A Thousand or so Words on Two and a Half Men’s Cancellation

As Private Eye‘s E.J. Thribb would say, So. Farewell then, Two and a Half Men. After eleven seasons and with one more to go, CBS have announced that the long-running sitcom will be ending in 2015, four years after star Charlie Sheen was fired and without whom many thought the show wouldn’t be able to carry on. Well, turns out it did, but now the time has (nearly) come to say goodbye. As expected, certain areas of the internet are celebrating this news – mostly self-appointed tastemakers who don’t like the show and haven’t watched it in years, if ever. So what are they celebrating, exactly? Not sure, to be honest: if you don’t like a show you don’t watch it, and if you don’t watch it then surely you’ve no need to feel anything when it eventually gets canned. Better shows were on in the meantime? Better shows could have taken its time-slot? Well, life is hard and sometimes people don’t get what they want. Cruel, yes, but there we are. (And seriously, Hollywood.com writer-guy, “high-minded”? I hope you’re joking, son, because… yeesh.)

All right, maybe I’m being a little passive-aggressive and a bit too defensive here, but as baffling as it might seem I have something of an emotional connection to this show, which I always enjoyed and never felt was as bad as some people say (although I agree with many of their criticisms, particularly those regarding the treatment of female characters). So then how do I, a dude who loves the Charlie Sheen years and could even be called something of an apologist for the Ashton Kutcher years, feel about this news? Honestly, I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, like I said, I’m a big fan of Two and a Half Men which, in my personal opinion, was a highly entertaining and unpretentious show with great character dynamics, well-written jokes and a proclivity towards peeving people off. On the other hand, it hasn’t been that show since Sheen was fired.  Sitcoms should always focus more on the -com side of things than the sit-, but in recent years the show’s jokes have grown stale and increasingly reliant on grotesque bodily humour while the relationships and character arcs have taken over. It’s become more of a gentle soap opera than the sitcom it once was (though this isn’t unique to Two and a Half Men).

I get this is a tired mantra, too, but the show really hasn’t been the same without Sheen. The show has always been debauched and abrasive and, though that might be off-putting to some, at least Sheen made it look easy and fun. Since he left most of the more hedonistic traits have been dumped on to Jon Cryer’s character Alan, who used to be a loving father and a stick-in-the-mud but suddenly became this weird, morally-void sex-freak who makes it all look like hard work. If that sounds like I’m dumping on Cryer, I’m not – the actors and actresses have done the best they can with the material they’ve been given since. But the dynamic of the show changed too much – the best humour from the earlier seasons came from the frequent conflicts between Charlie and Alan, the sleazebag and the nice guy who often outwitted each other on certain points and sometimes even took over each other’s roles. Ashton Kutcher’s Walden Schmidt, however, is too much of a nice guy to create any real conflict with Alan, so they usually just spin off on their own tedious subplots generally revolving around sex, marijuana, how rich Walden is or some combination of the three. It never helped, either, that all the interesting characters from the earlier seasons were quietly pushed aside while new peripheral characters were constantly thrown at us (and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a few more tossed our way in the final season) to try and inject some lifeblood into the show. Did any of them work? Well, Patton Oswalt’s Billy was kinda funny, I guess, and Amber Tamblyn’s Jenny had some good moments, but for the most part they were pretty forgettable.

When it’s all said and done, though, its end was inevitable: while the critics never had any real impact on the show – if they had, it would have ended a lot earlier – dwindling ratings, aging actors, a rapidly-drying well of creativity and an increasing sense of public apathy towards the show were bound to do it in eventually. But hey, at least the fans – myself included (did I mention that, already?) – get one more season to enjoy (or at least tolerate), along with the previous eleven to do with what we please. That’s an astonishing number for any sitcom and, perhaps, a few too many for this one. For me, it’s eight seasons of sheer gold (humour is subjective, people) and (what will be) four spottier seasons that still have their moments. Can’t be bad.

So what does that leave us with, sitcom-wise? Well, I’m one of the few people who actually prefer studio-based, multi-camera sitcoms to the more “naturalistic” single-camera shows, so let’s put aside Modern Family and all that lot for now. The Big Bang Theory was recently handed another three seasons, so we can enjoy that until at least 2017 (even if I haven’t really enjoyed the show since 2011). What else is there? Mike & Molly? Eh, I always found that show pretty average. 2 Broke Girls? Nah, never liked that one. The other various shows that may or may not have long-lasting runs? We’ll see – I didn’t even get into Two and a Half Men until season eight. I guess time will tell if we can ever have another legacy show like this one, or whether we’ll even want one.

For the most part, though, here’s to you, Two and a Half Men. You may not have been perfect but you made me laugh, and that’s all I really wanted. Now reveal that Charlie never actually died and we can all let you rest in peace. If not, well, at least it won’t be as controversial as How I Met Your Mother‘s finale.

Think I have a point? Think I don’t? Think I’m a hateful, mouth-breathing wad of gangrenous scum that should have been eviscerated at birth (all right, steady on)? Leave a comment. Or don’t. Your choice.

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