Monday, July 21, 2014

Two and a Half Married Men

At the Television Critics Association convention last week, CBS President Nina Tassler was excited to make an announcement about the storyline for the twelfth and final, 13-episode season of Two and a Half Men.  After surviving a near-death experience, Walden (Ashton Kutcher) becomes determined to raise a child.  But as a single man, his chances for an adoption getting approved seem slim – so he and Alan (Jon Cryer) stage a sham gay marriage.

On Thursday night, at CBS’ star-studded TCA party at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, I caught up with the show’s executive producer Chuck Lorre, and asked about the inspiration for the storyline.  Chuck is always a fun and candid interviewee, and here he gives some honest assessments of where the long-running show has been, and where it hopes to end up.

Must-Hear TV:  What inspired the gay storyline for Two and a Half Men’s final season?
Chuck Lorre:  It was a brilliant idea that was proposed by Jim Patterson and Don Reo, who are the head writers on the show.  I thought it was both very funny and very heartwearming, that these guys would go to such great lengths to take a kid out of the foster system and give him a home.  Yes, there’s some subterfuge involved in doing that, gaming the system.  But the intention is to give a child a home, and it brings the series back full circle, to where it’s about two men trying to teach a young boy how to become a man.

MHTV:  Any chance the concept could go so well, it could become a spinoff?
Lorre:  I have no idea.  I just fell in love with it the minute they said it.  And I hope it breathes life into the show.  This is the end of Two and a Half Men this season.  But whether this concept goes beyond that, I have no idea.

MHTV:  Whose idea to get married?
Lorre:  It’s Walden’s. 

MHTV:  Does Alan think he’s crazy?
Lorre:  Alan doesn’t want to sign a pre-nup.  He’s no fool.  The guy’s a billionaire!

MHTV:  Wasn’t Alan’s dream always to marry a billionaire?
Lorre:  Yes.  And now, there are issues of money, and a joint checking account.  And hopefully we can play this for comedy.  Their basic intention, I think, is wonderful.  They want to have a child.  And sexuality is irrelevant.  If you’re taking care of a child, who cares what you do in the privacy of your bedroom.  Isn’t that the whole point?

MHTV:   Or what you don’t do.   You have played with the gay subtext over the years.
Lorre:  Oh absolutely.  We have dominated the cheap laughs in that arena.  I know what the show is.  The show is what it is.  But it’s been hilariously good fun to do it.

MHTV:  Does this marriage and fatherhood preclude the guys from ending up in happily-ever-after relationships with women by the end of the show?
Lorre:  I think their romantic travails will go forward.  It’s a TV series, not a movie.  Their lives go on.  They’re going to be cheating spouses.

MHTV:  Like green card spouses “cheat” on each other?
Lorre:  Yes.  There’s no effort here in our last and final season to try to reach for any dignity.  It’s too late for that.

MHTV:  Has the child been cast?  How old is he?
Lorre:  We have not cast the child yet.  But we’re looking.  Probably between 5 and 10 years old. 

MHTV:  Definitely a boy?
Lorre:  We’re thinking a boy right now.  Because that was the essence of the whole idea in the beginning.  These two very different men raising a young boy, and trying to have an impact on his maturation.  And really the combination of the two of them was the best parent.  

MHTV:  When a show touches on LGBT themes in a comic way like this, there’s a potential for blowback.  Do you anticipate people having a problem with the storyline?
Lorre:  I hope there’s none.  The show has always caused controversy.  There’s no intention to insult or diminish anyone.  The intention is to create laughter.  That’s it.  Create laughter, and if it’s got a heartbeat in there somewhere, that would be nice, too.

MHTV:  Are you hoping to bring back any characters for the final season who were part of the show earlier?  Might we see Charlie or Charlie’s ghost?
Lorre:  We haven’t discussed that.  We were really focused on finding a storyline that puts Jon and Ashton front and center in a really interesting, hopefully funny and provocative story.  That was our priority going in in this last year.  What’s the storyline that puts these two guys right in the middle of it?  So outside characters will come in as they do, but that’s the focus right now.

MHTV:  It’s a storyline that has generated the most interest in the show in years.
Lorre:  Yes – in year twelve!

MHTV:  You’re like the SVU of comedy!  And the gay marriage storyline couldn’t be more timely.
Lorre:  Yeah, it’s timely, and again, it has a heartbeat.  Ashton Kutcher himself is a man with a huge heart – he’s very engaged in social welfare, and puts a lot of time and money into making things better.  And getting a little of that spirit in the show – rather than having him do what the show used to be – has been a journey.  This seems like the next logical step.  Not romance, not sex, but raising a child.  We had enough sex on this show.

MHTV:  Really?  There’s sex?  There are sex jokes?  I didn’t catch those.
Lorre:  I think adding any more sexual jokes on this show could actually be a misdemeanor of some sort.

Two and a Half Men
Returns Thursday, October 30
9 PM

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