As Two and a Half Men enters its 12th and final season, one can fairly consider it two situation comedy series. The first, which ran for nine seasons and starred Charlie Sheen, was a hub for fans of Sheen’s outrageous personality. The second phase, which began after Sheen was dismissed and replaced by Ashton Kutcher, also found a way to create an audience around a family of three men who are not at all similar. The original premise remained throughout all of the cast changes: Two men and a boy form a family unit and, despite big differences in personal make-up and lifestyles, become a supportive unit.
First, There Was a Man on the Loose
The original series format portrayed three male characters, two adult men and one boy, as they formed a family from the necessity of forced circumstances. Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, was a wild-living single man. Wealthy from a career as a jingle writer, he lived in self-centered comfort on a glorious Southern California beach. His lavish, carefree lifestyle centered on Malibu beach-living, women and good times. His life changed rather suddenly when his brother Alan Harper and his nephew Jake Harper came to stay with him.
A Needful Man With No Plans
Alan Harper was a financially stressed chiropractor with one child. He was twice divorced and in need of a place to live when he decided to visit his brother’s Malibu Beach home. Financial stresses led to a failed business and a divorce for Alan Harper. He acquired a habit of trying to live off the generosity of other people. Jake Harper is Alan Harper’s only child. The audience watched him grow-up from season to season until he was 8. The character later left home to join the Army and later to live in Japan. Absent from the show after Season 9, the young-person role was empty. The series creator, Chuck Lorre, filled the missing role in the three-person family unit with a female character. The previously unknown daughter of Charlie Harper appeared and joined the family scene as Jenny Harper.
Strong Supporting Cast
Berta, the housekeeper, became a regular in the 11th season, appearing in every episode. Her sharp wit and tongue kept everyone in line. Rose, the next door neighbor and occasional love interest for Charlie Harper, was an insistent part of Charlie’s life. It was she who claimed the Paris Metro was an accident and that Charlie slipped after she discovered he was cheating on her. True to form, she began to stalk Walden too. The mother of these two very different men also played an important role. One thing Charlie and Alan Harper always had in common was trying to avoid her persistent intrusions.
The appeal of Two and a Half Men during the first nine seasons was the chemistry between Charlie, played by Charlie Sheen, and Alan, played by Jon Cryer. These characters were polar opposites in nearly every way. Charlie was gruff and had a coarse exterior while Alan was mild and engaging. Charlie was aggressive and successful with women, and Alan’s love life needed advice and improvement. Time and time again, Alan tried and failed to gain confidence and overcome his consuming doubts. Charlie was an obsessive personality who drank too much and behaved badly. Over time, he hid his inner goodness extremely well.
Seasons of Change
Despite considerable commercial success, Two and a Half Men made a pivotal change in the cast during Season 8. Charlie Sheen, the show’s star, went into drug rehabilitation, and during the press coverage of that situation, words flared between Sheen and Chuck Lorre, the show’s creator. Soon thereafter, CBS announced that it had terminated Sheen’s contract. CBS canceled production for the balance of Season 8.
The Remaking of Two and a Half Men
Season 9 introduced some dramatic changes, and the off-screen death of Charlie Harper was the first vital change. He was killed when pushed in front of a subway in Paris. The plot cast it as a result of jilting his long-time girlfriend and sometimes stalker. In the aftermath of Charlie Harper’s death, Berta, the housekeeper, took on a larger, more sharp-tongued role. Soon thereafter, the storyline brought the next big change, the introduction of Walden Schmidt. A billionaire with overwhelming emotional stresses, Schmidt stumbled into the Malibu location. He failed an attempt to commit suicide nearby. Soon after the failed suicide, Walden Schmidt found connections with the men at the Malibu house. In a short time, he decided to purchase the property and permit Alan and Jake to remain living there.
New Cast and Expanded Audience
Ashton Kutcher replaced Charlie Sheen in an odd way; he brought a new character to fill an old role. As a new character, Kutcher was free to shape a relationship with the audience rather than try to emulate the appeal built by Sheen over the first nine years of production. Initial reviews of Kutcher’s performance were quite positive overall, and the show grew to popularity and viewership ratings that were similar to the previous eight years. It reached upper ranks for broadcast ratings and among those who watch Two and a Half Men online.
The End Is Near
CBS renewed the series after Kutcher’s successful Season 9 and extended the show for two additional years. Soon after, it announced that the show would not continue past the final year of the agreement. Thus, the season beginning in the fall of 2014 will be the last. Fans will not want to miss a network broadcast or fail to watch Two and a Half Men online. Each episode will hold some element of surprise, and the season promises to be a memorable swan song. Known over the course of the series for outrageous, in-your-face humor, a cast with Kutcher well-settled opposite Cryer and Berta as a constant source of cutting remarks, it has a chemistry that appeals to both newer and older fans of the show.