S9E21: Not every sitcom has to be filled to the brim with jokes. Some comedy shows can get away with stories that are lighter on the laughs when the audience is invested enough in a thick, interesting character delivered by a capable performer. In its prime, Two and a Half Men was always a show known for its jokes. It didn’t traverse too deep into emotional levels, but it didn’t have to. Audiences were satisfied by the banter between brothers Charlie and Alan.
But Two and a Half Men seems to have all but given up on delivering laughable material. And it isn’t really bolstering up the emotional depth in the absence of jokes; it’s just filling airtime with lifeless exposition. Last week’s episode gave audiences a few new romantic developments for Walden Schmidt and Alan, and this week continues on with the trend. But nowhere in the half-hour episode is there anything close to the real vigor that is needed to charge a true relationship storyline, especially one that isn’t even backed up by clever one-liners — or at least an attempt at them.
One Charlie Sheen Head (1 – 10 Points): Ashton, you were in this episode.
Two Charlie Sheen Heads (11 – 20 Points): Ashton, you landed a few jokes, but we can’t stop thinking about good ol’ Charlie.
Three Charlie Sheen Heads (21 – 30 Points): Ashton, you earned tonight’s laugh track. Solid.
Four Charlie Sheen Heads (31 – 40 Points): Ashton, we’re impressed. You’ve surpassed Sheen-level kookiness.
Five Charlie Sheen Heads (41 – 50 Points): Ashton, you’re scaring us with classic levels of comedy. Charlie who?
That’s that, now on with the Ashton Kutcher Two and a Half Men scorecard!
“Mr. Hose Says ‘Yes'”
1. “Your ball is hanging out.”
Walden delivers the news to Alan that his girlfriend Zoey and her seven year-old daughter will be moving in for the week, as sort of a trial run before they decide on anything permanent. As such, Walden asks Alan to move out for the week, which leaves the harried Harper at the residence of his own girlfriend, Lyndsey. Ashton doesn’t really offer much to the scene, instead letting Cryer play the audience with a particularly predictable popping exercise ball joke. Still, it’s the opening scene meant to set up the plot of the episode, so there’s room for forgiveness.
2. “Did you find some funny magazines?”
Walden is excited over his new living arrangement with Zoey and her daughter. When Zoey steps out to the market, Walden agrees to watch the kid for the afternoon, unaware of what he’s getting himself into. Cue a lengthy montage of little girl activities (tea parties, puppet shows, hide and seek) set to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” And it does, in fact, seem like Walden is having fun… until the camera zooms out to reveal that his finger painting reads, “Kill Me Now.” Add some points for Ashton’s rare liveliness as Walden during his quick scene of pretending to be an elephant.
3. “They got married, and then they lived happily together for many, many years. Until they had kids.”
Walden continues to suffer from the company of Zoey’s daughter. Meanwhile, Alan is suffering over at Lyndsey’s place. She is taking advantage of having him over by forcing him to do all sorts of housework, such as washing the deck furniture and changing the fusebox (cue yet another painfully predictable sight gag). There are moments during Ashton’s scene of putting the young girl to bed that seem like he might break out some of his old comedic chops that we know he still has in the holster. But never does his performance advance beyond “subdued disgruntlement,” even when there is room for all out, classic Kutcher anxiety.
4. “I made waffles that were, and I quote, ‘Bloody disgusting.'”
Walden is at his breaking point with Zoey and her daughter. All of his efforts are going unappreciated, and he is beyond fed up. Alan, incurring many a physical injury but still hoping to woo Lyndsey into bed, is also just about ready to come home.
5. “So, if I could get rid of them…”
The two men reunite and agree the their lives are better without their respective women. Walden and Alan embrace heartily, happy to have one another back, and to agree to stay together as roommates. It doesn’t feel at all like an emotional breakthrough or a testament to friendship, because all that really happened is that we learned Walden hates children, and Alan is accident prone. And they’d both rather just go back to being comfortable. Ashton barely sells this scene, again letting Alan do most of the heavy lifting (even though he’s not really carrying much weight here).
Total Points: 15 – Two Charlie Sheen Heads!
If Two and a Half Men is set on keeping Walden Schmidt the straight man, the show should at least instill him with something of emotional value. The character acts as mostly dead weight between Alan’s wacky (yet bitingly sad) antics and the belittlement of a seven year-old. Ashton Kutcher has more to offer than just wading through scenes until other people say and do outrageous things, but unfortunately, that’s all audiences are getting.