‘Two and a Half Men’: Chuck Lorre Talks Meta Finale, Charlie Sheen and Angus T. Jones

two and a half men series

As Chuck Lorre saw it, there was simply no getting around the shadow that Charlie Sheen cast on the “Two and a Half Men” finale. So they decided to go for it in the biggest, ballsiest and at times most bizarre ways they could think of to bring some closure to things that happened on and off the screen.

And yes, Lorre assures that he meant what he wrote in his final “Men” vanity card. Sheen, who was fired in 2011 after savaging the show and Lorre in a spectacularly public meltdown, rejected an offer to make an appearance at the end of the episode.

On Thursday evening, as the hourlong swan song of “Men” aired in most of the country, Lorre was busy working on a new episode of his latest CBS comedy, “Mom.” Lorre spoke with Variety as he drove home from the Warner Bros. lot about the unconventional choices made for the “Men” finale, “Of Course He’s Dead, Parts 1 and 2.”

Variety: Now that the finale has aired, how do you feel?

Chuck Lorre: I’m pretty excited. I’ve been told my (ChuckLorre.com) website crashed so that’s pretty good news.

Are you happy with the episode?

Lorre: It’s tough. I’m a little close to it.We worked really hard, me and (writers) Lee (Aronsohn) and Don (Reo) and Jim (Patterson) and the whole writing staff. We wanted to go out guns blazing and put on a show that represented the extremely undignified 12 years of ‘Two and a Half Men.”

The episode is rife with references to all of the drama that surrounded Sheen off screen, particularly the outbursts that led to his firing. What made you decide to incorporate so much of that history?

Lorre: We thought it would be impossible to do a finale that tried to be oblivious to the meta elements around the show, all the tabloid elements that have swirled around the show over the years. There was no getting around it, and we also wanted to honor these last four years with Ashton (Kutcher) in a satisfying way. So there was a lot going on. But our primary concern at all times was let’s put on a funny show and not leave anything on the table.

You wrote in the final “Men” vanity card that Sheen was in fact offered to appear in the finale at the end. That was true?

Lorre: That was absolutely true. I made a decision a month or so ago that there was so much demand, so much excitement about seeing Charlie come back for the finale that it was the right thing to do to try to come up with something we could have fun with, to poke fun at all the craziness. It was presented to him. He didn’t like it. And we weren’t excited about what he wanted to do. So it didn’t go forward.

Were you disappointed that he didn’t agree to do it?

Lorre: Yeah. I think it would have been a really cool way to end the finale, to give him a real featured moment to talk straight to the camera, to do his thing and blow the whole thing up at the end. It wasn’t meant to be.

Have you spoken to him directly since the craziness erupted in late 2010-early 2011?

Lorre: No, I have not.

So the offer for his role in the finale was presented through intermediaries?

Lorre: Yes.

In the closing moments, a piano drops on Charlie Harper, who we see only from behind, and then a second piano drops on you, a split second after you grin and say “Winning,” another nod to Sheen’s famous rants. Why did you decide to put yourself in that scene?

Lorre: It just felt like comedically the right thing to do. It’s like ‘Nobody gets out of here alive’ may be the theme of this series. The proposition that anybody wins in something like this is ridiculous. That would have felt uncomfortable to me. So the second piano felt like the right thing to do.

The animated segment in the first half was also quite a surprise.

Lorre: We started working on the animation piece a couple of months ago. We worked with an outside company on that. The lead animator did a terrific job of coming up with those caricatures….There was no other way that we were possibly going to tell the story in the finale in real time with real people. It seemed like if we had the time and the budget to do an animated version of the story we might as well go for it. It also opened up the opportunity to have fun with animation. You get to see Pepe Le Pew — you’re not going to get that in anything but animation.

The segment ends with Porky Pig delivering a “That’s All Folks” and a flash of the Warner Bros. shield. Was that simply a nod to your studio home?

Lorre: You can’t do Porky Pig’s ‘duh buh duh buh duh’ without showing the Warner Bros. shield. We put Porky in a bra and panties. It’s ‘Two and a Half Men’ so we did add our touch to it.

Did you have to get the studio’s blessing to use the character?

Lorre: It was very complicated to get the Looney Tunes character and the music — it’s not all necessarily owned by Warner Bros. anymore. A lot of it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. So we had to do a variation on that (Looney Tunes) theme.

