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April 24, 2014

The CSI/Two and a Half Men writer switcheroo -- loved it!

by Allison Waldman, posted May 12th 2008 9:39AM
CSIThe CSI/Two and a Half Men writers switch was a very clever promotion for CBS. Fortunately, the writers saw the opportunity to change places as more than just a publicity stunt. They really took the scripting seriously and came up with inventive episodes for each program. If this were a competition to see which team would deliver the better show, who would take on the task of writing winning TV in a genre not their own and succeed beyond expectations, the comedy scribes take the gold. Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn's CSI was pure genius, and if it were up to me, CSI should submit it for an Emmy.

But first there was Two and a Half Men. In an episode called "Fish in a Drawer" (and if somebody could explain what that title means, I'd be most appreciative), the story picked up after Evelyn married Teddy. In the teleplay by CSI regular writers Evan Dunsky and Sarah Goldfinger, Charlie and Courtney check out of the reception for a little romp in his room upstairs only to find Teddy's dead bod on the bed. Talk about spoiling the mood. Teddy wasn't only a corpse, he was a corpse with his pants pulled down around his ankles and lipstick stains on his hoo-ha. The cops were called in, a detective who was a dead ringer for Marg Helgenberger -- played by redhead Jamie Rose -- had the vaguely Bondian name of Jagov, Sloane Jagov. Naturally, Charlie had to make a move on her. He couldn't keep his eyes off her cleavage.



The usual suspects, i.e. everyone on the show, were questioned, and before that was probably the funniest gag in the whole show. In typical CSI fashion, they checked the crime scene for semen by spraying with some chemical then turning off the lights. Of course, Charlie's room lit up like a beacon. He laughed as he saw traces of his emissions on the ceiling fan!

While most of the Two and a Half Men was funny -- not rip-roaring, but still good -- the actual plot was disappointing because it was tipped off in the previous show. Teddy and Courtney were con artists, not father and daughter. Aside for the lights out, the other major CSI shtick employed by director Jeff Melman Jamie Rose was following the food as it was ingested by Jake, down his gullet and into his stomach and intentines. All in all, I liked the "Fish in a Drawer," but I wasn't blown away.

I was blown away by "Two and a Half Deaths," the CSI written by Lorre and Aronsohn. To say that the show was an act of revenge by Mr. Lorre on some female sitcom stars that have vexed him in the past (Cybill and Roseanne, can you hear me?) is an understatement. Lorre eviscerated the proxy Cybill/Roseanne -- called Annabelle, just like the show in which she stars a la Ms. Shepherd and Ms. Arnold, respectively -- who is the murder victim. She's an emasculating horror, with surgically enhanced boobs and butt cheeks, an ex-driver/coke head boyfriend from Iowa whom she's promoted to co-executive producer (visions of Tom Arnold come into view) and raging insecurities to cover an over-inflated ego. She's a nightmare, cunningly brought to life by Katey Sagal.

The Lorre/Aronsohn script is dripping with inside gags:

-- When filming the casino scene, Annabelle is jealous of her co-star getting the funnier lines. She demands they be switched. Wasn't that Cybill Shepherd's problem with Christine Baranski (who stole every scene) on Cybill? The co-star is named Megan Kupowski. Baranski/Kupowski, get it?

-- Grissom investigates the body and finds a rubber chicken shoved down Annabelle's throat. He then says the classic show business line, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

-- At the studio in L.A., Grissom and Brass are on a golf cart to the set, passing Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones outside their trailers. Angus is smoking a cigar. Then Gil shoots the remains of a plane crash on the backlot -- a tip of the cap to Lost, which has been CSI's competition on Thursday nights at 9 o'clock most of the year.

-- To explain some plot in between acts, the writers used clips on Extra. In one, Megan appears on the red carpet with her dog, Binky, for a cause called Canine Thrombosis Foundation (for dogs with heart conditions). Later in the show, the medication for the dog turned out to be what killed Annabelle.

