This past Thursday, the iconic sitcom “Two and a Half Men” premiered its twelfth and final season. The show historically has been one of the most beloved and highly-rated on television, but in recent years has seen several ups and downs. At this point, it seems like CBS continues to renew the show simply for the sake of tradition. While it is true “Men” has become a sort of American legend, the show’s audience is waning and demonstrates little potential for growth.
Two and a Half Men
Season 12 Premiere
Thursdays at 9:00 p.m.
Now with the absence of Charlie (Charlie Sheen, “Anger Management”), many viewers have turned away, even with the younger, cleaner Walden (Ashton Kutcher, “No Strings Attached”) as a substitute. With Alan’s (John Cryer, “Pretty in Pink”) brother gone, and his son Jake (Angus T. Jones, “The Rookie”) “in the army,” the show can only come up with so many fresh premises for two grown male best friends that have not been used in sitcoms before.
The title no longer makes sense, as Jake is now not only a legal adult, but he is also absent in the premiere. Even though this will be its final season, “Men” must only come up with a multitude of excuses for the disappearance of characters as the show runs on diminishing possibilities.
Whether or not the producers like it, they cannot stop the audience from automatically comparing Kutcher to Sheen. Perhaps firing the volatile Sheen helped their industry’s image, but many argue that the series should have wrapped up with Sheen’s dismissal. The original character dynamic is simply unparalleled. Regardless of Kutcher’s talent, Sheen still stands as the face of the show, as he has a #winning stage presence that simply cannot be matched.
The premiere starts with the two men and missing half-man, donned in their Halloween best. Walden unexpectedly suffers a heart attack, and after his “terrifying” near-death experience, he completely over-dramatizes his dismay to where his “desperation” seems more like sarcasm.
The premiere continues this pattern of amalgamating hilarious moments with artificial ones to the point where the writing simply feels uncomfortable. There are far too many instances when Walden’s lines are so over-dramatically presented that it is ambiguous whether he truly is trying to sarcastic or genuine.
Especially when Walden pokes fun at Alan, the jokes seemed rehearsed and timed, without the spontaneity that is supposed to qualify his character as witty. The humor becomes too cheesy, especially when it is ambiguous — at least initially — whether Walden legitimately has a heart attack or whether he fakes it for attention.
During Walden’s contemplation of his “purpose of existence,” he decides he wants to introduce a child in his life, which ironically contradicts his free-spirited persona. He’s not supposed to be the one philosophizing to Alan, but rather vice versa — another strange discontinuity in the premiere.
Walden is rejected from the adoption agencies, however, because his status as a single father is unfavorable in comparison to stable married couples. Walden, disappointed, understands how marriage is simply not an option for him, as he notes, “you have to find the right person — or Mila Kunis.” This is no accident as Kutcher and Kunis are very publicly engaged with a newborn. While the connection is appropriate, it does not help the audience’s difficulty in separating Walden as an on-screen character from Kutcher’s persona as an actor.
As a resolution, Walden ultimately proposes to Alan to increase their odds of adopting a child. Although the ridiculousness of the situation is meant to elicit laughs, it rather produces nervous chuckles of confusion. Is this the show’s way of making weak social commentary on same-sex marriage and adoption?
Meanwhile, the only primary characters are Alan, Walden and the occasional insertion of Berta who is really only there for comedic timing or as a straight man, something the show certainly does not need if there’s better chemistry between Walden and Alan. Berta’s character truly bears an irrelevance and indifference. In addition, there are no other subplots to avert audience attention during the half an hour, so as interest atrophies slowly for all secondary characters, it will soon diminish for the two primary men, as well.
When Sheen was still present, the series was known for its low-brow, dry farce. It perfected the use of comedic relief, as it was well-known for intercutting moments of sentimental sincerity to vulgar jokes about boobs or farts. Unfortunately, a few seasons after his departure, “Men” hasn’t started off its final season with great promises.