The return of Angus T. Jones as Jake was also a surprise, after the not-so-kind comments he made about the show before leaving in 2012.

Lorre: If we had actually aired the audience response to when Angus stepped on the stage — it was so loud and exuberant. We had to tone it down for the broadcast. They were so excited to see him — it went on and on. …That’s all water under the bridge. He apologized shortly after (his comments). We’re on good terms. We reached out to him he was eager and excited to do it. It was like old times — except that he’s not eight years old any more. But we had so much fun with him all week.

What about the other guest shots — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Slater, John Stamos, among them. What went into your thinking in casting those roles?

Lorre: We were looking for the right kind of persona. We knew we wanted somebody who had real crime-fighting credentials to tell the story of the series in as dry and as matter-of-fact a way as possible. The opportunity came up to work with Gov. Schwarzenegger and it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had in my career. We had a blast shooting those scenes. The same thing happened with Christian Slater. He jumped in enthusiastically, it was as much fun as I’ve ever had on a soundstage working with those two guys, and John Stamos — everybody came and had a really good time. And they didn’t really know what they were doing in the big scheme of things. There was just a great deal of fun and enthusiasm with those guest-starring roles. It took two weeks to shoot.

Did you have an idea for what the finale of “Men” would have been before the furor with Sheen happened?

Lorre: We talked about the tearful sendoff of Jake to college. That was our very naive idea of what the ending of the show would be. We never in a million years would have imagined what we just did. We had a much smaller vision at the time. The show has changed dramatically over 12 years. I think the finale accomplished all of that, I hope.

You have been vocal about how “Men” was the show that laid the foundation for the rest of your success with “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike and Molly” and now “Mom.” Is it hard for you to see it end tonight?

Lorre: It got very emotional at times during the two weeks (of filming). Every now and then it would hit you — this is the last one.

(Pictured: Chuck Lorre flanked by “Men” stars Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer)

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  1. Nick Warren says:

    FYI this is the show’s real ending in my eyes: We go through all the teases of the episode, only without all the camera winks. Walden & Alan return to the house to find Charlie making out with some chick on top of the piano. The chick hooks up with Walden in Charlie’s room. Meanwhile, the reunited Harper brothers have a long heart-to-heart. Loving music swells up. Then Charlie looks at Alan and says, “Get the F**K out of my house,” not only perfectly summing up the entire series, but also becoming the first F-bomb on a sitcom. Now, tell me that isn’t a better ending than what Lorre cooked up.

  2. Nick Warren says:

    That finale really sucked. I would have loved a heartwarming scene with Charlie in it. Maybe not to set up a new series, but still, a happy ending always beats an egotistical one that hurts the audience’s memories of the show more than anything else. He should have freakin’ grovelled at Charlie’s knees for a role in the finale. Fuck you Chuck Lorre. Fuck. You.

  3. all the money in the world isn’t worth your health….physical and spritiual.
    charlie sheen’s wealth will go to pay for his “treatments” and lawsuits from his “victims”. I pray for all the people involved. I pray others learn from his poor choices and make choices regarding their lives that would make God proud. celebrity status does not protect one from disease.

  4. Anna says:

    It was the most disappointing finale ever. It was so boring I was just waiting to see Charlie. They should have done whatever they had to in order to bring him back.

  5. davidf95 says:

    Worst finale in the history of television.

  6. Alaina says:

    That finale was so disappointing. In fact the plot surrounding the entire last season was ridiculous. They over played the gay card with Cryer for way too many seasons to apex with him falsifying a marriage to a man. The cartoon made me shake my head. The entire finale was a disgusting portrayal of a wounded ego, that of which belongs to Lorre. What a shame to go out on that note. Terrible production.

  7. Katie says:

    I can’t believe Chuck Lorre humiliated himself with that awful, immature finale. Way to prove you can’t produce a decent show without Charlie Sheen. Waste of an hour!

  8. maria r says:

    It was terrible,I hated it.after Charlie left, the show went bad Ashton can not hold a candle to Charlie,he is a bad actor, they should have ended it when Charlie l wached the finale on demand what a waste of time.But Iam glad is over.

