Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My thoughts on the new TWO AND A HALF MEN

Now that Ashton Kutcher has been hired to replace Charlie Sheen on TWO AND A HALF MEN, I’m getting a lot of requests from readers asking my opinion of the hiring. None from CBS or Warner Brothers but that’s understandable.

Truthfully, I have never warmed to that show. I know a lot of people absolutely love it, and God bless ‘em. But to me it’s just a half-hour barrage of penis jokes with the occasional masturbation joke thrown in to break things up. (That said, I wish I ever created a hit as big as that.) 

But it means I have no sense as to whether Kutcher will fit right in or Sheen will be sorely missed. My guess from way out in the bleachers is that they’ll create a character for him that will allow him to do the same penis/masturbation jokes as his predecessor. 

I’m sure the show will get large numbers the first few weeks out of curiosity. And then it will settle in, probably doing just fine.

I know they first made a big play for Hugh Grant, who seems a more interesting choice. Ashton Kutcher to me is just the non-crazy fucking loon version of Charlie Sheen.

But this is what I find amusing:

Grant eventually passed because he was concerned the grind of doing a weekly series would be too exhausting.

What a joke!

First off, they were going to pay him a shitload of money – waaay more than he’d ever get in features at this stage. Hollywood can be a cruel town. Time passes. Once a legit movie star, today he’s viewed as more appropriate for starring in FOUR FUNERALS AND A WEDDING.

And as for “the grind”, here’s the dirty little secret: Being in a hit multi-camera show is the absolute easiest and best acting gig in the history of show business.

First off, you don’t have to travel. You can have a life. Second, you work maybe three weeks in a row before getting at least one week off. And you only work 22 weeks total.

Here’s the typical work schedule: First day – table reading. You have to be at the studio at 11. No prep is necessary. Just show up, read the script out loud. In theory, you’re supposed to start rehearsing in the afternoon. But most established shows just have the reading and send the cast home. So that first day you work one hour.

Day two: You rehearse, holding scripts, from 10 AM till about 2. It’s all very loose. You have a runthrough for the producers and go home. Total work that day: five hours. Brutal!

Day three: More rehearsal beginning at 10. Runthrough early, around noon or 1. Total work that day: three, maybe four hours.

So far – three days: ten hours. (Features -- three days: fifty hours.)

Day four is camera blocking and runthrough. You start at 9 and usually are done by 5 or 6. And during the actual camera blocking, stand-ins do the heavy lifting while you’re off in your trailer finally memorizing the script.

Day five is filming day. You arrive at noon to rehearse with cameras for three hours. Then you have a dress rehearsal. It’s now 4. You have three hours to relax, get into hair and make up, run lines, and eat a catered dinner. From 7-11 you film the show. So that’s at least a full day. But it’s the fun day because you get to perform.

And that’s it. No round-the-clock shooting schedules. No locations. No all-night shooting. No working under freezing or sweltering conditions. First class dressing rooms and craft services provided. Never a weekend.

My sense, Mr. Grant, is in a few months you’re going to be watching the new TWO AND A HALF MEN on a break from the prestigious Hollywood feature you’re making – your next WHAT ABOUT THE MORGANS? MUSIC & LYRICS, AMERICAN DREAMZ, or SMALL TOWN CROOKS and you’ll have a bad case of penis-joke envy.

As for Charlie Sheen, I hope he gets the help he needs.  What does it say when his brother was once married to Paula Abdul and he's the sane one?

45 comments:

Stephen Gallagher said...

The kid grew up and then the star blew up. I suspect that the reason Grant was deterred is that the show is too obviously a sinking ship.

WorstWriterEver said...

Let's see: Chuck Lorre almost gets an actor from 'Love Actually' but in the end he gets the guy from 'Valentine's Day'.

All I can say is: THANK YOU GOD.

OneAndAHalfWoman said...

For an hour long drama shot in multiple locations the schedule is much harder, correct? Especially if there is one star who is in almost every scene. I'm basing this on some extras I've watched, specifically Veronica Mars. Just wondering.

Karl said...

Interesting post, although I disagree with you in a couple of points. Regarding Grant's future, the key word here is "Hollywood". Movies made overseas feature older actors a lot more than they do here, and it seems like Grant has an open invite to be in any film Richard Curtis makes. I can very easily see him transitioning from a befuddled bachelor/love interest into a befuddled divorcee/dad into a befuddled retiree/grandfather.

