"Jake, it takes more than sex to make a man happy... You also need money."
Ladies' man Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) is living the good life as a successful jingle writer in a seaside mansion in Los Angeles. That is, until his nerdy brother Alan (Jon Cryer), who was thrown out by his ex-wife, moves in, bringing his ten-year-old son Jake (Angus T. Jones). Now, not only does he have to cope with Rose, the stalker who lives next door, Evelyn, his conniving and guilt-tripping mother, and Berta, his sarcastic housekeeper, but also Alan's various neuroses and Jake's complete lack of any sort of tact or personal hygiene. Sadly, however, Charlie's womanizing nature eventually catches up with him in 2011 when he catches a train the hard way. Enter suicidal billionaire Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher) as the new owner of Charlie's home. After quickly becoming friends with Alan he continues to let him and Jake live with him while they get over the loss of Charlie.The show first began airing on CBS in 2003 and has currently finished its eleventh season. Season eight was cut short after lead actor Charlie Sheen was fired due to his self-destructive breakdown in 2011, one effect of which was a public feud with series creator Chuck Lorre. The show has continued with Ashton Kutcher as Walden, the show's new lead. In the eleventh season, Angus T. Jones (who plays Jake) had his part changed to a recurring role due to college commitments, but he did not appear once onscreen.The show has been renewed for a twelfth season, and on May 14, 2014, CBS made an announcement which stated that season 12 will be the last one.
With Charlie Sheen gone, the story of the decidedly odd love triangle of Charlie, crazy Rose, and "Manny Quinn" will never be resolved. Well, the Charlie/Rose/Manny issue has been somewhat resolved due to Charlie being dead.
Whether Judith's new baby is Alan's or Herb's was never really resolved since her baby is not even mentioned anymore.
Now that Judith's actress has left the show, it's a moot point.
Judith actually was supposed to turn out to be a lesbian originally... until someone pointed out that Friends had already used the "woman turns out to be a lesbian and throws out her husband" plot in its own pilot episode nearly a decade earlier (Ross' first ex). As a result, the remaining first season episodes instead had her just pretending to be gay so that Alan wouldn't contest the divorce.
Evelyn eats the souls of children, as Alan points out.
Judith herself isn't the best mom, or human being, ever. Considering how both Charlie and Alan seem to suffer from Mommy Issues and possibly Oedipus Complex, one can easily deduce Judith is not much better than Evelyn. Seeing strange men in front of her underage son? Check. Verbally abusing him and his father? Check. Gold Digger and Hypocrite? Check, Check, Check.
Alan has shades of this in later seasons, mostly due to how dismissive and neglectful he is to Jake, as well as how often he insults Jake to his face. It's no wonder that Jake's turned out how he has.
To be fair he tried to be a decent parent in the earlier seasons (when Jake was younger) but between Charlie's hedonistic lifestyle, Judith's emotional and financial abuse, Jake himself growing into more of an irresponsible moron, you can see that Alan may be just jaded and doesn't really care too much anymore (sometimes truth in television, sadly).
Adam Westing: Charlie Harper is clearly based on Charlie Sheen, the actor who plays him. Though it seems this is the opposite of how it normally goes because Harper is the less exaggerated one.
Missi, as played by Miley Cyrus seems to be an exaggerated version of the actress complete with a hillbilly accent.
Aesop Amnesia: Charlie seems to go through this every time he gets involved with an older woman. He ascertains that's he's fine dating one older woman and then goes through the whole thing all over again with another older woman.
The Alcoholic: Charlie was definitely this. At first he wasn't too bad and just drank a lot and was drunk every now and then. In later seasons, he always had a drink in hand or poured himself one when he was at home and was often well on his way to being drunk or already drunk.
The Alleged Car: Alan's less-than-10-year-old Volvo is inexplicably this (despite being a 2001 model, they also insist on calling it a 1989).
All Just a Dream: The Humiliation Conga that spans most of the episode "Frodo's Headshots", from learning Jake's tutor is pregnant to seeing Walden making out with his girlfirend to being booted out of the house to being shot to death just as he was about to go out with someone.
Artifact Title: The "half" in question became fully grown up, making it "Three Men", and has now been written off the show entirely, dropping it to two; mild subversion, given the emphasis they put on Walden’s (and later Jake’s) immature behaviour.
It appears Jenny has now taken the ‘half a man’ role, having half of Charlie’s DNA and a lot of his traits.
