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Review: Two and a Half Men (Comedy Central), The Body Farm (BBC1)

HALF-hearted comedy

CHARLIE Sheen may be gone but fans of the preposterously popular Two and a Half Men (and if you ever actually spot one, by the way, hold him/her down until I get there) can rest assured of one thing: it's as doggedly ordinary and predictable as ever, with jokes that stop just short of announcing their arrival with a foghorn.

As the world, his wife and her bridesmaids know, Sheen, having imploded in a puff of lunatic rage against the sitcom's creator, Chuck Lorre, has been replaced by Ashton Kutcher, hitherto best known for being Mr Demi Moore Mk II (Bruce Willis was the original model) and the bloke who was in Dude, Where's My Car? Oh, and let's not forget he also believes in the Mayan non-prophesy the world will end in 2012.

This first episode of the ninth (incredibly) series opens with hedonistic Charlie Harper's perpetual loser brother Alan (Jon Cryer) delivering the eulogy at his funeral while an assortment of Charlie's old girlfriends -- who'd hoped for an open coffin so they could spit in it -- heckle him.

It's revealed that Charlie died after "accidentally" falling under a train when his fiancee caught him in the shower with another woman. Back at Charlie's Malibu beachfront pad, which the Harper brothers' mother has put up for sale because it's collapsing under the weight of three mortgages, Alan contemplates the urn containing Charlie's ashes.

This throws up the evening's only two-and-a-half-decent joke: "Just like old times, huh. I'm talking and you're in a bottle, ignoring me."

Alan is about to scatter the ashes on the beach when he's startled into spilling them all over the floor by a young man who appears on the decking. Dripping wet and depressed, he's Walden Schmidt (Kutcher), an internet billionaire who's been dumped by his wife, tried to commit suicide but chickened out because the water was too cold.

Alan invites Walden out for a drink.

It immediately becomes apparent that Walden -- who has a habit of marching around naked at inappropriate moments and his "hung like a horse" -- is an irresistible babe magnet.

The more he pours out his marital woes to two tasty chicks at the bar, the more they gather him into their surgically enhanced bosoms. Back at the house, Alan slips into the kitchen to make drinks and returns to find Walden and the girls have disappeared upstairs for a three-in-a-bed romp.

"That sounds familiar," he sighs. You said it, buddy: back to tired old business as usual.

Despite some good comic timing by Kutcher, even when the jokes are nothing to set your watch for, I wouldn't put money on the Sheenless Two and a Half Men still being around for the imaginary apocalypse -- which means Kutcher should probably put in for that Sheen-sized salary raise now, before it's too late.

From the preposterously successful to the merely preposterous.

I was away last week and missed the debut of The Body Farm, a dire spin-off from Waking the Dead starring the vapid Tara Fitzgerald -- out-acted by both the plastic corpses and her own improbable cheekbones -- as Dr Eve Lockhart, now in charge of a special forensics lab located, for some weird reason, on a farm. It's CSI with vegetables -- and that's just the scriptwriters.

If you want a comprehensive explanation of why British television drama is trailing miles behind its American counterpart, here it is, neatly encapsulated in 60 minutes of utter rubbish.

The Body Farm boasts it all: terrible performances, ludicrous plots, dismal dialogue and Keith Allen -- who's impossible to believe as anything other than Keith Allen -- playing a smartarse detective.

Last night's episode centred on a hand found in the woods. "You don't know there's a killer yet," someone says to Allen.

"Well, he didn't die by his own hand." Get me a shovel, quick.