I can also see where an American television season might be intimidating to him, with no experience with it and coming from an industry where the average season/series is 6/12 episodes long.

Other than that, totally agree on the Two Men casting. I would have tuned in to see what Grant would have done with the role, Kutcher not so much (although I wish him luck otherwise).

John said...

What I'm expecting to happen is the "Dead Show Walking" phenomenon, where it's past success allows it to survive for a few more years despite major changes just by force of viewer habit, but once in syndication, those are the episodes where people see the new actor/actress' face in the opening or see the revised sets, go "yuck", and change the channel.

The final seasons of "Rosanne" definitely fall into the DSW category, as does "Spin City" with Charlie Sheen instead of Michael J. Fox.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Speaking just as a viewer:

I'll watch the first couple of episodes to see how they worked the transition. I'd wished they'd instead televise the lawsuit.

wv: excesse -- Everything looks classier with an extra e; I'm going to start being proud of my fatte asse.

SoulHonky said...

"You don't have to travel"? You do when you live in the UK and the film shoots in LA.

Maybe "grind" is the wrong word but Grant would most certainly have to change up his life in order to make penis jokes in a city he'd rather not be and the only reason that he SHOULD take the gig is money. Can't say that that seems like such a terrible decision on his part.

Pamela Jaye said...

@OneAndAHalfWoman

I would say yes, based on things I've heard from Chuck; And comments from Scott Bakula on Enterprise vs Quantum Leap (he had one day off in 4 years I think) and from the use of the word Fraturday.

Terry Benish said...

Not sure of course, but you seem like you might be carrying some baggage regarding Hugh Grant.

Kate said...

I'm not sure Hugh Grant ever really had a shot at the job.

WB had an overall deal in place with Ashton -- they just needed him to sign on to TAHM. What better leverage than the threat that if he didn't take the job, Hugh Grant would?

I think Ken makes a lot of good points -- and if HG's reps are any good at all, they would have made the same ones. I think HG was probably very interested in the job, right up until WB stopped taking his calls.

My guess is that "too much work" is the I-didn't-get-the-job version of I've-been-fired "want to spend more time with my family."

BigTed said...

I agree that the "too exhausting" line was just an excuse.

Grant may not be the leading man he once was, but he's still a movie star. (And all it would take is a "King's Speech"-quality role to make him a big one again.)

But if he deigned to do drunky-farty-bimbo jokes on American TV, he'd be putting all that at risk. And if the show's ratings went down precipitously -- as could easily happen if viewers are just sick of the whole thing -- he'd be held responsible for taking down the most popular comedy in years.

I happen to like the show -- I think the jokes are mostly pretty funny and the "original" cast was great, even if the plots are beyond dumb. But if I never saw it again, I wouldn't think I was missing anything. And if other viewers feel the same way, that's a situation Grant was wise not to walk into.

Anonymous said...

As Sheen was to Michael J. Fox, Kutchner is to Sheen. Wow, that's some reduction in price. When Sheen came in to replace Michael J. Fox in Spin City, he was at least coming in as a Hollywood movie actor with some decent roles.

R. Kind said...

I'm pretty sure that for 1-to-2 million per week, I'd relocate to another first-world country and reap the rewards for at least one season. Even if the producers decide to stick with the same, proven formula, what's the drawback? He's pigeon-holed as Charlie Sheen's replacement? I wouldn't call the show a sinking ship, but it is an unknown, right now. I think Lorre's group has the wherewithal to make it into something better w/out Charlie Penis.

Mike Barer said...

I think it will work, Chuck Lorre has a good track record, the question is whether they will continue the plots that were started this season or start from scratch. Did Charlie run off with Rose?
That would be the question, if they kill off Charlie, Rose could chase the new character. hmm

Anonymous said...

I'd werite Kushton's entrance to TAHM as the winner of the house in a Vegas card game with Charlie. When he shows up to claim his winning he finds Alan and Jake but charitably decides to let them stay. Oh the hilarity that could ensue!

Michael Zand said...

Ken, Two and a Half men is a lot more than penis and masturbation jokes. What makes the show funny are the characters and how they interact. Jon Cryer truly is the comic engine of the show and it's the interplay between him, Charlie and his mother that make the show funny. If we didn't care about the characters and it was only about the raunchy jokes it wouldn't have been on the so long. That said, the jokes are hilarious. My favorite one:
One of Charlie's bimbos/girlfriends is miffed at him the morning after because he fell asleep while he was going down on her.
Charlie: That explains my dream.
Girlfriend: What dream?
Charlie: That I was kissing Abraham Lincoln.

