Men [1997]

Hedonistic bachelor Charlie (Charlie Sheen) is a jingles writer who, he blithely states, makes a lot of money for doing very little work, sleeps with beautiful women who don't ask about his feelings, drives a Jag and lives at the beach, and sometimes, in the middle of the day, for no reason at all, likes to make himself a big pitcher of margaritas and take a nap out on the sundeck. His brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), evicted from his house by his soon-to-be-ex-wife, is "rigid, inflexible, uptight, obsessive and anal-retentive." Charlie and Alan are "twisted Jungian archetypes," according to series co-creator Chuck Lorre in one of this set's bonus features. If by "twisted Jungian archetypes," he means Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple, then yes, Charlie and Alan are "twisted Jungian archetypes," and this inaugural season finds rich comic tension in their period of adjustment. Charlie is a Man Behaving Badly, whose idyllic life is upended when "fuddy-duddy" Alan moves in, accompanied by his impressionable 10-year-old son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), with whom he shares custody with his iceberg-cold, sexually confused (a comic conceit thankfully abandoned by season's end) estranged wife, Judith (Marin Hinkle). Alan is a single father who is appalled by his amoral brother's lifestyle and by the influence Charlie might have on Jake ("Uncle Charlie, I understand the point spread, but I'm still confused about the vig"). And then there's Berta (effortless scene-stealer Conchata Ferrell), Charlie's formidable, tart-tongued housekeeper who is initially driven out the door by Alan's fussiness ("The peanut butter stains on Jake's shirts really require an enzyme presoak"). Two and a Half Men is a guy show that sets feminism back a good three decades. Women are portrayed as either bimbonic objects of lust (Transformers' Megan Fox guest stars as Berta's teenage granddaughter), vengeful and retaliative (Heather Locklear as Alan's divorce lawyer), crazy hot (Jenna Elfman as an unstable single mother on the run), or emasculating (Holland Taylor as Charlie and Alan's mother, or, as Charlie refers to her, "Mom, the Impaler"). The charming Melanie Lynskey's is a particularly thankless role, that of Rose, Charlie's "insightful and disturbing" stalker, who becomes Jake's babysitter. While Charlie's "bad-boy act" could quickly get old in lesser hands, Sheen, in the past not the most natural of comic actors, is in his element. Charlie's genuine affection for Jake goes a long way toward redeeming his character (and lack of it). Two and a Half Men, a People's Choice Award-winner its first season, really adds up with a crudely funny sense of humor that is all kinds of wrong, but also smart and, at times, even sweet. --Donald Liebenson

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