Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Two and a Half Men 9.1 'Nice to Meet You, Walden Schmidt'



“…Who tries to commit suicide in a wet suit…?" - Walden

The more things change the more they stay the same for poor Alan Harper. Not long after the funeral of the brother who constantly made him feel inferior and inadequate with women he encounters his replacement; who also makes him feel inferior and inadequate with women.

I’d read quite a bit online after this much-anticipated season premiere went out in the States and there seemed to be a lot of people who felt as though Chuck Lorre and the writers went out of their way to bad mouth Charlie Harper (and by association Charlie Sheen) in this episode. Many commented that the episode devoted too much time to slating Sheen and desecrating Charlie’s memory and thus didn’t have enough time to give us any reason to invest in Ashton Kutcher’s new character.

Of course with all the bad blood between Sheen and the ‘Men’ camp there had to be some sort of karmic payback from the side that for the most part had kept a dignified silence through the summer of madness as Sheen went to town berating them with disparaging remarks every chance he got. But from the initial reaction I’d assumed the whole episode was devoted to some petty revenge attempt by Lorre et al.

The opening funeral was a little over the top it has to be said. Yes, funerals on comedies are always shaky ground, but it really was done in such a slapstick way that it felt completely ridiculous and out of context with the remainder of the show.

Of course ‘Men’ is renowned for it’s quite broad, childish humour, but after eight seasons fans must’ve detected that beneath all the sarcasm, one-liners and name-calling that the Harper family did really love each other. Tender moments on the show were rare but they did exist, and by writing Charlie out in such an undignified way with his family really not seeming that broken up about it, it soiled all those previous moments of heart.
They did redeem themselves somewhat later on as Alan spoke to Charlie’s ashes and offered a more heartfelt goodbye to his brother, but the funeral scene did feel a little unnecessary, especially as Rose practically admitted to murdering Charlie and no one seemed too concerned.

The Charlie-bashing was mainly kept to that extended pre-credits funeral scene though, and although Ashton Kutcher’s character didn’t appear until just before the ad break, the reaction I’d seen to the episode and its Sheen-dissing does now seem slightly over the top.

The episode has reportedly done record numbers, with people obviously tuning in for one of two reasons, a – to see how they wrote Charlie out or b – to see how they wrote Kutcher in.

I have to be honest though, I can’t see many casual viewers sticking around beyond this opening episode now all the intrigue is gone, there was nothing to really make you want to tune in again next week, even with the episode ending with a ‘To Be Continued…’ caption.

There was no explanation for how Alan and Walden come to be a big part of each other’s lives here so presumably after the revelation that Walden was going to buy the house at the end of the episode, those answers will come in part two.

Kutcher was fine in his role as the recently dumped billionaire and we all know that he’s a fine comic actor but there was just so little to really latch on to with his character here, all we found out was that he’s “hung like an elephant”.

By the end of the episode Walden had seamlessly filled the Charlie role on the show though by having a threesome whilst Alan masturbated alone downstairs.

The remaining cast members were given very little to do here as Kutcher’s introduction largely dominated proceedings. Jake was reduced to simply farting a few times, Judith and Herb made fleeting appearances and Berta & Evelyn were just their usual selfish selves on a smaller scale as well.

If the Two and a Half Men crew are going to prove that this has always been a bigger show than Charlie Sheen then they really are going to need to pull out all the stops from this point forward, otherwise I have visions of this being not only Ashton Kutcher’s first season, but also his, and the show’s, last.

A Hail of Bullets:

- The parade of angry ex-girlfriends at the funeral was odd to me. Yes it seemed natural that there’d be some scorned women at Charlie’s funeral, but the ones who got to speak (the recognisable stars) mostly had decent relationships with Charlie if my memory serves me correctly and I don’t remember the likes of Mia and Chelsea ending up hating him enough to want to “spit” on the body.

It was in this sense that I thought the funeral was a bit cheap, but it was still and impressive line-up of some very sexy women: Jenny McCarthy, Jeri Ryan, Tricia Helfer… I know he was dead but Charlie must have been smiling at that line-up, I know I was.

- I enjoyed the John Stamos cameo – this is obviously where the rumours that Stamos was Sheen’s replacement originated from, or a play on them – but it wasn’t quite clear whether he was playing himself or just an acquaintance of Charlie’s.

Either way he got one hell of a reaction from the studio audience when he rocked up at the door and any John Stamos appearance is good with me.

- I also got a real kick out of the appearance of Jenna Elfman & Thomas Gibson in their old Dharma & Greg guises. I always loathed Dharma & Greg and found their relationship to be one so inaccurate it actually physically irritated me, so to see them now bickering and on the brink of divorce after years of opposites attracting but not really working together in a long term relationship was really satisfying.

How the straight-laced Greg put up with all Dharma’s new-agey, hippy bullshit always baffled me, so although this appearance obviously destroyed any lasting memories fans of the original show may have had, it at least felt more real than anything that actually went down in that show when it was on the air.

I won’t even open the can of worms that is Jenna Elfman having previously played a character on Two and a Half Men because let’s be honest, when has that sort of continuity issue ever bothered this show?

- Good to see Joel (Freddy Rumsen) Murray make another appearance as well as the courier that delivered Charlie’s ashes. I make that three appearances by Murray on ‘Men’ now but it’s never been established whether he’s playing the same character or a variety of different ones. Given how similar his demeanour is each time, I’ll go with the former, in which is case it’s kind of cool that he recurs in such a small role each time.

- I’ve just realised I didn’t stay with the credits long enough for the now traditional Chuck Lorre Productions title card at the end of the episode, boy I bet that was an interesting read…


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