For some reason, I ended up on CBS last night and sat through Two and a Half Men. I had seen this show once or twice, a long time ago, and didn’t even realize it was still on the air. After wasting half an hour of my evening, I remained baffled as to why this show is 1) on the air and 2) even moderately successful. I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through a half hour of such complete shit in my life. Apparently I’ve been lucky, or have been hiding under a rock.
Basic premise of the show: Younger adult brother Alan is divorced and apparently unable to afford living on his own (the evil ex-wife got everything, you know). He lives with the older brother, Charlie, and Alan’s son Jake frequently stays there as well. Alan and Charlie have an antagonistic relationship with their mother and, I’m guessing, all women.
Last night was the Christmas episode for the year. The entire thing revolved primarily around Jake. Jake is fifteen and has his first real girlfriend. The first time we see him in the episode, he’s standing on the deck, watching a volleyball game being played on the beach. Enter Uncle Charlie, who sees a girl wave and smile at Jake and encourages him to go talk to her. Jake says no, he’s got a girlfriend.
To which Charlie basically says, “So? She’s out of town for the holidays, so it’s okay to tap that.”
Jake, being a hormonal teenaged boy, doesn’t take much persuading, and Uncle Charlie is renowned for being a womanizer. Charlie is proud of the kid and announces it to everyone else at the party, as Jake and the volleyball girl go off to her hotel. The mother agrees that Jake should take the opportunity to cheat on his girlfriend, because it’s just an “out of town strange”. This apparently makes it not count as actual infidelity. It’s a chance that shouldn’t be overlooked. WHAT?
Alan, at least, as the father, is horrified that Charlie has influenced his son this way, but is rather impotent at trying to do anything about it. He does eventually manage to get Jake on the phone and tell him to get back, but it’s emphasized his primary motivation is he wants Jake around family (such that it is) for the holidays.
So once Alan accomplishes this, there comes the knock on the door. It’s the girlfriend and her mother, there to drop off a gift for Jake before they officially leave town. Jake and the volleyball girl, of course, return before good old Uncle Charlie can get the girlfriend out of the house. Uh oh! Cue the canned audience laughter. Oh, the hilarity!
The girlfriend instantly dumps Jake, and volleyball girl is appalled Jake had a girlfriend and still picked her up. Jake, rather than own up to his own part in the mess, blames Uncle Charlie completely. Now he’s miserable and his life is ruined, because he didn’t have brains enough not to realize before he got caught that what he was doing was not okay by American social standards.
What troubles me about this show, if this episode is anything to go by, and I think it is pretty indicative, is that it’s reinforcing truly horrible “norms” for behavior by men. No one would look at this show and seriously think these characters are to be emulated, I know that. But the damage is still being done. It’s a this is how guys are and isn’t it so funny! and a wink wink nudge nudge boys will be boys kind of destructiveness one would think would be obvious, but judging from the ratings and the fact this show has been on the air for nearly seven years – I guess the line between appalling and amusing is far more blurred than I think it is.
And I didn’t even mention the geriatric, wheelchair-bound random old man the mother brought along, who spent the evening making crass remarks and hitting on the housekeeper with an air of good old boy charm (aka entitlement).
Ugh. Just ugh. We have write-in campaigns to save shows, why can’t we have a write-in campaign to cancel this horrible, horrible, horrible piece of excrement? Should we compile a list of the worst offenders?
No, that would get out of hand really fast.