What made Two and a Half Men a great show? The raunchy humor was a part of it, but the lines were delivered by great actors playing hilarious characters. Charlie Sheen carried the show with his portrayal of Charlie Harper, and Jon Cryer’s Alan was the perfect foil. The contrast between the two men was real and created the perfect setting for all sorts of situations, and each character made us laugh along the way.
We shouldn’t expect Chuck Lorre and the writers to create a new version of this formula overnight, and it’s impossible to judge the new version of Men after one episode, but there was something missing in the first episode.
I’m not referring to the over-the-top swipes at Sheen’s character and the need to create a new storyline. I thought most of the jokes about Charlie’s death were forced and fell flat, while some of the cameos were funny, particularly the Dharma and Greg appearance. Lorre and his writers will move on, and these scenes have nothing to do with the future of the show.
The problem so far rests with Ashton Kutcher’s new character, billionaire Walden Schmidt, who meets Alan after trying to kill himself. I thought Kutcher was a great choice to replace Sheen, but Lorre seems to have created a flat character with the charisma and humor of a dead fish. He’s good-looking and bags beautiful babes like Charlie with little effort, but he’s also pathetic and boring, at least so far.
Cryer was excellent as usual, and he had many of the laugh lines in this first episode playing off of Walden Schmidt’s good looks and huge assets. His line that he “masturbated and cried myself to sleep” after Walden hooked up with the two babes they brought back to the beach house was classic Alan. But his loser routine worked great when played off of the charismatic and brutally funny Charlie Harper. How long can this work, however, opposite the dour Walden Schmidt?
Maybe the writers will have this character undergo a metamorphosis in part 2 of this opening episode or in future episodes as he embraces all the advantages he has in life. They have to do something, because none of Kutcher’s lines made me chuckle, let alone laugh out loud. Kutcher seemed like a good choice because he’s pulled off a zany and provocative character in the past. He can find a voice here if given the chance. Yet so far he’s more like a straight man, and that has to change. As great as Jon Cryer can be, he can’t carry this show all by himself, and so far the writers are giving Kutcher very little to work with.