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Two and a Half Men: Half-Hearted, Half-Witted and All Bad



In its latest Special Report, Happily Never After:  How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Broadcast Television,  the Parents Television Council showed that today’s prime-time broadcast television programming portrays sex inside marriage as a source of misery, while sex outside of marriage is supposedly far more exciting. The study also demonstrated that the entertainment industry is obsessed with bizarre forms of sexual expression, with references to masturbation, pornography and sex with prostitutes all commonplace on TV today. Proof of TV’s tendency toward the tawdry can be found in the CBS “comedy” Two And a Half Men, where ALL of these elements were present in a mere three episodes from the past season – episodes recently rerun on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET...only 8 p.m. in America’s heartland.


The episode rerun on July 28th (which was originally broadcast on November 26th of last year) carried the charming title “Kinda Like Necrophilia.” In it, Alan attempts to have sex with his brother Charlie’s old girlfriend. The woman proves disinterested in sex, which leads to the following dialogue between the brothers:


Charlie: "Hey, how'd it go with Gabrielle?"

Alan: "I think you know how it went."

Charlie: "Yeah, I do.  It's kind of like necrophilia, isn't it?"

Alan: "I didn't go through with it."

Charlie: "Really? I guess we're different that way."


Yet such dialogue, complete with its references to sex with corpses, was as nothing compared to that to be found on the August 4th episode, "The Soil is Moist." Originally run on March 31st, this show sullied viewers with the sordid story of Alan’s sexual insecurity. During a tryst with his ex-wife Judith’s best friend, Alan learns that sex during his 12-year marriage never satisfied his wife…but now that she has left him for another man, she is gratified. One round of dialogue simultaneously portrayed marital sex as unsatisfying and blasted viewers with incredibly explicit imagery:


Alan: "In what universe is Herb Melnick a better lover than me?"

Charlie: "Herb Melnick? I thought you had sex with Cynthia last night."

Alan: "I did.  But you know what she told me?  That Judith told her that Herb was the best lover

she's ever had."

Charlie: "How does that come up when you're boffing Cynthia?…Was it like, ‘Golly you have firm

buttocks. You know who else has a nice ass?  Herb Melnick.’ "

Alan: "I didn't bring up the subject of Herb's sexual prowess. Cynthia did."

Charlie: "That's never a good sign."

Alan: "15 years, 12 years of marriage and the best sex we ever had was mediocre…But then

Herb Melnick comes along with his tousled hair and goofy charm and lights her up like an

all-night liquor store…How does he do it?”

Berta: "Maybe he's got a big trouser monkey."


And the August 11th rerun of an April 14th episode showered viewers with graphic discussions of prostitution and masturbation, as Alan decides to hire a prostitute: 


Alan:  “How much is a hooker?”

Charlie:  “Alan, what are you going to do with a hooker?” 

Alan:  “Well I'd like to pay her to have sex with me.“

Charlie:  “I get it. But why?”

Alan:  “Well, I've been thinking. I don't have a great track record with relationships, but I still have

            desires.  So I figure, why not simplify, get back to basics.  No relationship. No

disappointment. Just sex.”

Charlie: “Well, sex with you, there is bound to be some disappointment.    I mean, even with a

Hooker, money only buys you so much good will.” 

Alan:  “But I don't have to care.  Because it's a straight business transaction the only needs that

are important are mine.”


After glorifying selfishness and treating other human beings like objects fit only for his own gratification, Alan awaits the prostitute at the door. However, he is disappointed when his friend Rose comes to visit.


Rose:  “You're waiting for a prostitute?...Alan, that's not like you.” 

Alan:  “Yeah, well, when you've had your heart broken enough times and you can't even bear the

thought of having an emotional connection with another human being, what else can you do? “

Rose:  “A lot of people masturbate, I hear.  Really. I've heard them.”

Alan:  “Nevertheless, sometimes a man needs to feel something other than his own touch.”

Rose: “Have you tried switching hands?  It's like being with a clumsy stranger.”


Later, the neurotic Alan annoys the prostitute and she leaves, leading to sexually explicit dialogue that once again bashes marriage:


Alan:  “Oh come on, I just said ‘I can't believe I'm the biggest you've ever seen.’  I mean, I'm not

even the biggest I've ever seen, and I haven't seen that many.” 

prostitute:  “I'm sorry, I have to go.”

Alan: “Why?”

prostitute:  “I have a headache.” 

Alan:  “I can work with that.  I was married for 12 years.” 


Consider: CBS spends millions of dollars a year on this program. Supposedly professional “writers” are paid for dialogue that would embarrass the most sex-crazed adolescent. And yet, when the PTC or other groups discuss the harm these exercises in tastelessness can do, such “writers” scream that their “creativity” is being infringed upon. Such complaints might be worthy of more consideration if programs like Two and a Half Men showed any creativity to begin with.


Consider also: All of these episodes carried a rating of TV-14, indicating that CBS thinks this sort of material is totally appropriate for children over age 13.  Buttressing this statement is the fact actor Angus T. Jones is only 15, and yet is exposed to (and frequently called upon to utter) this sex-laden dialogue. And of course, every episode is larded with words and phrases like “screw,” “ass” and “son of a bitch.”

Finally, consider this: children are absorbing TV’s messages about sex – and imitating them. Children growing up in today’s TV environment are experimenting sexually in ways that would have been unthinkable for previous generations.  By the time they have reached their senior year in high school, 3 out of 5 young people in the US today have had sex, and 1 in 5 of those has had sex with 4 or more partners, according to the 2001 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance.

Broadcasters know that television influences behavior; that is why they show commercials. If TV’s messages can convince children to want toys and breakfast cereal, they can also send messages about sex. Insulting to intelligent adults and potentially harmful to children, CBS’ tasteless, tawdry Two and a Half Men stands as a perfect example of TV’s ever-downward spiral.


“I do think they have a point about the portrayal of sex and marriage…There is too much of a tendency, especially in TV comedies, to recycle the knee-jerk Married With Children joke about married sex being boring or nonexistent. It's the white-people-dance-like-this cliché of sex humor.” – Time magazine media columnist James Poniewozik (Time.com, August 5, 2006)


TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff.


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