Life after Charlie
In replacing Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher, CBS gambles on nudity to make up for the loss of an iconic performance.
In the new post-Charlie Sheen Two and a Half Men, Season 9 opens at his memorial service where his young widow explains how Charlie died. After returning from a solo shopping spree on the second day of a Paris honeymoon, the bride finds Charlie in the shower with another woman.
Some things just never change but the bride assures the assembled mourners that she really wasn’t angry. The next day Charlie slips, or is pushed, off of a platform into the path of a speeding train. “Never cross a crazy bitch,” quips Bertha, the housekeeper.
Now Charlie’s beachfront Malibu bachelor’s pad---and the set of the show’s action---must be sold to settle his debts, forcing brother Alan to have to move in with manipulative "mom" Evelyn.
But wait, before Alan even has a chance to set down Charlie’s urn of ashes, a soaked handsome stranger in obvious need appears outside the glass patio doors. It’s the long awaited Ashton Kutcher in the character of Walden Schmidt, a technology geek who sold his internet company to Microsoft for a billion dollars. Walden is sort of clueless---an Asperger’s Syndrome kind of guy. Or as his deserting wife puts it, “emotionally immature”.
Walden is Charlie Harper’s opposite and has none of his rakish, wasted, unapologetic and experienced charm. Charlie knew he was an incorrigible great-in-the-sack cad with a drink problem. No woman would ever be able to change him. And that’s how he hooked so many of them---at least for a couple of nights.
While Charlie always knew the score at a cynical and cellular level, Walden, who hates the taste of alcohol, is completely unaware. He has no appreciation for the alpha male’s bedding instincts. Instead, he is the prey.
CBS’s replacement of Charlie Sheen with the younger, far less talented Kutcher seems a clear acknowledgement of Sheen’s ownership of the Charlie Harper role. It can’t be replicated so why try.
But in the network’s desperation to keep their cash cow sitcom going without its iconic performer, they resort to the oldest trick in the book---nudity. When the talent isn’t coming through, stripping is always one way to regain the audience’s attention.
Thus, geek Walden may not understand why his wife left him but he’s “hung like an elephant”, as Alan observes, and has no problem taking his clothes off in front of anyone. So it’s Walden’s purely physical attributes that work their magic with the ladies as opposed to Charlie’s dark, but undeniable, charm. Network censorship rules have restrictions on nudity so Kutcher is either seen above the waist or with a scrambled screen.
The nudity trick will grow old quickly even with Two and a Half’s very talented supporting cast. And intelligent viewers who harbored a guilty appreciation of Sheen’s deft and witty performance will not be impressed by this play on the dumb blonde joke.
Two and a Half Men aairs on Comedy Central tonight at 9 pm.