Snubbed by TV snobs, and bashed in episodes of ultra-hip “The Family Guy,” CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” continually captures audiences who like delving into the smutty world of brothers Charlie and Alan Harper. The two are the sibling equivalent of “The Odd Couple.” Carefree bachelor Charlie (Charlie Sheen) has spent most of his life enjoying the carnal delights. After an acrimonious divorce, cheapskate chiropractor Alan (Emmy-winner Jon Cryer) now resides with Charlie.
You might see this series as nothing more than a sophomoric sex romp every week, but at its heart “Two and a Half Men” is classic comedy with the handsome straight man Charlie, the goofy comic foil Alan, and the sidekicks — underachiever and overeater son Jake (Angus T. Jones), self-centered mom Evelyn (Holland Taylor) and sarcastic housekeeper Berta (Conchata Ferrell).
If your brow tends to arch on the high side, “Two and a Half Men” can be off-putting, with its love of double-entendres and inability to pass up a good fart joke. Like “The Three Stooges” and “I Love Lucy" before it, this series plays heavily on the side of physical humor. But unlike the old days of slipping on a banana peel, these clowns are more likely to injure themselves on a used birth-control device.
Currently in its seventh season, the high-rated series has been renewed for another three. For those who still aren't on board, here are six episodes that provided some wickedly hilarious moments.
Megan Fox heats up the ‘Men’
The sitcom has always managed to slip in some notable guest stars without spoiling the chemistry in the main ensemble. Who can forget uber-hottie Megan Fox, then just sexy and 17, as Berta’s granddaughter Prudence in the first-season gem dubbed “Camel Filters + Pheromones”? Harper housekeeper Berta’s forced to bring Prudence to work with her — not the best place for an underage girl and over-stimulated men. Even Jake gets a crush on Fox. But the brothers do attempt to behave themselves. As Charlie says in a key moment, “OK Prudence, this just can't happen. I mean you're very nice and pretty, but in prison, so am I.” And for true slapstick fans, it never gets old watching smitten men like Alan and Jake walk into doors.
When Jill becomes Bill
In another first-season show, “Old Flame with a New Wick,” Charlie discovers that his old girlfriend Jill, who dumped him years ago, is now dating his mother. And that Jill is now Bill (Chris O’Donnell). As Charlie says to brother Alan, “ Either I slept with a woman who is now a man, I slept with a man in a woman’s body or my personal favorite — and the title of my autobiography — me and my mom slept with the same dude.” No only is the episode filled with great laugh lines, it also won a GLADD award.
Where were the censors?
Fifth-season episode “The Soil is Moist” dances a careful ballet of not-so-subtle double entendre. Charlie loves verbally engaging Herb, Jake's gangly stepdad, who is just a more naïve version of Alan. In an extended exchange, in which Herb thinks he’s talking to Charlie about the joy of gardening, Charlie is clearly talking about plowing a different kind of field. How lines like making the soil moist, whipping out his hose and giving Mother Earth a good spritz made it past the censors is anybody’s guess.
Can it possibly be that Charlie actually likes being around his mom? In a fifth-season episode called “Media Room/Dungeon,” Charlie does everything he can to get out of escorting Evelyn to a charity event. But in a moment that jettisons every previous mommy dearest remark over the years, Charlie discovers he actually doesn’t mind it. The crowing moment comes after he discovers their mutual love of gossiping about everyone from the mob guy to the plastic surgeon. Of course, ultimately their bonding is all about manipulation. The final move in this chess match comes when Charlie realizes his realtor mommy is only using her son to force a home to come on the market — nothing says fire sale like a wife caught cheating with a carefully played Charlie.
Rain, rain, go away
OK, maybe you have to be a harried parent to appreciate the moment when we see poor Jake standing in the rain waiting for someone to pick him up. In the second-season episode dubbed “Can You Eat Human Flesh with Wooden Teeth?”, Judith hands over the parenting reins to Charlie and Alan for a week. But Alan’s got an IRS audit and Charlie, well, we know what Charlie’s got on his personal agenda. Neither are quite ready to be primetime parents. The look on Jake’s face as he waits for someone to pick him up is pathetic, and priceless.
When Charlie and Alan meet Mandi, Kandi and Andy
Third-season episode “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Burro” embodies the essence of the series, serving up banter and slapstick in equal portions. The show is packed with the kind of humor fans adore, including Charlie talking about the time he convinced Alan that it was Almond Roca in the kitty litter box. “Are we done visiting Charlie Harper’s Museum of Sibling Cruelty?” deadpans Alan. Dim-bulb Kandi once dated Charlie but is now dating Alan. Charlie’s with Kandi’s mom Mandi and Alan’s ex-wife is smitten with Kandi’s dad Andy. As Berta says, “Sweet whistling Geronimo, you people are like a box of hamsters, crawling all over each other.” The moment when all parties come together under one roof is comic genius.
Susan C. Young is a writer in Northern California