out of the two and a half men, we were left with “a man”. Some ensemble shows get away with constantly rotating casts (Grey’s Anatomy for instance), but this is not the case for Men. It is a show based on the premise of an unconventional three person family, which is no longer in existence.

And speaking of family, there is another deeper issue with the show. Two & a Half Men started going downhill even before all the cast drama. It probably had something to do with how the dynamic changed over the years. The show was always mildly racy and had its share of sexual innuendos, but it was toned down thanks to the fact that there was a kid (the half man) in the mix. This provided balance for the humor and added a ‘family’ element, making the show more appropriate for a wider audience and the characters more human and relatable.

Two and a half men Season 1

Of course we know that kid eventually grew up and now is a young man. Whatever innocence was completely went away. Now, not only every character has an active sex life, but also their entire existence seems to revolve around it. Watching one of the latest episodes was just painful. It was a succession of sexual jokes one after the other, not even funny or racy. Most of the jokes were plainly offensive and there wasn’t any recognizable plot in the entire episode.

I have no issues with racy comedies, but in the right setting and with good writing. If you are going to make a racy comedy, the jokes have to be edgy, smart and well written. None of which applies to Two & a Half Men anymore. The fact that they renewed the show for another season (based on ratings not quality, obviously) is just one more reason I think the current programming practices are flawed.

While I understand that, in the end, it is all about the money; keeping shows on the air for too many years just hurts the art and quality of television. We can find many other examples of aging TV. CBS has a knack for prolonging shows more than needed… at this point, does anyone care who the mother is on How I met your mother? I would much rather see my beloved Neil Patrick Harris move on to a new and fresh project (full length Dr. Horrible sing along blog anyone?).

How I met your mother
And let’s not even start about reality TV… I confess, I watched many seasons (more than I should) of American Idol, I even stuck around for the Stephen Tyler/JLo season, but at this point it is just unbearable to watch. Not only we have 5 million other singing shows polluting the TV market, but also we know that most of them will probably be around for a few more years. More examples of shows that should have been cancelled and finish when they were actually good are everywhere on broadcast television. I have to give it to Shonda Rhimes though, Grey’s Anatomy may not be in its glory days, but she has managed to find new storylines and not repeat herself.

While CBS has the problem of having an old line-up, its baby network, The CW, may have the opposite Supernatural no other scripted show is beyond its third season. Now, the CW has a history of being a little trigger happy when it comes to cancelling shows, but at least its line-up feels fresh.

In summary, I am not happy about Two and a Half Men getting another season. Even sadder, if I was the CBS programmer I would have probably ended up doing the same. It is hard to argue with the ‘money making’ ratings. I just wish that creative quality could be a bigger deciding factor when it comes to programming decisions. I also wish the general public would watch more quality TV shows and that quality and ratings could go hand in hand… but we don’t live in an ideal TV world, much to my dismay.

Arrested Development
We can take comfort on the recent empowerment of fans and increasing importance of new media platforms, which are changing the way we consume television. Hey, talking about good underrated comedies, Arrested Development is coming back later this month… so I guess not everything is lost yet.
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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