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Four and a half stars

Monday, 24 March, 2014

“Two and a Half Men?” you scoff. “Only idiots watch Two and a Half Men!”

You console yourself with the belief that the tens of millions of people who watch the show are morons, and that you—a student of the University of Melbourne—are more intelligent than every single one of them.

But the truth is that you’re the idiot. Over 15 million viewers in the United States are in on the joke, but you’re too dismissive, arrogant, and smug to see the truth: Two and a Half Men is the greatest satire of all time.

Ricky Gervais flirted with greatness with his When The Whistle Blows show-within-a-show featured in Extras. Both When The Whistle Blows and Two and a Half Men share a laugh track, a satirical bent, and a message, but differ in one important aspect. When The Whistle Blows relies on the vehicle of Extras to convey that the whole audience is in on the joke. However, Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre refuses to talk down to his audience. He has the comedic nous to not only play Two and a Half Men straight-faced for one episode, but for ten seasons. Gen Y loves to laud Community for its ability to hang a lampshade on its fairly obvious references. But for some reason, Two and a Half Men’s lampooning of sitcom tropes seems to have gone largely unappreciated by the university population.

In Casey Affleck’s 2010 film I’m Still Here, Joaquin Phoenix does an admirable job of portraying his retirement. But Phoenix’s performance has nothing on Charlie Sheen’s ’breakdown’, which was one of the finest examples of performance art in the modern era. Charlie Sheen is a man dedicated to the acting craft and—unlike Joaquin Phoenix—has maintained his act long after cashing his final cheque. His enduring and provocative commentary on the interaction between celebrities and tabloid culture in the modern world even fooled news agencies, with the mainstream media earnestly reporting on his clearly-staged downfall. This happened again when Angus T Jones, the ‘half’ in Two and a Half Men, proclaimed that the show was “filth” and conflicted with his religious views.

Perhaps US comedy is just too intelligent for us simple Australians to appreciate. The recent demise of Today Tonight, Australia’s incarnation of the Colbert Report, highlights a worrying trend in the national television landscape: the gradual dumbing down of television. With that, I implore you to not miss the next episode of Two and a Half Men.  After all, a show this clever might not be around for much longer.