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On 'Two and a Half Men,' Charlie Sheen's Character Died -- But the Wrong Way
September 21, 2011  | By P.J. Bednarski
 



I don't watch Two and Half Men often enough to know if that first episode was up to the show's usual comedy standards. But it wasn't very funny. And executive producer Chuck Lorre didn't find a very plausible way to introduce new lead Ashton Kutcher.

All in all, Lorre missed the opportunity to make a statement he obviously believes: Booze kills.

He could have killed Charlie Harper, Sheen's sitcom alter ego, and still found a way to get lowbrow laughs out of the episode. In April, way back when Sheen was in the news, I proposed CBS kill him this way. I wrote, in part:

"Isn't it hypocritical for a network and his studio to condemn Sheen for his 'statements, condition and conduct,' when that is what they have built the show around? Two and a Half Men is about a delusional, drunken, womanizing asshole. It stars Charlie Sheen. CBS and series creator-producer Chuck Lorre have gotten what they paid for. Exactly.

"Typically, television ends enormously successful sitcoms by planning a final episode that sums up the series with a realistic ending that is true to the characters. The honorable, honest way for CBS to end Two and a Half Men would be a 'very special' episode in which it is revealed that a drunken Charlie has killed himself in a car crash. That's a typical way for alcoholics to die."

Well, that didn't happen. Charlie Harper got hit by a train, perhaps pushed by a woman he married and immediately cheated on.

At his funeral, according to the premiere episode, we learned that Charlie had transmitted herpes, genital warts and chlamydia to a few of his girlfriends. So, without remorse, the show dealt with consequences: It acknowledged that his casual, indiscriminate sex hurt him and his partners. This got gales of canned laughter, the kind the producers insert.

But anything about the possible consequences of drinking? No way.

Replay the very same open scenes, with all those same references, and then conclude with a better death scenario: In my "script," in a drunken stupor, Charlie fell off a pier. He survived for a short while, but badly injured. At the hospital he is ministered to by a volunteer, Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), a recovering drunk who has devoted his life to counseling alcoholics with the billions he made from an Internet start-up.

He gives Charlie unconditional support to get well and get sober. Charlie stays alive long enough to change his will and leave his Malibu home to his the guy in gratitude. He knows he'll take good care of his brother and nephew. (That also sticks him with the mortgage.)

two-and-a-half-men-ashton-a.jpg

That's clunky, but it's slightly less contrived than Walden being a billionaire who just appears at the beach home window. I think Chuck Lorre is a recovering alcoholic; it would seem he would have thought of something like this himself.

Instead, Kutcher's character, who at first professes he doesn't drink much, downs several appletinis in his debut. So here we go again.

I guess the bigger point is that since Charlie Sheen self-imploded, CBS and Lorre had a chance to make at least a small point about how alcoholics live (read the police blotter in your community newspaper) and die (ditto), and how recovering alcoholics can live "normal" lives without drinking.

It didn't have to be a lecturing screed. But it could have been something.

 
 
 
 
 
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