They came to bury Charlie, and was anyone surprised when it turned out to be one long ewww-logy?
That's Two and a Half Men for you: proudly crude and heartily heartless. "His body just exploded like a balloon full of meat," said Rose, and that's about as sentimental as things got. (His nephew Jake promptly piped up, "Anyone else hungry?") There wasn't a wet eye in the house during the post-Charlie Sheen/Charlie Harper season opener, which began with Alan trying to read last rites over his mangled brother's coffin, interrupted by vengeful exes rattling off a gamy litany of STD jokes and a mother more interested in finding a buyer for his Malibu manse. (Among the potential buyers: John Stamos and, in the episode's best-kept surprise, Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson as an embittered version of Chuck Lorre's Dharma & Greg.)
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Lots of fart and penis humor before it was all over, because you didn't think Sheen's departure would prompt a reinvention of CBS's most successful and raunchiest comedy, did you? The show is and always has been a literal gag machine. "This is depressingly familiar," said Alan toward the end, shortly before making his latest pathetic masturbation joke — some things never change — and for those who've never been amused, that was no doubt true. But for the millions who've reveled in its caustic innuendo and helped make the show a cash cow in syndication, there was no doubt a sense of relief in seeing the machine chugging along again with no apologies.
There is a noticeable change, of course, in the show's DNA, with Ashton Kutcher entering the scene as Alan's new foil, the emotionally immature billionaire man-boy Walden Schmidt, who buys Charlie's beach house to mend his broken heart. (We first see him at the balcony window dripping wet from a failed suicide swim in the ocean, his sudden appearance causing Alan to spill Charlie's ashes. Cue the dust-buster jokes.) Though his genital attributes were much discussed and nonchalant nudity liberally on display — pixilated on camera, naturally — the new guy is hardly just another sorry Charlie. For one thing, he doesn't like the taste of liquor (though Alan manages to get him tanked on apple-tinis). And there's a guileless sweetness to this unwitting chick magnet, given to impulsive naked hugs, making you wonder how he'll fit into Lorre's cruel world of barbed zingers.
A kinder, gentler Men? I wouldn't count on it. Just ask Charlie Harper.
And the morbid death humor continued an hour later on Comedy Central's wickedly profane Roast of Charlie Sheen special, with roastmaster Seth McFarlane pulling out a mock obit — "We all know there's a good chance Charlie Sheen will be dead soon" — and Jeffrey Ross ("How do you roast a meltdown?") peppering his blistering jokes with "Too soon? Too soon? Too real? Too real?"
Even as we continue to debate how "real" was Sheen's olive branch to his former associates during that painfully awkward Emmy moment, the first impression from Men 2.0 is that it will survive both Charlies just fine for at least a little while longer.