Sneak Preview: Two and a Half Men and One Ashton Kutcher

Can a one funny joke show survive after its one funny joke is gone?

By , Contributor

Here's a sneak preview of what is sure to be the most anticipated twenty minutes of television since the moon landing, the 2011 season premiere of Two and a Half Men.

With Charlie upstairs sleeping off another bender, Alan steals his brother's American Express card and takes Jake, Berta, Judith, Herb, Evelyn, Eldridge, Eldridge's mom, Rose, and twenty random hot chicks on a three-hour Malibu boat ride. Unfortunately, there is a huge storm and despite the efforts of the fearless crew, the gang gets shipwrecked on a desert island where their continual efforts to return to civilization are constantly thwarted by the crazy, nutball antics of the first mate, who is played by incoming star, Ashton Kutcher!

I'm not one of those television snobs who looks down his nose at Two and a Half Men. The show's writing may have been a little leaner the past couple of years, but I really believe that at its peak this was a really funny and well written sex farce. Nevertheless, when I'm asked to explain the merits of the show, I usually say, "It's a one joke show, but it's a really funny joke." That really funny joke was Charlie Sheen parodying his real life as a drunken playboy who nevertheless seems to flourish and survive on sheer charisma, much to the consternation of his constantly frustrated younger brother. It's the Odd Couple with one loser instead of two.

Now I'm not sure if the Jump the Shark website had a category for a one joke show losing its one joke, but if it doesn't then it's pretty obvious that it should. I'm not saying that the other actors on the show aren't fabulous, in fact Jon Cryer, Angus T. Young, Holland Taylor, and especially Conchata Ferell are all top notch and really funny. Still, all of their characters are like revolving planets, and as much as it must kill CBS and Chuck Lorre, Charlie Sheen is the sun.

What will they do with replacement Ashton Kutcher? Honestly, I'm not even sure if they have a clue. In all likelihood they just went out and got the biggest star willing to scab onto Charlie's gold mine and plan on passing around a bong for the rest of the summer's writing meetings in the desperate hope that they can figure out something to save CBS' number one comedy.

Personally, I would have just preferred a reality show where we get to see how Ashton raises Bruce Willis' mostly grown daughters. I'd even watch a new show where Ashton parodied his own life, but how they are going to seamlessly turn what could have easily been called the Charlie Sheen Show into Ashton and One and a Half Men is beyond me.

Now is Charlie Sheen an ass? Undoubtedly, but talent counts and he's the talent. I'm sure Jackie Gleason was a handful most of the time, but that doesn't mean that you can just replace him with Buddy Hackett and have Norton act like nothing is wrong.

The sad truth is that it probably won't matter. Happy Days was a truly wretched show in the three or four years that it continued to run after they put Henry Winkler on water skis, and I'm almost certain that it still made plenty of money.

Two and a Half Men is already sold into syndication and the new patched up version will undoubtedly plod its way through one more year of corporate profits. Even if the show somehow remains popular, the concept of bringing in a new pretty boy is artistically bankrupt. If Charlie Sheen is too much for Chuck and CBS CEO Les Moonves to handle, then be men about it and just end the damn show.

Sadly, given the choice, corporate profits always outweigh the urge to avoid being artistically bankrupt. After all, that's why Jay Leno is still on the air.

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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