The good news about 'Two and a Half Men'

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Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher, whose characters got married in the final season of CBS' "Two and a Half Men."

TWO AND A HALF MEN. 9 p.m. Thursday, CBS3.

THE ODD COUPLE. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, CBS3.

 

I MIGHT NOT have said this a few years ago, but as CBS' "Two and a Half Men" ends its 12-season run tomorrow night, I'm happy it's lasted so long.

I don't care if Charlie Sheen does or doesn't show up in the hourlong finale - playfully titled, "Of Course He's Dead" - any more than I've cared about this last season's marriage of convenience between Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher's characters.

What began as a show about two very different brothers raising a boy in a Malibu Beach house lost me long before Sheen left. It all began to feel like one joke, and I'd stopped laughing.

But I do like what "Two and a Half Men" made possible: "The Big Bang Theory." "Mike & Molly." "Mom."

Chuck Lorre famously created the long-running hit with Lee Aronsohn so that Aronsohn could keep his Writers Guild health insurance from lapsing, and the two went on to make Nielsen magic in an era in which comedy was regularly being declared dead.

"None of this happens without 'Two and a Half Men,' " Lorre told reporters last month at an event in which Stage 26 of Warner Bros.' Burbank, Calif., studio was renamed after the show.

"Without the phenomenal success of the show, Bill Prady and I couldn't have gone into CBS and said to [CBS executives] Nina Tassler and Les Moonves, with a straight face, that we want to do a show about physicists," Lorre said of "The Big Bang Theory," adding that the same went for "Mike & Molly," a show about "a Chicago cop and a schoolteacher meeting at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, and falling in love."

After which, "just to test our luck to see how much leverage we had, let's try a show about a mother and daughter [who are] recovering alcoholics, and see how that goes."

If you've been watching the second season of "Mom," you know it's going well, with Allison Janney and Anna Faris facing situations that look a lot more like many people's lives than anything on "Two and a Half Men" ever could, and still somehow finding the funny in them.

"It's hard, because you want to be respectful of difficult life situations: alcoholism, cancer, you know, teenage pregnancy, unforeseen deaths. You don't want to be glib . . . because that's what people really live with," Lorre said afterward.

Co-created with Eddie Gorodetsky and Gemma Baker, both of whom worked on "Two and a Half Men," "Mom," which is off tomorrow and moves to 9:30 next week, has benefited from a "Big Bang" lead-in, just as that show grew into a hit on the heels of "Two and a Half Men."

"We're getting a little more courage as we go along, that we can tell stories differently, and tell stories that are more meaningful to what we deal with in the real world," Lorre said.

"There's no question that I couldn't be doing what I'm doing on 'Mom' had 'Two and a Half Men' and 'The Big Bang Theory' [not] succeeded the way they did," he said. "It gave me a lot of wiggle room."

It also brought him closer to the grittier subjects tackled on two of his earlier shows, "Grace Under Fire," which he created but only spent a year on, and "Roseanne," where he wrote from 1990-92.

"I learned so much on 'Roseanne,' " Lorre said. "That was a most difficult two years, but I learned so much. Everyone, I think, who wrote on 'Roseanne' became a better writer because she set the bar so high."

 

'The Odd Couple'

Some 50 years after Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" first premiered on Broadway and 40 years after the final episode of the ensuing Jack Klugman-Tony Randall sitcom aired on ABC, Oscar and Felix are back.

Again.

To say it feels like old times isn't entirely a slam at this latest TV revival.

You can find the DNA of Simon's classic pairing of two men with very different personalities everywhere, from "Two and a Half Men" to "Sesame Street," so why shouldn't Thomas Lennon and Matthew Perry get their shot at fussy Felix Unger (Lennon) and sloppy Oscar Madison (Perry)?

No reason at all, except that the studio audience may be a little more excited than we are, making tomorrow night's pilot feel more like a theater revival than a 2015 TV show.

What's new: Spelling out that Felix isn't gay, jokes about sex and bodily functions that wouldn't have passed muster in the '70s and Oscar's transformation from sportswriter to sports-radio host.

The show is more of an ensemble, with Yvette Nicole Brown ("Community") as Oscar's assistant, Dani, and Wendell Pierce ("The Wire") as his agent, Teddy. Lindsay Sloane, introduced in the pilot as a neighbor's sister, is also a regular.

Lennon, who brings yoga (and cello) skills to Felix, is terrific. Perry may have further to go, perhaps because the writing for Oscar seemed muddled, as if someone had actually worried that viewers wouldn't like him enough.

They've liked Oscar Madison for half a century. Why would they stop now?


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