TVision: Sheen, Cryer get to battle star Helfer

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 12:15am

Comedy has enjoyed a resurgence this season on both CBS and ABC, even though procedurals remain the former's main stock-in-trade and mysterious, character-driven serials such as Lost, Flash Forward and V are the latter's prime assets. However they've each developed a night where sit-coms are spotlighted, with CBS utilizing them on Mondays and ABC on Wednesdays.

The biggest hit in CBS' Monday night block has long been Two and a Half Men, co-starring Charlie Sheen and Emmy winner Jon Cryer along with Angus T. Jones, who was a young kid in 2003 when it began and but now has grown to the point in its seventh season where he's age appropriate enough to fit into the array of sexual innuendo that's always been a prime part of the program's humor.

But its biggest draw remains the misadventures and problems caused between the freewheeling, hedonistic Charles Harper (Sheen) and his brother Alan (Cryer), a neurotic, easily manipulated and needy figure who's constantly abused and ridiculed, yet will never leave and get his own home.

The producers changed the show's climate this season by having a new character added to the regular lineup, having Charlie's fiancee Chelsea (Jennifer Taylor) move in with him. Presumably, these two are going to get married, though prospects for that happening remain in doubt.

Monday night things become even tougher for Charlie on the homefront when Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer guest stars as a friend of Chelsea. Following a breakup, Chelsea invites her to stay at the Harpers home for a while, something that causes even more problems when both Charlie and Alan are attracted to her.

Two and A Half Men has done so well for CBS that last year they gave it a three-year renewal. So far this season its ratings continue to improve, even though it was moved to a different time slot (8 p.m. on WTVF-5) to allow the introduction of a new comedy (Accidentally On Purpose with Jenna Elfman) that so far has been the only weak link in an otherwise solid night that also includes runaway hit The Big Bang Theory at 8:30 and successful holdover How I Met Your Mother at 7.

ABC's premier new comedy has been Modern Family, arguably the year's funniest first-year program. It utilizes single-camera, mockumenary mode of The Office, while skewering the notion of the traditional nuclear family. Jay Prichett (Ed O'Neill) has a younger wife (Sofia Vergara) with a pre-teen son. They are both Colombian, a culture that Jay, to be polite, knows absolutely nothing about and freely admits it. While Jay's daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) is a homemaker, his son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is gay, and just adopted a Vietnamese baby.

O'Neill is among the few actors able to seamlessly shift from drama to comedy without any problem, and his deadpan looks and comments in the midst of turmoil, plus his continuing calm demeanor while chaos is erupting around him help make Modern Family both hilarious and credible.  Oscar nominee Edward Norton quest stars on Wednesday's episode at 8 p.m. on WKRN-2.

While Modern Family, gets the critical praise, Cougar Town starring Courtney Cox has been garnering plenty of publicity and exposure for the former Friends star. It follows Modern Family at 8:30 p.m. Unfortunately, the news isn't all good for the ABC lineup. Kelsey Grammar's latest sitcom Hank about a former Wall Street banker trying to adjust to small town life has already been cancelled. Patricia Heaton's enjoyed some ratings success in The Middle, though her show about a woman trying to balance work and family duties isn't enjoying as much acclaim or audience as the night's other two comedy vehicles.

Still, for a genre that two years ago was being viewed as on its deathbed, comedies are now once more playing a major role in the network environment.

CMA ratings jump

Taylor Swift's historic win on last Wednesday's 43rd annual CMA awards telecast helped ABC to its biggest ratings victory on that night for a non-sports event in four years. Swift became the youngest artist in CMA history to win Entertainer of the Year, as well as the first woman to get the honor in a decade, becoming the seventh overall female winner.

Some 17.2 million viewers watched the show, and the CMA's attracted 26 percent more viewers than the Emmys, while helping ABC win every single primetime hour between 7 and 10 p.m. It was also one of the few nights in the past few years when ABC beat CBS across the board, both in terms of total viewers and ratings in the 18-49 demo.