Premiering on Monday nights at 9:30pm in the fall of 2003, CBS’ sitcom Two and a Half Men stars Charlie Sheen (most recently of Spin City) as 35-year-old Charlie, a wealthy, carefree jingle-writer who lives on the beach in Malibu. His life is turned upside down when his brother Alan (played by Jon Cryer of Pretty and Pink) separates from his wife and moves in with Charlie, bringing his brainy 10-year-old son Jake (Angus T. Jones) along with him.
The event that sets this all in motion? Alan’s estranged wife Judith finally starts to deal with her attraction to women. Although Judith is not exactly marching in the gay pride parade yet, she’s definitely on her way, and her relationship with Alan serves as a subplot to the central one which revolves around the relationship between to the two brothers and their attempt to co-parent Jake.
In a brilliant casting move, Judith is played by Marin Hinkle, who played Sela Ward’s quirky sister Judy in the lesbian-friendly ABC drama Once and Again. Hinkle has also been in movies like Frequency and I am Sam, as well as several plays and a short stint on the NBC daytime drama Another World.
Holland Taylor also stars as Alan and Charlie’s controlling mother, Evelyn.
A high-profile cast (particularly Sheen and Taylor), and the fact that the pilot beat out several others for a place on CBS’ fall schedule, bodes well for its success, and early feedback on the pilot has been promising. With the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond as a lead-in, CBS appears to be trying to give it a fighting chance. Some competition will come from competing networks, however, as the sitcom goes up against Fox’s new drama Skin, NBC’s new drama Las Vegas, Everwood on the WB, and Monday Night Football on ABC, all of which air between 9pm and 10pm and Monday nights.
But even if the sitcom does well, it remains to be seen whether Judith gets to be a full-fleshed character with a storyline beyond the “my wife is a lesbian” jokes straight men appear to be so fond of, or whether her storyline shrinks to being almost non-existent, as it did for another lesbian ex-wife on a sitcom called Friends shortly after that show debuted almost ten years ago.
Since this is a sitcom revolving around two straight men, Judith probably never will become more than a prop to their storyline. But even if she only lasts a few episodes, Two and a Half Men will be worth watching just to see Hinkle again; her presence on the small screen has been missed since Once and Again was canceled.
And since Judith is one of the only new lesbian characters so far on next season’s network primetime TV schedule and ER‘s Kerry Weaver is the only returning one, we also don’t have many other options.
2005 Update: Judith’s sexuality was questioned a few times in the first season, but the issue of her possibly being lesbian or bisexual was dropped by the second season. The sitcom has now become one of the highest-rated shows on CBS.