With another year comes another season of "Two and a Half Men," seemingly defying the odds as it has just entered it's eighth season. While that may sound impressive in a TV climate of quick cancellations, keep in mind, "According to Jim" lasted for eight seasons, proving a sitcom devoid of talent and comedy can scrape by. I only draw the comparison because "Two and a Half Men" is quickly approaching a level of monotony that undermines any talent on the screen (for the record though, "According to Jim" never had much talent to begin with), completely destroying the renewed momentum it gained at the end of it's sixth season.
When we last Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) he had managed to complete a season with a steady girlfriend, Chelsea (Jennifer Bini Taylor), and when we pick things back up, once again, wedding bells for Charlie are on the horizon. It's not the first time a wedding plot has been the focal point of the Charlie's life and at first I actually thought the writers might play with the idea a little more before sending it down the path of self-sabotage. Sadly, Charlie wastes no time consciously and subconsciously sabotaging his relationship through the reappearance of his previous fiancé, Mia and his general proclivities towards adultery. This now tired and uninspired character move brings the series to a screeching halt drawing out the inevitable for nearly two-thirds of the season's 22 episodes.
Having watched (and owning) all six previous seasons of "Two and a Half Men" I find myself questioning whether the series was ever funny or original to begin with. I had commented previously that I felt the series began to derail towards the end of season three and throughout season four, and here I see the same problems arising. I can only assume the writers have taken a look at the still impressive ratings and figure if they can rehash multiple plots before, it can't hurt to try it again. If you've followed the show, many of season seven's episodes are all too predictable and it wasn't for the (equally predictable) end of season scrambling, I would write the series off.
As stated previously, Charlie continues to exhibit deplorable behavior and his drinking problem reaches new lows, with the character at one point so hung-over he vomits into an occupied baby carriage. It's sad on so many levels and is an apt metaphor for the fall of the series. The audience gets it, he's a drunk and the vomit joke was stale three seasons back. Such a tasteless joke has become the norm for a show that once tried to be clever in it's innuendos and ability to shock. Now, nothing is sacred and innuendos are only held back by the baffling TV-14 rating. Charlie's continual cracks towards his brother Alan's (Jon Cryer, annoying as usual) love life are just mean spirited, both towards the character and the audience. To make matters worse, the once lonesome character is now often handed recycled shenanigans from past Charlie encounters with crazy women.
The only redeeming aspect of the season is the final stretch of episodes leading to the season finale. The writers in a turn of originality don't go for the instant reconciliation of Charlie and Chelsea, nor do they close the door on the relationship. It allows for some actual character development for the character. Other highlights do pop up from time to time as well, including some hilarious cameos from Annie Potts as the deranged mother of one of Alan's girlfriends, and Stacy Keach as Chelsea's newly out-of-the-closet, man's man father. Eventually John Amos turns up as Keach's boyfriend and while the broad way the men are written as gay stereotypes does highlight the typically lazy writing, the commitment to going over-the-top by both actors has them nearly stealing every brief scene they enter. Last but not least, the dependable supporting trio of Jake (Angus T. Jones), Alan's now foul-mouthed teenage son, Evelyn (Holland Taylor), Alan and Charlie's abusive, self-absorbed mother, and Berta (Conchata Ferrell), are always dependable to save even the most dull episode from being a complete wash.
Ultimately, I have very mixed feelings about this season of "Two and a Half Men." I've been burnt yet again by the promise of new directions following the solid buildup left by season six, yet season seven promises the same things. Perhaps the audience is nothing more than the girlfriends of Charlie Harper. We are lulled in by the promise of something great, but only treated by mediocrity and the occasional charm; in the end, we are left used and feeling stupid. With Charlie Sheen earning nearly $2,000,000 an episode for the next two years, I'm curious how the series will end, considering every possibility for the character has been entertained, in many cases, multiple times. The investment of seven years in the show at this points the actual quality.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is not up to snuff compared to other comedies. A vibrant color palette is marred by some irksome digital noise. Detail is firmly average to above average, only touched by some minor compression issues.
The English Dolby Surround track is once again, more than suitable for a dialogue driven comedy. Dialogue is clearly reproduced and well balanced with the supporting transition score; there's a fair bit of life at times to the track as well. English, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
As usual a Gag Reel remains the highlight of the anemic bonus features department. The gimmicky featurette "A Charlie Harper Ex-Reunion" is a tacked-on waste of time.
A decidedly middle-of-the-road season, "Two and a Half Men" does nothing new and is entirely too long at 22 episodes; you could easily skip any number of episodes in the first third of the season and still not miss any storyline. Like many sitcoms before it, it at times feels like it has a direction it wants to head, but along the way takes a bad diversion. It's not the worst sitcom on TV, but definitely not the best. It's just lazy and average. Rent It.