Remains of the dead: Sheen's Charlie Harper ends up in a Dustbuster on season premiere of Two and a Half Men
I'm still scratching my head -- literally and figuratively -- trying to recall an instance in which a departing TV character took a bigger beating than Charlie Sheen's Charlie Harper. To no avail, it should be noted.
Not that he didn't ask for it or deserve it. Sheen's recently launched contrition tour, during which he's been apologizing for his infamous "Rock Star From Mars/Goddess" daze, came well after the script was written for this season's premiere of Two and a Half Men and its introduction of Ashton Kutcher in the new role of broken-hearted billionaire Walden Schmidt. The show's creator and executive producer, Chuck Lorre, had been savaged by Sheen as a talent-less, double-dealing hack. He remained quiet until Monday night's Season 9 debut of Two and a Half Men. That's when Lorre struck back big-time, burying Charlie Harper with anything but amazing grace. He did everything except dance on his grave, with Charlie's ashes eventually ending up in a Dustbuster after they were first used as a prop to symbolically unveil Kutcher's character. More on that in just a bit.
The ratings went through the roof, setting an all-time high for Two and a Half Men with 28.7 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. Comedy Central's competing roast of Sheen -- by a group mostly composed of has-beens and unknowns -- drew 6.4 million viewers. The network says that's an all-time audience record for one of its periodic roasts. Still, it's hardly winning when the guy who supplants you is seen by more than four times as many viewers.
Sheen was never seen on Monday's Two and a Half Men. Instead his trademark shirt and shorts hung beside his closed casket in an opening scene-setter. Hapless brother Alan (Jon Cryer) tried to say a few nice words but was repeatedly interrupted by naysayers. Most of them were ex-girlfriends who in sequential order blamed Charlie for giving them herpes, Chlamydia and -- wait for it -- "vaginal warts."
"He used my panties to make tea," said another. And they all wanted to see him one last time because, as the aggrieved Courtney (Jenny McCarthy) put it, "I didn't come all this way to spit on a closed coffin."
Rose (Melanie Lynskey), the Malibu neighbor who had stalked Charlie from time to time, then explained how he had died. In her version of events, they had gone off to Paris, where he asked her to marry him. But as luck would have it -- and after Rose had caught him showering with another woman -- Charlie slipped off a metro platform and fell into the path of a speeding train. He didn't suffer, though. "His body just exploded like a balloon full of meat," Rose assured one and all. And that was the extent of the funeral service.
Lorre had one last indignity in mind, though. Charlie's ashes soon arrived in an urn at the Malibu pad he shared with Alan and his son, Jake (Angus T. Jones). Alan figured he might as well scatter them on the beach, and was heading out the door to do so when Kutcher's character suddenly appeared outside a sliding glass door. This prompted a startled Alan to throw Charlie's ashes into the air. The cloud briefly obscured Kutcher and then framed him. Out with the old, in with the new. Ah, the symbolism, with Kutcher later apologizing -- "I'm sorry I made you spill him" -- before Alan vacuumed up Charlie's last hurrah with a Dustbuster.
That seems to pretty much negate any future guest appearance on the part of Sheen, unless they want to do some sort of hokey flashback episode. That's really not in the cards, though. Sheen burned his bridges with Two and a Half Men and his old boss retaliated Monday night by reducing him to ashes that eventually necessitated a cleanup.
Which once again proves there's no business like show business.