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Two and a Half Men
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adult-oriented comedy pins most of its jokes on references to alcohol and sex. One character's promiscuous behavior (and his ongoing problem with alcohol) is played for laughs, and episodes have implied oral sex, masturbation, etc. Characters also use words like "assface," "peckerhead," "bitch," etc. Female role models are scarce, and most women are portrayed as controlling, confused, or desperate. There are also jokes about a woman questioning her sexual orientation and a running gag about a single woman being a stalker. One of the characters is a boy coming into adulthood. Star of the first eight seasons, Charlie Sheen, is often in the news for real-life behavior involving violence, drugs, prostitution, and family drama.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
While going through yet another painful divorce, uptight chiropractor Alan (Jon Cryer) reluctantly moves himself and his son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), in with his serially single brother, Charlie (Charlie Sheen), a hard-drinking, womanizing jingle writer who’s living the bachelor’s dream inside an oceanfront Malibu beach house. But as a newly formed, non-traditional family comprised of TWO AND A HALF MEN, the brothers can’t help but clash over their glaring differences. In later seasons, Charlie's character dies (offscreen) and is replaced by Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), a heartbroken internet billionaire.
Is it any good?
It's an Odd Couple in today's world -- single dad, self-involved bachelor brother/uncle, and precocious kid. Add to that a soon-to-be ex-wife (Marin Hinkle) questioning her sexuality, an overtly emotional mother (Holland Taylor), and a neighbor (Melanie Lynskey) who’s a full-time stalker, and you've got a real nut house packed into 30 minutes. With Mel Brooks' pen it might work, but instead, Two and a Half Men falls into the dreaded sitcom trap of predictable story lines about boys chasing girls, and lame jokes about hookers and phone sex. In fact, if it weren’t for some scene-stealing secondary characters -- including Taylor’s turn as the brothers’ self-absorbed mother and Lynskey’s spot-on portrayal of the bubbly stalker-next-door -- the show would be a total waste of time.
Maybe the creators were hoping for the same kind of success as Full House, with its admittedly cheesy yet occasionally poignant take on single parenthood. But Charlie Sheen is no Uncle Jesse, and the series is aimed so squarely at parents that the presence of an actual kid seems kind of strange. With Charlie Sheen's dramatic exit from the show, Kutcher's character takes over where Sheen left off.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the show's familiar Odd Couple formula. Would the show be better if it didn't rely on such clear-cut stereotypes? Why do most situation comedies rely on such predictable formulas?
Do you think the series paints an unfair picture of female behavior? Given the behavior and attitudes of his father and uncle, how must Jake, the young boy, view women?
Does playing Charlie’s bad behavior for laughs make it seem any less "bad"? Is he an obvious example of what not to do, or does he function as a likeable antihero?
Does Charlie Sheen's real life misbehavior have any affect on how you view this show? Do you think an actor's work should be judged by itself, or taken into context with his real-life behavior?