Posted on March 1, 2019
by Steve Janowick
Once in a blue moon the stars align perfectly and the geniuses at the television networks get one right.
That certainly was the case back in 2003. Out of nowhere came one of the funniest shows of all time. And one of the most legendary characters ever to grace the small screen was born. Charles Harper, as his uppity mother likes to call him, is the epitome of all that’s wrong and all that’s right in the modern man. And just to be clear-I say “is” because he still lives in syndicated re-runs and, might I add, in our hearts.
On the one hand, he’s totally self-absorbed. He makes his living as a successful jingle writer, which bankrolls his showy, sometimes seedy, bachelor lifestyle. He’s as deep as a puddle with his feelings and only opens up when it benefits him. He gambles. He drinks. He smokes cigars. But his most notorious vice is his penchant for one-night stands. Charlie is the ultimate playboy. Frightened to death of commitment, he exercises those fears by bedding every single (and sometimes married) woman in Malibu, giving her cab fare then a send-off kiss. Some would call him a…pig.
On the other hand, he’s very benevolent and loving. Not many siblings would take in such a tightly-wound moocher like his younger brother, Alan. Not many uncles would have the patience to put up with the smart aleck shenanigans provided daily by his nephew, Jake. Not many sons would have the resolve to endure the snarky indignation he receives from his mother, Evelyn. And, lastly, not many friends would put up with a sociopath stalker, like Rose, with such grace. Some would call him a…good guy.
And therein lies the complexity that is Charlie Harper. He is the dichotomy of all men. He is loathed and he is loved. He’s relatable in his propensity to embrace and display both his yin and yang selves. And that’s why he’s one of the most endearing and enduring characters in sitcom history.
Charlie is the byproduct of smart, funny writing, intuitive casting and…well…I was going to say brilliant acting, but everybody knows that the line that separates Charlie Harper and the guy playing him, Charlie Sheen, is opaque to say the least. It really isn’t acting at all for him. It truly is a case of art imitating life.
Either way, Two and a Half Men, and its insufferable lead character, died the day the real Charlie went all tiger blood and started pulling week-long, drug-induced binges with the Goddesses. Those lines between reality and character became even more blurry, and after all that winning got the best of him, the creators decided to pull the plug on both Charlies. They tried to keep the show going with…you know, I’m not even going to go there, that incarnation was that bad and unwatchable.
No one can replace Charlie Harper. And no one ever will because we’ve come to a place where a character like him wouldn’t make it past the initial pitch meeting before the PC tribe had the writer’s nuts in a vice. But, alas, all is well. Because we still have that wonderful gift from God to the nostalgic man-called syndication. Three nights a week I still get to nestle up to the tube and live vicariously through the guy that re-wrote the book on what it means to be a cool bachelor. For a half hour I’m the free-spirited, grab life by the balls, fun-loving, king of players. Then…
My wife nudges me and reminds me I’m married, and I’ll never be Charlie.
We then turn on Lifetime…
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