Ten minutes into season nine of Two and a Half Men and Jon Cryer – in the guise of bumbling loser Alan Harper – sums up my sentiments exactly.
“I love you. I miss you,”Â he says ”â tenderly cradling the urn that purports to contain his brother Charlie’s ashes.
My guess is that deep down Cryer does indeed miss his old mucka Charlie Sheen and that ”Ëturncoat, traitor and troll’ snipes aside he still cares deeply about his troubled pal.
The touching scene was a magic moment in an otherwise so-so episode that marked the show’s return to CBS this week. Season eight was sensationally cancelled in February this year following leading man Charlie Sheen’s now-infamous and very public clash with creator Chuck Lorre.
While Sheen has been touring his knee-jerk ”ËViolent Torpedo of Truth / Defeat is Not an Option’ show to mixed reviews, Lorre and his team of writers have been busily tying up loose ends ”â not least the sticky matter of Sheen’s on-screen demise.
We now know Charlie met his end under the wheels of a Parisian tram – exploding ”Ë”Âlike a balloon full of meat.”Â That Lorre should choose such a violent death for his errant star is perhaps indicative of his feelings towards Sheen. Indeed, the handling of Charlie’s on-screen funeral is cold, off-hand and unsentimental. But to be fair, would the character of Charlie Harper have wanted it any other way?
Neat touches included pews full of Charlie’s exes ”â all citing the various sexually transmitted diseases they had contracted from their liaisons with the notorious womaniser. Evelyn taking the opportunity to plug the sale of her late son’s Malibu beach house mid-service was spot-on for her characterisation and Melanie Lynskey was perfection as Charlie’s unhinged stalker – strongly hinting that she had more than a little something to do with his untimely demise.
Even these little gems failed to raise the comedy stakes to a genuine laugh-out-loud moment ”â a feat that ”ËTwo and a Half Men’ has previously been able to deliver consistently throughout every episode.
Of course we were all waiting for the big moment”Â¦ the first on-screen appearance of Ashton Kutcher, who has joined the cast on a one-year contract for a reported eye-watering $20 million.
Dripping wet, Kutcher enters the house via Charlie’s ocean-front balcony ”â fresh from a failed suicide bid. We quickly learn that he is Walden Schmidt ”â a well-endowed internet billionaire and heartbroken divorcee. You can almost hear penny-pinching Alan think ”Ëker-ching’ as the two men (minus half-a-man) agree to go for drinks in Charlie’s old watering hole. By the end of the episode tall, dark and handsome Walden has bedded a pair of beauties while Alan retires to bed alone ”â a very familiar sleeping arrangement for the romantically-challenged chiropractor. The next morning Walden pledges to buy Charlie’s house and it doesn’t take a warlock to foresee that Alan will continue to keep his feet under the table as season nine progresses”Â¦
It’s an assured debut for Kutcher who ”â all credit to him – looks at ease on the set. But while his character has Charlie’s luck with money and the ladies, the dumb hippy vibe Walden gives off leaves no room for the scythe-like put-downs and ballsy male camaraderie that gave this show its ”Ëwinning’ edge.
What we have in Kutcher’s Walden is a dopey shiny-haired Labrador of a man that Charlie Harper would’ve hated. Alan will cling onto him because he is a cash cow, but that old Harper magic ”â two chalk and cheese brothers who loved and loathed each other in equal measure ”â is gone.
In their rush to introduce their new pedigree chum, the show’s creators let ”Ëhalf-man’ Jake all but disappear from the mix ”â a massive omission given Angus T Jones’ considerable talent.
Now that we’ve all satisfied our curiosity surrounding Kutcher’s debut, it remains to be seen if the show will continue to enjoy the record ratings it achieved this week.