Revolving in notions of what is said and not said has never been more truthful in the drama of “Two & A Half Men” over the past year. Jon Cryer, long the unsung hero of the show as Alan because of his ability to sacrifice dignity at times for the sake of a joke, spoke to The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg on the texture that makes the show more than it might seem.
Tim Wassberg: Can you talk about the story progression on the show after the loss of Charlie?
Jon Cryer: First of all, it was very strange to have the plots hang on Alan which happened a few times last season but was unusual still for me. What’s been nice about the last few episodes we’ve been shooting is that it has mostly been hanging on Walden [Ashton’s character] (sighs) just like old good times. I think the hardest episode for me to do is when Alan lost it and started thinking he was Charlie…because to find a tone that worked was difficult. The writing came through so strongly on that episode that it did alot of the work for me. I’d love to take credit (chuckling) but it was mostly the writing.
TW: But you had to angle the comedy differently though to make that angle work.
JC: Yes. Because we didn’t want to do an impression. We thought that would be inappropriate but we had to sort of embody who he was and who Charlie Harper was…and not obviously what Charlie Sheen was. I don’t know. It felt like very risky territory but I feel like we got away with it. And we had to deal with it in some respect. When you lose a sibling, it’s a devastating experience and obviously dealing with it in any way comedically is hard. But I think the writers have jumped through some really amazing hoops on this.
TW: Do you feel that Alan is a more confident character now?
He gets full of himself because he’s actually on the board [of Walden’s company] and has an actual job. But I don’t know how long that’s going to last.
TW: Is this different perspective of who Alan thinks he is manifested differently for you through both the physical and emotional comedy?
JC: Part of what’s always been fun is that Alan is “Job” [from the Bible]. He gets humiliated, dresses in women’s clothing and has no dignity whatsoever. And that’s great. I’m happy to continue that. But what I am doing hasn’t really changed. It’s just a small change in the dynamic of the scenes in a general sense.
The nature of legacy shows resounds in their ability to highlight and enhance without losing what they were in earlier incarnations. “Two & A Half Men” has been the most prevalent viewpoint in the last year with the departure of Charlie Sheen and eventual replacement by Ashton Kutcher but approaching characters like Batman and the vastness of the Star Wars universe holds its perils as well.
Batman: Brave & The Bold Interacting with the lore and mythology of other characters within the guise of Batman allows the creators to show and gauge the interest of fans (or the writers themselves) of how interesting certain backstories run. Highlighting lesser known vintage characters like The Atom or exploring the essence of sequel prowess with Green Lantern’s handling of Star Sapphire shows the possibility of them against those backdrops without having to worry about logic. However, something like traveling through time to save different incarnations of Batman so he can exist in the current timeline is straining belief but the creative team knows that this is a chance to go off the rails before the next series inevitably return to darkness.
The Clone Wars Making the mythology more vast and intrinsic without overcoming the basic nature of the universe it has a created is a daunting task especially when you are writing the backstories of several of the species in later films. What this show tends to do, in short order, with adequate results, is create a depth of structure where the features just laid the ground work. Two story progressions this season so far show this both with the “Water War” progression with the Gungans and the Mon Calamari which dictate certain emotional responses in terms of war structure. By contrast, the episodes with General Krell where he displays a lack of empathy and regard to the clones results in a mutiny of sorts that creates a microcosm of battle command in its simplest form wrestling the idea away from being purely Jedi=centric.
The Big Bang Theory The indiosyncrasies of the core bunch continue to grow but what Chuck Lorre has learned to do is spin moons within the planetary configuration of the core five specifically with Howard’s fiance and Amy, Sheldon’s would-be girlfriend. The show has always been about social inadequacy and how technology and simple awkwardness make the possibility of these people connecting even more so. By changing the dynamic, especially with Penny, the idea becomes more of a wingman persona with all these people moving out in different directions on their own while still remaining a core group with varying circumstances and results.
Two & A Half Men In resurrecting the show after the unfortunate inevitable departure of Charlie Sheen, one would have thought it would be disastrous without him. The way however the writers have maintained shows a distinct undeniable truth that the writing, if done in a very specific way without negating or denying Sheen’s influence and still having a snarky but not mean edge towards its former star, shows an effective overhaul. You realize how key the bumbling mannerisms of Jon Cryer truly anchor the show and magnifies the everyman quality of it. Ashton Kutcher’s character is not a Charlie Harper but takes on a more cool quality from creator Chuck Lorre’s other show “The Big Bang Theory” in that certain qualities can be good and bad. An especially good two episode arch involves Alan (Cryer) and his worst day as well as a psychotic break where he reverts and tries to emulate his brother. It is neat because it addresses the good and bad sides of Charlie Harper while showing empathy. It might not be the Charlie show anymore but it does show that it can survive with dignity and darkness without him.