  9. Strunzo Says says:

    haha… Sheen gets owned in the end … Sheen is one weak ittle angry man

  10. DENVER says:

    I totally agree with Carole (below):
    FABULOUS ENDING, COULDN’T BE ANY BETTER!!!!

  11. carole says:

    FABULOUS ENDING. COULDN’T BE ANY BETTER!

  12. johnsmall says:

    This was, in my opinion, the best series finale I’ve seen in a while – and the best episode of this series in probably six or seven years. Well done!

  13. jim galati says:

    I, like the rest of planet Earth, was hoping to see Sheen appear…I never watched the show after he left..but him refusing, makes me think much less of him..he let his fans down, the ones who stood by him during the turmoil….I’m sure they offered him a boat-load of money, for a few minutes of his precious time….Good luck carrying around that giant ego, Charlie

  14. Sue Karr says:

    There had been rampant speculation in social media for a long time: would Charlie be in the episode? What would he say? What would he do? Chuck and the other writers teased that out for the whole hour. With each cameo appearance you could almost feel the tension mounting. I thought it was great fun, and given what a loose cannon Charlie can be – how could they be sure he’d have stuck to whatever script he’d been given? I liked the “nobody gets out alive” ending and appreciated knowing they’d at least made Charlie an offer to appear. Now we can get on with the really important stuff: will Mrs. Crawley marry Lord Merton despite his terrible sons??? Will Lord Grantham get a puppy to replace Isis???

  15. Heidijo says:

    I don’t doubt that you worked hard on the ending, however, in reality this show ended in 2011 once Scheen was gone . Charlie Sheen was the show!

  16. dennis allen says:

    Chuck Lorre, thank you for all the seasons of love and laughter. You are a comedic God that this world would be much sadder without.

  17. as a sitcom junkie, i need to say, i loved the show much better with Sheen, but the last year or so it had gotten alot better. i just have to say, this was the best series finale i have ever seen!!!, LMAO! the way it poked fun at the show over the years, as well as Charlie Sheens public melt down that led to him leaving the show… was nothing short of comedic genius!!, way to go Chuck Lorre!! u hit it out of the park!!. this is why i love all your shows, BBT, M&M, and Mom are all in my top 10.

  18. Bill Cord says:

    This show ended in the spring of 2011 when Charlie Sheen was fired.

  19. Lourdes Beauchamp says:

    This was the best ending ever! It wasn’t revenge, or getting even, it was just pure genius!

  20. enderrr says:

    Not one mention of Cryer or Kutcher in the interview??
    I wish I had my minutes back! BOO!!!

  21. kay says:

    Why no Herb? I missed Ryan Stiles being there!

  22. Charlie Sheen was the show…the writers suck towards the last episodes with Sheen I see why he had a meltdown. Ashton is not funny at all, whats on his resume playing the stupid guy on the 70’s show. It was all together corny when Ashton came along. The Finale was the wakiest finale I ever watched…that new odd couple show is wak who picked the wak as cast for that so unrealistic…I’m so upset I’m glad I got Apple TV I can tuned all those bullshit shows out.

  23. Paul Riden says:

    Yeah, it’s over ! Not only did they insult Charlie Sheen but they insulted their fan base. I will consider if I will continue to watch “The Big Bang Theory” as well.

  24. Lisa says:

    The show got outrageously stupid in the past couple of years, and the finale was no exception, but I laughed through the whole thing! Loved all the pokes at Charlie. Good to see Jake!

  25. Stopped watching when Charlie left because it was not funny anymore. Watched the finale and loved it. Went out classy with a lot of winks at the camera. Great show.

  26. Tez says:

    It was a bit whatever of an episode. And the fact one has to interview the guy about what things meant comically, it obviously shows the jokes kind of sucked. They werent witty or subtle, they just sucked, especially the ending with the pianos and “winning”. How was that funny. They had so many amazing and quality star talent / options and just made a lamea*s mess of a finale with it.

  27. jezziebezzie says:

    Shame you didn’t ask about Cryer. He’s always the ‘forgotten’ cast member on the show because he’s good natured & reliable. I think the show would actually have fallen apart without HIM as an anchor all these years!
    I loved the finale. If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Lorre has had some parts of that script in the Frigidaire for years!

  28. Rich Dad says:

    I think everyone is missing the point.