C'mon, Ken, you gotta give it up for one.

Michael Zand said...

I'm really confused. Was Grant supposed to be the new Charlie Harper? In what universe do we buy Grant as a layed back, California womanizer who lives in Malibu? He can't even do a good American accent. Plus, he's got more tics and nervous mannerisms than Jon Cryer on speed. The whole thing sounds like some bizarre Hollywood head fake to me.

RCP said...

I wouldn't mind being in a hit multicamera show with that kind of schedule. If only I had acting talent.

jbryant said...

Michael Z: Assuming your question is serious, they're not recasting the role of Charlie Harper. It will be a new character.

Anonymous said...

I do think that there would have been a good chance if the premise of TAHM just shifted up one, that now the remaining "man" (Jon's character) and his son (Angus's character), now also a "man", have to take care of some new young boy (the new "half") and so just reinvent what is logical in the storyline. The half has grown up, is one of the "men" and so what they really needed was a new "half" not a replacement for Sheen's character. Rather than what sounds like stunt casting the no-star Ashton.

Michael Zand said...

Jbryant,

Yes I was serious. I haven't seen anything that says Ashton K is coming in as a new character. I would hope so as that would give the show a chance to reboot.

cshel said...

I can't help but picture Ashton coming in and playing his dumb guy-ladies man character from That 70's Show. But I think he's a better choice than Hugh Grant. Too bad it couldn't be Michael J. Fox just for the full circle factor. The idea of bringing in a woman who is a female version of Charlie would have been an interesting way to go, but the casting would need to be perfect.

I liked TAAHM in the beginning, but the sex joke recycling got boring after awhile and I gave up. I'll definitely tune in out of curiosity to see how they handle the transition.

giantelf said...

I have not watched the show regularly in about 3 seasons -- that;s about when the one trick pony played itself out. But my wife occasionally does and I saw a repeat recently where SHeen's character has a girlfriend. I know all the cast must be happy they still have jobs...but does she??

Sorry lady.

Anonymous said...

Hollywood is a cesspool that contributes nothing productive in society.

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
Hollywood is a cesspool that contributes nothing productive in society."


Anonymous, my cowardly darling, you've confused Hollywood with The Bible Belt.

Michael Zand said...

Anonymous,

You mean as opposed to Wall Street which plunged us into the worst depression since 1929 and nearly destroyed the whole world's economy?

Your moronic statement and the fact that you're a coward gives you as much credibility as the loony on street screaming about the end of times.

Michael Zand said...

"Anonymous, my cowardly darling, you've confused Hollywood with The Bible Belt."

Amen to that brother. Testify!

Anonymous said...

Funny how out in hollywood they try to act all pro environment yet go off burning gas with their jets and waste millions on trees on a bunch of paper for their inane scripts.

Andy Ihnatko said...

When "Big Bang Theory" was on Monday nights, I had some chances to see "Two And A Half Men" and I never got the slightest bit interested in the show. If I tuned in to CBS ten minutes early and saw that another episode of "Men" was in progress...I'd find something else to do or watch until BBT started.

Last year, I thought "Well, it can't be as bad as I thought it was. This is the #1 comedy on TV, after all!"

So I watched the next show. And -- I think this was even the opening of the show -- I saw the father and the son having a farting contest inside a car.

The contest ended with the dad ****ting his pants.

I took this as a sign that I needn't waste any more time thinking about "Two And A Half Men," ever.

I also found myself thinking that collectively, the hundred (?) or so people involved in the production kept thinking that was a TERRIFIC opening to the show for an entire week.

How?

DwWashburn said...

You summed up my feelings in the first couple of sentences. My wife loves this show and I not only find it dull, I find it painful. Bad writing, one joke, and a (now departed) star who must have had tons of Botox because he never had a facial expression.

I'll watch Julie in Modern Family and Christa in Cougar Town, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Fart Jokes - that reminds me, one of the best Family Guy "Brian" episodes is when he has the chance to develop a sitcom and it all goes terribly wrong. That night at the Griffin's home, waiting to watch the first episode, Brian notes among the guests in their house is the cast of TAHM who (Sheen I think) tells him something to the extent, after all the nagging on their show, they wanted to witness how well Brian's show will do. Of course it's awful due to the TV changes.