The gist of some of the more popular returning shows follows their ability to know their characters in and out. Some have found that balance while some debate on whether to mess with what works to keep the challenge palpable. The maintenance of such characters from Sheldon on “Big Bang Theory” to Charlie on “2 /12″and even to Beckett on “Castle” revolves around the ability of teasing the audiences without giving them what they think they want.
Big Bang Theory The realization within this season is that Walowitz and Leonard do indeed have girlfriends so (like “Chuck”), their relative comparisons to loserdom have been requisitely lifted. However, the superhero of the show remains within Sheldon whose life is seemingly altered by the changing of the social guard. After returning from the Antartica, he tries to escape to Montana. Now he has almost become the unwanted son of newly minted Penny & Leonard. While Leonard seems undeniably less interesting because of this change as his character does try to adhere to Penny’s wishes, it is Penny as a character that is growing because in doing this, it changes her relationship to Sheldon in having to perceive him in a different way with empathy understanding that he is a part of her life. The episode that has her and Leonard going to Switzerland to visit the Supercollider is relatively poignant. But like the Sam/Diane relationship on “Cheers”, a curveball will need to be thrown at a certain point. Walowitz almost has the easy part because there are so many ways he can screw up his relationship to a girl who is hot under her geekiness. The problem is that it creates a double standard in the progression of the series. Raj is the one left out in the cold but obviously they are planning something big for him. Like “Two & A Half Men” it becomes how far you can throw the ball while still keeping the characters who they are.
Two & A Half Men The ultimate beauty in the set up of this structure is that people are who they are, no matter which way you look at it. Jake, as the young man, will be taking the back seat as Charlie obviously moves through his issues of marriage. Ultimately, it requires him to screw up his relationship beyond repair. Granted it could be moving in the direction of kids of his own which will bring a whole other dynamic. The reality as true life has shown is that people do revert but that strengthens the show’s resolve since Alan will always screw up and Jake will always be bumbling, although in all likelihood he will secure a hot girlfriend which will just make Alan that much more funny. Charlie is Charlie as is the way. However a recent episode which showed him drunk comedically shows a paradox which was quite unexpected since it was almost done dramatically (which we all know Sheen can do). The questions here aren’t simple which makes the series undeniably workable.
Castle The presence of mind with this series, like its predecessors “Moonlighting” and “Northern Exposure”, revolves around the aspect of keeping Castle and Beckett away from physically being together for as long as possible. While doing this and maintaining the humor is no easy feat but Fillion’s innocent but chicanerous schtick as Castle actually continues with a great amount of joy. You can tell that he is having fun. The up-play of the two side partners getting some jokes in sometimes makes it less real than it should be but the levity needs to be revolved around. The tinge begins to move when Dana Delaney makes an entrance as an FBI agent that gives Beckett a run for her money. You start to see a tinge of jealousy. Stana Katic as Beckett knows the balance and plays the straight and unwavering character in the piece which can be trying but when she comes out a little bit to tease Castle, it is stellar. One such moment occurs during an episode when they are investigating a dominatrix dungeon. Her words are like sin and Castle’s jaw drops. The show and its actors knows itself in and out and, as long as it can maintain the progression, it can’t miss. The only hiccup could occur if they start thinking about real time which unfortunately was brought up towards the end of season 2.
Sanctuary Restitute in its ability to further its reach, the second season of the SyFy series allows for a much wider swath of possibilities. The storylines play to an aspect of a wider world review that allows closed structured series like “Stargate” to push forward farther. The culminating factor for “Sanctuary” is making the series more of a global reach structure so it can play overseas. The aspect of multi-ethnic cultures is what allowed earlier versions of “Stargate” to flourish by comparison. Narrative inlays like the progression of vision quests and the undeniable sacrifices (specifically that of the Jack The Ripper character) speak to more of the mythos that the series wishes to create. While still not creating enticements on the level of say “Battlestar”, “Sanctuary” is embracing its more gothic structures which will allow it to grow.