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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Two and a Half Men (2003) - Top 3 Reasons Why It Flopped After 8 Seasons

Two and a Half Men is a comedy TV series that needs no introduction to those who followed English comedy sitcoms over the last decade. This super-hit comedy started on CBS in 2003 and ran for 7 and a half seasons, before abruptly getting cancelled midway during Season 8, primarily because Charlie Sheen left the show after quarrelling with the producers.

The comedy sitcom was renewed for 4 more seasons before concluding its 12th and final season. Yes, 12 seasons is a long run for any TV show, especially when sitcoms these days struggle to get renewed even for a 2nd season. But if you think that the exit of Charlie Sheen is what caused the popularity of the show to decline, think again.

Charlie Sheen played the main protagonist Charlie Harper for 8 seasons before his character was killed off abruptly, only to be replaced by Ashton Kutcher playing Walden Schmidt, a weird and nerdy divorced billionaire. Now Ashton is a good actor and definitely played his part well. It is unfair to blame him for not being able to match up to Charlie Sheen since the show's steady dip in popularity was due to completely different  reasons.

Reason #1 - History Repeats Itself

The biggest problem with Two and a Half Men phase 2 was that the script writers kept the plot identical and simply tried to replace one actor with another. First it was Charlie Harper, the playboy and confirmed bachelor, with a free-loading brother Alan who refuses to move out of his house. Then came Walden Schmidt, the divorced billionaire, his various  romance attempts and Alan still free-loading on him.

Charlie caught between his 2 girlfriends, Walden caught between his 2 girlfriends

You can only watch the fun lives of two goofy men for a certain duration, but eventually the characters need to develop in some way. Alan's character never developed, the charade of a series of girlfriends continued year after year with both Charlie and Walden. After a certain point, it almost became unbearable and you would end up watching the series as a mere routine in your free time.

The jokes became crasser by the day. Of course, the very essence of the show were these "dirty" jokes, but during the initial seasons, the jokes were more verbal in nature and funny. The latter seasons just started spinning too many raunchy situations with hardly any humour in them.

Two and a Half Men should have ended right after Season 7 when Charlie started hooking up with Rose. But no, the producers and channel owners felt compelled to continue the show to keep milking the past glory.

Reason #2 - The Half Man Replacement

Alan's cute little son Jake Harper was one of the sweetest and most lovable character in the show. As years passed by, Alan grew up and like any other kid, lost his babyish charm to teenage. Jake's growing dumbness or rather the viewer's realisation of Jake's dumbness added elements of teenage goofiness to the story. The Jake became more and more infrequent with every passing episode, probably due to the actor's time unavailability. Two and a Half Men reduced to Two Men and their annoying girlfriends.

Alan's son Jake
Suddenly in Season 11, the script writers woke up and decided to reintroduce the half man. In came Jenny, Charlie's illegitimate lesbian daughter whom nobody knew about. Apparently, Charlie used to send money to her mother for child support and Jenny had last seen Charlie when she was 4 years old. Now 25 years old and a struggling actress, she finally decides to reunite with her father.

Charlie's daughter Jenny
In spite of the gaping plot-hole and weak back story, Jenny turned out to be much more interesting that the main characters Walden and Alan who were once again dragging themselves through the repetitive cycle of dating, committing, goofing up and rejection. Jenny with her outrageously wild and promiscuous lifestyle proved to be a female version of her father Charlie. Just when this new "half man" was on the way to becoming a favourite, her appearance on Season 12 became less and less frequent.

Reason #3 - Fun Characters Go Missing

Berta, the housekeeper was the queen of punchlines in the show and thankfully continued being a regular character right from the beginning to the end. Without her nasty jokes and devilish laughs, Two and a Half Men would have been ridiculously boring, especially since Alan's character refused to grow and even his antics became too old and predictable. He ceased to be funny after a few seasons and got reduced to an extremely annoying and selfish freeloader with no self-respect or ethics whatsoever.

That was the point when we started missing the other fun characters of Two and Half Men, primarily Evelyn, Charlie's highly promiscuous old mom with her dry sarcasm, and Rose, the wacko neighbour who continuously stalked their beach house.

Evelyn Harper, the unapologetic and irrepressible mom
Rose, ex-girlfriend and stalker
Even Alan's mean and over-controlling ex-wife Judith used to be a comic relief and the only person who could extract money from the miserly Alan, plus she had an interesting sub-plot with her second husband Herb. But she too disappeared from the show, letting Alan evolve into a completely obnoxious character. They did bring in Walden's ex-wife Bridget occasionally but she was certainly no match for Judith.

Judith and Herb on their wedding day
Evelyn became quite irregular on the show after Season 8 and Rose completely disappeared for 4 whole seasons before reappearing in Season 12 finale. Her funny, in-your-face, psychotic jokes had been an integral part of the early seasons and her role should have been retained just to offer some relief from the women-dating-blunder cycles of Walden and Alan.

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