Michael Zand said...

Anonymous spewed:
"Funny how out in hollywood they try to act all pro environment yet go off burning gas with their jets and waste millions on trees on a bunch of paper for their inane scripts."

Someday, someone is going to create an "idiot filter app." Whoever he or she is, I wish they'd hurry the fuck up.

Michael Zand said...

Oh, and before I forget. Ken, I need to fly to New York next week and my jet's in the shop. Can I borrow your Gulfstream? No worries if you can't. There's at least ten other out of work writers I know who'll loan me their jets.

Matt said...

Hugh Grant is known to have essentially retired. He'll pay the mortgage with the odd rom-com, and yeah, the hours for a few months wil be long. But the dude likes to have 18months or more of doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. And from what I understand, he may have given up the game entirely.

Judged in that context, sit-com hours (and long term commitments), however favourable they may seem, would still be too much.

emily said...

Perhaps 2.5 has jumped the farting shark...

Anonymous said...

>But to me it’s just a half-hour barrage of penis jokes with the occasional masturbation joke thrown in to break things up.

How do you reconcile this with your attacks on network or other censors? Without the censors, your shows would have been just like this. The dropoff from Cheers to Becker is there to see. With loosening network standards, the show moved well in the direction of 2 1/2 men that you criticize.

John said...

The more TV channels, the less TV execs care about anything but getting eyeballs in front of the ads, so in the case of comedies, anything that gets a laugh during the network run is OK, no matter how low it gets (how well a farting contest holds up on its 10th syndicated airing is open to question, but as long as CBS saw it was getting people to tune in at 9 Eastern/8 Central every Monday night, what it does 4-5 years down the line is no concern of theirs unless Viacom has a stake in the syndication rights).

The phenomenon isn't new, nor is it limited to sitcoms. Twenty years ago, Viacom let John Kricfalusi go to extremes for his new "Ren and Stimpy" show. He wanted to do it to get more acting into the characters and get away from the stiff-as-a-board TV animation of the previous 30 years; the Nickelodeon execs and others saw it and said "Piss, poop and fart jokes in kids' cartoons! Why didn't we think of this years ago! Kids love body fluid and flatulence humor!", and eventually went back to doing stiff-as-a-board shows, only now with raunchier material (and the kids who first grew up with that are now the main target audience for "Two-and-a-Half Men").

selection7 said...

No kidding, Matt. A quick search on IMDB shows that with no movies on the horizon, if 2011-2012 plays out as it currently stands (only a voice acting gig), Hugh will have gone half a decade and made only 1 movie with no other acting gigs of any sort. I agree that's pretty much retired, which suggests that his decline, so to speak, was intentional.

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

I think Hugh Grant lives exclusively in London, which means starring in a show produced in Los Angeles would require significant travel. In addition, I'm pretty sure he makes the bulk of his money from his production company. Would you level the same criticism at Tom Hanks if he wasn't interested in taking over the lead in a aging sitcom in Great Britain? Not bloody likely.

Mike Barer said...

I agree with Michael Zand.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

There has been WAY too much press on this whole Charlie Sheen, Winning, Goddesses, Ashton Kutcher deal. It's time to put it to bed already...

Johnny Walker said...

Dammit. I just can't stop commenting this evening.

Here's my take (not that anybody's asked me): Sheen was astoundingly instrumental to making that show work. As much as I'm not as fan, I could tell that he was essentially the tent pole holding the whole thing up. For all his crazy ego, he was right about that.

I predict initial interest spike, and then, unless Kutcher can handle such a vital role with surprising aplomb, probably failure.

It's like replacing Sam from Cheers... although Hugh Grant would have been a very interesting choice. I can't believe he turned it down. Who's giving him advice?!

Johnny Walker said...

Also, wonderful insight into the life of a sitcom!

Jason said...

Ken, what you say about the easy life of a sitcom actor doesn't jibe with what the cast of The Office say.

That cast always talks about 6:00 AM call times, and working ALL day until 7PM.

Steve Carell just left the "grind" of The Office to spend more time with his family.

Question: How come The Office works 10-hour days 26 weeks a year, but you say it's a piece of cake?

Ken Levine said...

TWO AND A HALF MEN is shot before a studio audience. THE OFFICE is shot single camera like a movie. Different production schedules.