By Joe Passantino
Of course Charlie is dead. Well, now he is, anyway.
“Two and a Half Men” brought its record-breaking 12-season run to a close Thursday, Feb. 19, ending in the same way in which it existed for much of that run — with controversy.
The show was based around Charlie Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper. The description of the final episode read, “Charlie Harper is alive. Or is he?” At the beginning, Charlie’s longtime stalker, Rose (Melanie Lynskey) tossed one of Charlie’s trademark bowling shirts into a pit in her basement. She later revealed that Charlie was indeed still alive.
Sure sounds like a setup for a return, right? Well, that is probably what creator Chuck Lorre wanted you to think.
The episode concluded with a Charlie look-alike walking up to the front door of his formerly owned Malibu beach house and promptly getting smashed to smithereens by a falling piano. The camera then panned to Lorre, who smirked and said, “winning,” before being smashed by a piano of his own.
Not exactly the ending many longtime fans of the series wanted.
Frankly, it came off as if Lorre was looking for some measure of revenge against Sheen following their 2011 controversy. In his final “Men” vanity card, which is shown after most Lorre productions, he explained that he offered Sheen the opportunity to come back and perform in the final scene himself.
“Our idea was to have him walk up to the front door…and go off on a maniacal rant about the dangers of drug abuse,” the card read. “He would then explain that…he was a ninja warrior from Mars. He was invincible. And then we would drop a piano on him.”
It is hard to blame Sheen for not being ecstatic about that idea. The troubled actor has obviously undergone serious issues, and its understandable that he would want his return to be more celebratory of the eight years he spent on the show. After all, there would have been no Ashton Kutcher-led “Men” had it not been such a ratings-grabber with Sheen.
Then again, Sheen’s supposed idea was “a heart-warming scene” that would set up Sheen co-starring with Jon Cryer (who played his brother Alan Harper) in a new sitcom. That is just about the definition of overkill, even as someone who has watched all 12 seasons of “Men.” It is hard to say what would have been different about such a show, and 12 years of any non-animated TV family is about as much as one can expect.
Despite the disappointment of no Sheen, the show managed a suitable farewell in its first 37 minutes. It treated viewers to several surprises, including the return of half-man Jake (Angus T. Jones) and several other notable series characters: Alan and Charlie’s mother, Evelyn (Holland Taylor), Charlie’s daughter, Jenny (Amber Tamblyn) and several of Alan’s and Walden’s (Ashton Kutcher) former love interests, including Marin Hinkle, April Bowlby and Judy Greer.
These nods served as about as fitting a tribute to the series could get without including Sheen. The surprises were not done there, though: Appearances by Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Stamos and Christian Slater strengthened the cast.
The most praise-worthy aspect of the finale was that the show was not afraid to make fun of itself.
“I can’t wait for this to be over,” Walden said as he looked directly at the camera. The finale also joked about the wonder of Cryer, Kutcher and Jones having, “made so much money with such stupid jokes.”
The show also poked fun at its overtly sexual content. “After 12 years, everybody’s slept with everybody,” Allen said.
Of course, there were quite a few jokes aimed Sheen’s way as well, including a reference to “tiger’s blood” and a joke about how he “tried anger management” but it “didn’t work,” referring to Sheen’s recently cancelled FX sitcom.
While these were funny, the show may have taken things a bit far in an animated scene that revealed Charlie’s character had been intimate with a bisexual goat. As Lorre said to Vulture, though, “We never had any dignity attached to the show.”
On that note, he was correct. This was not a show that needed to end with dignity. But it should have ended with Charlie Sheen