×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Two and a Half Men’ Finale Laughs All the Way to the Bank (SPOILERS)

Charlie Sheen might be kind of a jerk, but after his very public meltdown, “Two and a Half Men” discovered it couldn’t get by without him any better than it could live with him. So despite the hoopla that surrounded signing Ashton Kutcher, the series has been pretty much running on creative fumes since 2011, making its finale – after 12 hugely profitable seasons – feel more overdue than nostalgic.

In what can only be called a bizarre turn, satirizing that unflattering appraisal became the spine of the program’s one-hour series finale, an episode that owed as much to the Marx brothers, in tone, as to the past 12 years of the CBS series. Throughout the hour (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched), the message came through loud and clear that while many have derided “Men” as a silly, lowbrow sitcom, hey, we’re laughing all the way to the bank over here.

The curious, no doubt, will drift back in sizable numbers to see how it all ends, but the truth is that thanks to syndication and a shortage of the kind of broad-appeal comedies “Men” represents, the show isn’t going away so much as retiring on a feather-bed of cash for all concerned.

Granted, the acrimonious way Sheen left created an element of suspense regarding the finale, with the big question being whether series co-creator Chuck Lorre would, or could, bring his one-time star back for the curtain call. Sure, the character of Charlie Harper might have died in a body-mangling train accident, but having already been fleetingly revived as a spectral Kathy Bates, the thought lingered that everyone might bury the hatchet long enough to allow for a reunion of sorts.

What ensued played off that uncertainty, in an episode that was both wildly self-referential and built around Charlie’s long shadow without his actual presence – an extended tease, mostly serving as an excuse to show off as many people who have passed through the show’s doors as possible.

Ultimately, Sheen didn’t attend his own not-funeral, and the show gave the last word, perhaps appropriately, to Lorre, who uttered Sheen’s much-repeated phrase, “Winning,” before a piano landed on him. But the real coda belonged to the producer’s vanity card, which explained that Sheen had in fact been offered a cameo and declined.

One could make an argument that without Sheen, the producers should have junked the idea and skipped all the foreplay. But the episode was seemingly designed less to provide closure than as an extended rejoinder to those who have criticized “Men” through the years – even weaving in a line in which Kutcher says to Angus T. Jones’ Jake, “Amazing you’ve made so much money with such stupid jokes.”

Along the way, there was an animated sequence – presumably to prolong the uncertainty regarding Sheen; a “Silence of the Lambs” homage; several lines that broke the fourth wall and called back to the circumstances surrounding Sheen’s exit, including a quip about “a crazy rant about a former employer,” no less; and unnecessary celebrity cameos, among them Arnold Schwarzenegger as an LAPD detective.

“This whole thing has been going on way too long,” Schwarzenegger concludes, echoing an earlier moment when Kutcher looks directly at the camera and says,“I can’t wait for this to be over.”

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the audience’s sophistication about what transpires behind the scenes, but diving into the business side of the show so relentlessly felt seriously misguided – and more than a little defensive.

Moreover, the producers largely abandoned the plot that has dominated the final season, which focused on Kutcher’s Walden deciding to adopt a child and marrying Jon Cryer’s Alan in order to create the appearance of a stable, loving couple for those purposes. Not surprisingly, Alan was more than willing to play along with anything that allowed him to stay in that Malibu beach house, which throughout the series has been the cash-strapped character’s one enduring love.

Cheekily, the plot for the finale was set in motion by $2.5 million in unpaid royalties, and money – from Sheen’s astronomical salary to the show’s syndication bounty – has always been a significant part of the show’s big picture.

Lorre is justified in his sense that “Two and a Half Men” has been underappreciated – or at least, taken for granted – for much of its run. Yet while the sendoff addressed a certain kind of “Winning,” in the grand pantheon of series finales this wasn’t even close to serving up a winner.

TV Review: 'Two and a Half Men' Finale Laughs All the Way to the Bank (SPOILERS)

More TV

  • 'Death Stranding' is a 'Playground of

    'Death Stranding' is a 'Playground of Possibilities,' Will Make You Cry

    The Thursday evening conversation between game-making auteur Hideo Kojima and “Walking Dead” actor Norman Reedus about highly-anticipated PlayStation 4 game “Death Stranding” was filled with interesting anecdotes, but little in the way of hard fact. Instead, Kojima made a promise of sorts to the audience and seemingly fans everywhere waiting for more news on the [...]

  • Ariana Grande Olivia Munn Michael Che

    Celebrities vs. Critics: Why This Battle Has No Winners (Column)

    When actor Olivia Munn tweeted a “short essay on…ugly behaviors” late Wednesday night, she insisted that a blog had been unfairly maligning her for years. She wrote that she wanted to confront the idea that baseless critiques, particularly those aimed at women, are never okay no matter how famous the target may be. On the [...]

  • ‘Peaky Blinders’ Virtual Reality Game in

    ‘Peaky Blinders’ Virtual Reality Game Will Pitch Players Into the Action

    “Peaky Blinders” fans will be able to join the gang – virtually – in a new VR game that will allow players to interact with characters from the hit series. Start-up immersive studio Maze Theory teamed with the show’s producers and is making the game, which will launch in 2020. Artificial intelligence technology means characters [...]

  • TV News Roundup: HBO's 'Deadwood: The

    TV News Roundup: HBO Releases 'Deadwood: The Movie' Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO released the trailer for the “Deadwood” film, and CNN announced a premiere date for “Apollo 11.”  DATES The documentary “Apollo 11” from director/producer Todd Douglas Miller will premiere on CNN Sunday, June 23 at 9 p.m. Using only archival sources, the film captures NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission. FIRST [...]

  • shannon ryan

    Shannon Ryan Joins Disney TV, ABC as Marketing Chief

    Former Fox Television chief marketing officer Shannon Ryan has been tapped as the new president of marketing for ABC Entertainment and Disney Television Studios. The announcement was made by Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, and Craig Hunegs, president of Disney Television Studios, to whom she will report. Rumours had been circling for a while [...]

  • Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce Writers

    Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce First Class of Writers and Mentors for TV Incubator

    Rideback, Dan Lin’s production company, and MRC have announced the inaugural class of writers and mentors for their TV incubator.  The new TV writers residency program, which was launched in February, offers a paid, eight-month residency program to a group of writers who have each previously been staffed on series and want to create their [...]

  • CBS Viacom

    CBS and Viacom Move Closer to Merger Talks

    The CBS Corp. board of directors is moving closer to initiating acquisition discussions with Viacom, according to multiple sources close to the situation. The move has been expected for months, although there may still be obstacles on the road to a reunion for the two sides of the Redstone media empire. Price could still be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content