The kid was right the first time.
Angus T. Jones apologized Tuesday for his delightful YouTube moment in which he called “Two and a Half Men” – the show on which he spent his boyhood and for which he reportedly earns close to $350,000 an episode – “filth.”
“I'm on 'Two and a Half Men' and I don't want to be on it,” Jones said originally in a video posted by a religious organization called Forerunner Chronicles. It is run by a fellow named Christopher Hudson, who has been known to accuse prominent rappers of worshipping the devil.
“Please stop watching,” pleaded the young actor. “Please stop filling your head with filth.”
On Tuesday, cooler and more monetary heads clearly prevailed on TV's most implosive sitcom. Jones pronounced himself regretful for speaking out of turn, “grateful” to oft-embattled show runner and inventor Chuck Lorre, and in high regard for everyone on the show, all of whom have “become an extension of my family.”
It seems to me that all of the above can be true simultaneously – filth and family.
It is utterly inarguable that “Two and a Half Men” is filth of a sort, i.e. an advanced achievement in the sitcom art of putting as much acceptable smut into a half hour of prime time as you can. Double-entendres abound; when unnecessary, single-entendres will do – at best with the ribald, black humor that has been the province of the male locker room since time immemorial.
I don't watch “Two and a Half Men” regularly for a simple reason: I don't watch any sitcom regularly. I hate the form and always have, even when I was watching “Cheers” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” In Paleozoic TV, I never liked Lucy, much less loved her the way America did. (Desi was weird enough to be funny, though.) I only watched “The Life of Riley” because of Tom D'Andrea as Gillis and “Ozzie and Harriet” because of Ricky's deadpan put-downs of his goody-goody older brother.
I liked Gracie Allen, but only because I truly loved that inimitable moment when George Burns would step outside the French doors and comment on the action thus far – all the while punctuating with a cigar to make sure every line was timed perfectly. I wanted to be George Burns when I grew up. And I am – sort of – without the doors and the cigar and the really funny part. (“The action thus far” wouldn't be a bad name for this column, should it ever need one.)
Obviously, I've seen “Two and a Half Men” a few times – mostly in the Charlie Sheen era. And I've laughed. Some of the ribaldry is funny in that way that no one can possibly be proud of laughing at.
What Lorre did in redrawing the real Charlie Sheen as a prime-time comic version of a “degenerate” (Lorre's own word), he did next with a free-form re-creation of Ashton Kutcher as a clueless and helpless billionaire chick magnet. Meanwhile, Jon Cryer, with all the professionalism in the world, muddles on in the Felix role of any odd couple he could possibly be in.
It goes without saying, of course, that when all of this first hit the fan, original star Charlie Sheen himself – he of the Mercury Surfboard and the wildly quotable but losing “winning” tour – couldn't resist jumping in with his own devil-may-care eloquence.
“A hive of oppression” old Charlie called Lorre's show. No one could partake, according to him, “without some form of an emotional tsunami” (one of Charlie's favorite words. Clearly this is a man whose view of life entails constant surfing and tidal waves and the requisite cleanups. George Burns and I would probably agree on it being an awfully strenuous way to live, if not downright dangerous.)
When he wasn't doing that, Charlie was giving Lindsay Lohan $100,000 to pay her unpaid taxes.
In gratitude, she got herself arrested at 4 o'clock in the morning yesterday for hitting a woman in the face in a Manhattan nightclub. (One would think she'd realize at this point that nothing good will ever happen to her in any nightclub anywhere at 4 a.m.)
“Filth” is a bit hyperbolic and draconian to describe most of the doings on popular sitcoms, but it's certainly a word that's in the ballpark, for all of its unfortunate pious connotations. They're all adolescent and post-adolescent yawps – maladjustments for laughs that reduce our species to organs, glands and easy sentimentalities, each one grosser than the next.
Family has always been TV's biggest subject, whether you're watching a sitcom or “NCIS” or a local TV news broadcast. Successful sitcoms usually leave the bathroom and bedroom doors open and titter at the results. I'm not prepared to declare it all unhygienic, mind you, much less the work of the devil, but artful “junk” and “rubbish” suffice a good part of the time to describe the end result.
But then, one man's crafted rubbish is another's et cetera.
The same, of course, is true of the tsunami (thank you, Charlie) of “wholesome” holiday television that is about to soak us all to the skin.
For every classic giving us Charlie Brown's Christmas or the inimitable Boris Karloff reciting the transgressions of Dr. Seuss' “Mr. Grinch,” there are about 20 indigestible clumps of sour, unrefrigerated cookie dough tossed onto platters and offered up for our delectation with toxic cynicism.
You could perish from all the poisonous “wholesomeness” on television during this season. Who doesn't want to ride a “Mercury surfboard” elsewhere sometimes?
If you're a Time Warner digital cable customer fleeing from both filth and gratuitous uplift, whatever you do don't land on Channel 180. It has been announced that it will now show RLTV for Over-50's, full of “programming designed to engage, inform and resonate with a diverse audience of 50+ viewers in areas including health and wellness, relationships, transformations, exploration, finance, and political and public policy issues.”
For instance, “Money Matters” with Jean Chatzky and “Good Food, Good Deeds” starring Florence Henderson and Meals on Wheels, which “combines the excitement of a cook off with the lifesaving version of one of America's most extraordinary philanthropic organizations.
Let's hear it – always and forever – for Meals on Wheels.
As for Florence Henderson and “exciting” cook-offs, George and I are going to stroll outside the French doors for a couple of minutes, put a cigar in its holder, pause for comic effect and think that one over before giving our opinion.