It is difficult to review this, or anything else involving Charlie Sheen, without considering his relatively recent meltdown (or whatever one might call what happened to him earlier in the year). He blew his top at Chuck Lorre, the producer and creator of this show, he fussed about his salary (c. $2m per episode), he consumed a lot of drink, he admitted to what seems to be a fairly lively coke habit and he made much of his tiger blood and winning. He embarked on a tour, hung out with shapely women and got sacked from this show.
What is interesting is that although the real-life Charlie now seems to be a lot like the onscreen Charlie, the onscreen Charlie is a lot happier, a lot more care-free, a comic rather than tragic figure. But enough of the psycho-analysis, what’s the show like, given that this is Charlie’s last season? Well, I had not seen a single episode, or indeed second of Two And A Half Men before embarking on my viewing of the sixteen episodes of season 8. My first thought was, how on earth has this lasted so long? It seemed smutty, puerile, obvious and unimaginative. Even without having sat through the previous seven seasons, it seemed clear where each scenario was headed and I wondered why audiences had stuck with it.
But then something funny happened. It started to grow on me. Sure, it remained crude, vulgar and crass and of course in a show like this no-one really has a meaningful character arc of any description, but I did at least warm to the scenarios and crack the occasional smile at the hi-jinks they got into. Alan and Charlie are of course the classic comedy duo – the uptight dweeb and the anarchic, cool, funny guy – and although it is played very broadly and superficially, they are presented as essentially good, likeable characters. Jake remains a bit-player throughout the season, never really given any room to shine, which is a shame, but well-judged and very funny cameos from Jane Lynch, Ryan Stiles and Judd Nelson help break up the at times repetitive and derivative interplay between the leads.
The season opener is a pretty bland stand-alone, but after that a series of plots lines are introduced which play out over a number of episodes, which proves much more satisfying. Most enjoyable are the episodes that involve Alan’s developing relationship with Lyndsey, the mother of one of Jake’s class-mates. It is one of those situations that is not milked to death, but is allowed to become at times desperately painful and embarrassing, but also very funny and enjoyable. The season seems to end awfully abruptly with the collapse of Alan’s Ponzi scheme and the various loose ends of Charlie’s relationship with his stalker will have to be brushed aside for the new Ashton Kutcher-starring season 9 without so much as a “here’s what happened”. But that’s what happens when your star starts winning.
If you already know and love this show, I’m sure you’re already planning to pick this up. If you’ve never tried it, there are worse ways to spend an evening and if you can look past the crude tone and content, you might find much to laugh at. You can get hold of Two And A Half Men Season 8 right now at LoveFilm.