-- Grissom wonders how Annabelle's character on the sitcom can drive a Ferrari when she's supposed to be a financially strapped single mom. Brass tells him that she won the car on a radio show, and that was when the show "jumped the shark." Grissom not only doesn't know what the term means, he doesn't know who the Fonz was despite Brass trying to jog his memory.

-- In Annabelle's office, Gil picks up the numerous Emmy awards. Bud (Diedrich Bader) tells him to be careful with that. Gil asks what it is and learns it's an Emmy. "Is that what this is?" he asks with wonder, a reference to CSI never getting any Emmy love.

-- One of the suspects is an actor who was ticked off that his recurring role never came to pass. His butt-crack scene was an homage to Dan Ackroyd's classic Saturday Night Live sketch about the refrigerator repair man.

-- The wrap-up has Brass and Grissom confronting Megan, the supporting actress on the sitcom, played by Rachel Harris, telling her how she set up the murder. She agrees with their theory, but reminds them they have no evidence, unless they are waiting for the third act like they do on TV procedurals to reveal some smoking gun or get her so rattled that she'll confess. It's the latter, naturally. They have nothing.

-- In the first scene, Annabelle yells at the creator/head writer, played by Stephen Tobolowsky (Lorre's alter ego), telling him, "Don't argue with me. Just make me funny. And lovable!" In the end, he has the last laugh. He and Megan are in cahoots (isn't that a great word?). He explains that they have a new gig, a 13-week commitment from CBS for a sitcom to take Annabelle's place. Monday nights at 9:30, 8:30 Central Time. Tune in.

Bravo to both CSI and Two and a Half Men, with special kudos to Lorre and Aronsohn. This worked so well, I'd love to see them make it an annual tradition.

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AndyjohnRiley

I love 2 and a half men, so much it is my evening. Oo ee ooooo Men, men, men, men.

July 24 2008 at 5:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AndyRiley

Men, Men, Men, Menly men men men.ooo ee ooo ooo men, men, men.

July 24 2008 at 5:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vitus Redfox

i like watching two and half men that's is a good show please don't stop showing it

May 20 2008 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vitus Redfox

keep them on i like watching two & 1/2 men like charlie and allen & jake i'm from Alaska

May 19 2008 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vacelts

Next week's episode should be bittersweet as we will be saying goodbye to the second original cast member this season.

http://redlightnaps.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/2008-season-finales/

May 13 2008 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erroneous_nick

I found them both "okay", but had I not read about the writer swap I don't think I would've given either a second thought. Nothing noteworthy in either episode.

May 12 2008 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bash

CSI basically had a double episode of 2.5 men sans the actors. It was a 40 minute Chuck Lorre vanity card.

I kinda liked it but then again I watch both shows regularly. 2.5 men is kinda meh but never really bad. It's raunchy and because of that enjoyable. It "jumped the shark" after season 3 but then again this show is so flat and basic that you can't really call it "jumping". Basically the storyline ended and was replaced with nothingness. Now they have small "story arcs" lasting three episodes at most instead of something happening over the course of a season.

And CSI? I still like it. I dropped Miami and NY this year, that' why. Because NY is just boring and Miami is insulting my intelligence, just like "Bones".

May 12 2008 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Derek

Agreed. It was the War of the Worlds plane crash.

May 12 2008 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Isabelle Carreau

I watch both series only in reruns or when other shows I watch at those times are in reruns. However, I taped both episodes this week because I was curious about the writer switcheroo and how it would be reflected on the finished product.

I must say I was quite impress. Both writing teams did very good. I particularly enjoyed the CSI episode. It was clever and entertaining.

May 12 2008 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nicolas.graf

An Emmy, seriously? I have never been so bored with a CSI episode before. Never watched 2.5 men and didn't start for this, but if that show is anything like this CSI ep, it should be axed immediately.

May 12 2008 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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