    This whole episode was about Charlie…not about the show ending. That shows how much Charlie meant to this entire production in Lorre’s eyes.

    To be true to the audience it SHOULD have an ending that was centered around Jon’s character..the ONE constant in the entire show.

    Not that I’d accuse this show of anything else, but that was lazy writing that started from a vendetta from upstairs….shame, really, Cryer deserves more respect from Lorre after what he went through.

    I’ll give this the same review that “Shark Sandwich” received In This Is Spinal Tap. ;)

    Jon, I look forward to your next project.

  29. Bye Bye Rosie says:

    I hadn’t watched the show in years, but did so because this was the last episode. The meta parts were a little obvious, but it was still enjoyable. I will say I was way happier to see Angus T. Jones, than I would ever have been to see Sheen.

  30. Ze Leinad says:

    Without Sheen, Lorre milked three and a half pathetic seasons of Two and a Half Men. Fortunately it’s over.

    • jezziebezzie says:

      He “milked” it. Yup. Cause in this world where new shows are cancelled after they’ve been on air for twelve minutes, they just flog dead horses in prime slots forever. It might not have been you (or me regularly) … But enough people were watching & enjoying enough to come back & watch more. That’s why it kept going.
      Why does everyone forget after one gets the job that they don’t hire themselves for it?!

  31. Gerald Olin says:

    Two and a half men was really only successful because of the genius that is Charlie Sheen. I felt sorry for Ashton Kutcher! His role was juvenile and absurd and although Jon Cryer made the series sort of work for four more years, it was crude and pathetic. Chuck Lorre should have put his ego aside for his fans and given them the last episode with their beloved Charlie. He made mistakes, for sure, but we loved him, flaws and all. Instead of cartoon characters and teases, Chuck Lorre just used him as if he was his property, and not the amazing actor that he is. We will miss him and continue to hope we see him on the silver screen or television really soon. There aren’t too many actors that have his charisma or timing. As far as Mike and Molly or Moms, toss those two shows back into the heap and concentrate on The Big Bang series. That one is a winner!

    • Sheen has the biggest ego of all and could not push the past aside and show up. I thought he and “Berta” were what made “Men” great. Now only “Bang” is funny and the only sitcom I watch. The others are wretched and only make fun of addiction and dysfunctional families.

    • Bye Bye Rosie says:

      Too bad the “genius that is Charlie Sheen” couldn’t make his disastrous followup “Anger Management” last one episode more than had been agreed to at the beginning of the run.

  32. Ather says:

    Quite disappointed with the ending. Honestly, I’d have had Rose be behind the messages, trying to ensure Charlie had no hope of allies after escaping. Then end it with Charlie back, saying good to be home. Then he looks at Alan and says get out of my house.

    Instead we get these piano droppings. pathetic. Show some respect for your audience. The fans who stuck it out for 12 years. And make up your mind. Either you’re still mad at Charlie or your not.

  33. raf says:

    Their idea for Charlie just shows that Chuck is still completely stuck on the fact that he was insulted years ago and lacks any imagination about those events. So Charlie is supposed to do the same asshole ranting he did 4 years ago and then get smashed by a piano? Gee, I wonder who’s fantasy we are playing out. Not a big fan of Charlie, but good for him for not playing the patsy here for a little air time.

  34. Taylor Smith says:

    Social media was buzzing this evening…and not in a good way. While I am not as critical as others, the ending was rather pathetic. If anything, they should’ve left the piano on Charlie and not Lorre. However, I definitely would’ve done things differently. I would’ve kept the audience in suspense and confused throughout the night wondering if Charlie really was alive. It was quite obvious he was. Then, at the very last second to everyone’s surprise, have him appear in front of the camera.

    I think history will show this was one of the worst series finale’s made. Perhaps though, there will be a new series called the “Harpers” on another network where Ashton can make a guest appearance every now and then. I think Sheen and Cryer should pool their resources and make that happen unless of course Lorre owns the rights to the characters.

  35. Putting yourself in your show to mock Charlie Sheen is the most amateur petty move you could think of.

  36. Buddy Glenn says:

    What the right thing should have been ~ have Sheen in the whole episode. See him escape from Rose and have him played Harper again in the flesh. This would be fun … not a cameo at the end. Sheen may have agreed to do that. Fans would feel better. Oh well, that’s how it ends.

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