It's impossible to discuss the eighth season of "Two and a Half Men" without focusing on Charlie Sheen's 2011 meltdown and enshrinement in the hall of fame for pop culture oddities. The fact is Sheen's behavior cut the season short by somewhere in the vicinity of six to eight episodes leaving more questions than answers and bizarrely some of the best writing the show's seen since it's early days. Very loosely picking up where season seven left off with Charlie (Charlie Sheen) drunkenly crashing into a cop car, the eighth season actually gives Alan (Jon Cryer) an increased role in the storyline before eagle eyed viewers begin to realize something behind-the-scenes was amiss.
On the strict entertainment level, season eight is a slight improvement, initially, from its dreadful predecessor, amping up the seriousness of Alan's relationship with Lyndsey (Courtney Thorne-Smith). Yet, as the writers have demonstrated in the past, too much of a good thing must be squandered and loyal viewers are rewarded with an increase in Alan's trademark buffoonery, culminating in a house fire. Add to that, the show's continued inability to understand the difference between clever comedy and vulgar comedy and season eight, as strongly as it starts shows signs of falling into the usual traps.
I'm no prude and in relation to cable TV and R-rated films, the humor of "Two and a Half Men" isn't nearly as raunchy as one might imagine, but...does America really need jokes about teenagers having group sex? For every attempt at witticism in season eight, the writers feel the urge to throw in two lowbrow, uninspired follow-ups. Then just as one is ready to throw in the towel on this past-its-prime reminder of America's love of the sub par, it becomes impossible to ignore how little Charlie does. While always playing a drunk, Sheen's behavior in season eight has no logical story explanation. More and more of his scenes leave him seated or leaning against set dressing, his replies are shorter and more drawn out, and one is lucky to see his eyes through a near constant squint. The fact that no mention of it is worked into the story leaves the sobering reality: something is wrong with Sheen.
To spare all the details, which are easily found through any tabloid online, Sheen, was essentially suspended from the show in early January and eventually never returned. Behind the scenes, the writers must have suspected the possibility of a short season, because for the four or five episodes of the season, "Two and a Half Men" has a purpose. It's not perfect, nor as funny as the early seasons, but the show allows Jon Cryer to advance his character and set Charlie on a path that could have likely resulted in a logical series finale.
The final stretch is not flawless, with a critical misstep occurring when someone thought making Alan into a blackmailing, Ponzi scheme running sleaze was a logical progression. Thankfully to balance the sleaze, Melanie Lynskey returns as Rose to play a foil to Alan's nonsense and set-up a short story arc that ends with what appears to be a cliffhanger. By now, it's fact that "Two and a Half Men" continues on, sans Sheen and will likely have its official series finale within a year, two if its lucky, but for the diehards, the sixteenth and final episode of season eight is sufficient enough for those who felt that Charlie Harper was the show.
What does all this boil down to? That's still not easy to say. Three-fourths of season eight is forgettable, but that last fourth is an anomaly. If you've come this far and sheer curiosity was your ally through diminishing returns, I don't advise you soldier on. No, skip to that last five-episode run and watch as a show simultaneously goes out with some dignity solely because it's main star left with little of his own.
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.
It should come as no surprise that this release is devoid of extras. Not even a blooper reel, which would likely be more sad than funny given the circumstances.
I feel like a broken record, but like the past few seasons, season eight of "Two and a Half Men" starts strong before settling into that comfortable chair of tasteless jokes and meandering plots. I personally can't recommend the season in good faith for the sideshow value of Sheen's on-screen deterioration, but anyone with more than a passing interest in the show, wouldn't be harmed to watch the last quarter. Skip It.