Artistic License - Law: In "No Sniffing, No Wowing", Alan's lawyer commits outright malpractice with no consequences. After Charlie sleeps with her paralegal, she gives Judith and her attorney everything they demand without Alan's consent. First, she can't enter anything into the agreement without Alan's signature, which he wouldn't do, and second, even if she did somehow enter it, she's not acting in Alan's best interests and is liable for damages. In Real Life, the agreement would be illegal, Alan would have gotten a lawyer that would stand up for his rights, and she would have been reported to the Bar Association of California and sued the difference of what she and Alan agreed he would pay and what he would have paid. This is to say nothing of the fact she got Alan to get Charlie to perjure himself and say under oath that Alan bought a set of books before he met Judith (he didn't) - though admittedly, this says more about Charlie than it does her. She does, however, mention that her sleeping with Charlie was a breech of ethics and Alan could sue (though he never does).
Artistic License - Cars: Alan's Volvo is a 2001 V70, yet everyone calls it a 1989 model (possibly even implying it's a 240).
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Alan is the kind of guy who has spent his whole life living by an arbitrary morality, and is now mad that he hasn't reaped the rewards he thinks he deserves for it. Yes, life hasn't treated him all that well, but a lot of that is because Alan is a spineless doormat; he is incredibly resentful against his brother, who lived in hedonistic revelry that Alan secretly wanted himself, but never allowed himself to go for because he thought that the universe would automatically reward him for his passive aggressive nice guy act. In the last few seasons of the show, however, he seems to have realized this, and consequently has relinquished all pretenses of being a Nice Guy.
The episode "A Sympathetic Crotch To Cry On". Dear. God.
Evelyn: (To dead husband at his funeral.) I've got a great ass and yours is decomposing!
"Yeah, Yeah, Why can't we see the body?"
"Yeah, I didn't come all this way to spit on a closed coffin"
"I'm afraid due to the nature of his passing, the remains aren't exactly...spittable"
Brain Bleach: Invoked in an episode, where the brothers discover that one of Charlie's former girlfriends has undergone a sex change and is now dating their mother. Charlie's suggestion to dealing with this? "Drink until the part of the brain that creates mental pictures dies!"
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Although in this case literally, as Walden's ex-wife drives her car through the wall we usually never see because it's the side from which the audience watches the show. (In the episode "What a Lovely Landing Strip.")
Alan in the episode "Grandma's Pie", when he asked the audience if they could vote on whose dinner went worse.
Berta does this in "Walnuts and Demerol", where, right before the break, she says "I can't wait for the second act!"
In one episode, Evelyn asks Alan "More embarrassing when you were eleven and I caught you with the dog and the peanut butter?" In a later episode, Charlie tells a group of friends that he walked in on Alan and said "Alan! The dog is supposed to lick the peanut butter off you!" In "A Giant Cat Holding a Churro", when Alan tells Lindsey all his embarrassing secrets, he starts with this.
In one episode where Charlie dates a foreign girl he can't understand she says her family will be coming over and he of course can't understand her and just agrees. After an entirely unrelated episode at the end she comes over with most of her entire family to Charlie's surprise.
And again, when Walden offers Alan a "small" stipend to serve on the board of his corporation. Alan's response is to make a bubble in the bath, and not with his mouth. If it had been higher, "we would have had to drain the tub".
Broken Aesop: Season 4, Episode 22. Jake wins $1100 at the track and Alan gets all pissy and is a Jerk Ass because Jake has money and he doesn't. Jake gets ripped off by some guy at the gas station who sold him a broken motorcycle. Alan then lectures Jake about when you have money, you put it in the bank so you always have it. In other words, squirrel it away and never take risks in your life
Charlie tries this too in an earlier episode, with the same result.
Due to his Humiliation Conga in "Frodo's Headshots", Alan attempted to kill himself with an overdose of carbon monoxide poisoning, but the misfortunes for him only continued when the car blew out.
But We Used a Condom: Charlie had a pregnancy scare in one episode. In another, he began to believe that he was the father of his ex-girlfriend's son and she went along with it. He eventually agreed to keep his distance but supplied the ex-girlfriend with a fat monthly check. As it turns out she was actually the kid's nanny and she conned Charlie. At the end of the episode she quits her job, telling the real mother that she just came into a new source of income.
Butt Monkey: Alan, in the extreme. His poor luck is a running joke present in nearly every episode, brought along by either Alan's poor judgment and lack of worldliness, or one of his relatives (almost always Charlie). This is most likely because every single person Alan seems to meet is a Jerkass or golddigger, he gets woman scorned constantly (although Charlie actually DIED from this), Taken Up to Eleven in "Frodo's Headshots", where Alan finds out that Jake got his girlfriend pregnant, learned that Walden and Lyndsey had started dating while he was in the mental health clinic (and was told to move out as a result of this), received an IRS audit, failed at a suicide attempt when his car blew out, was molested by a male truck driver, abandoned by his mother out in the rain, had his stuff moved into a storage facility, and shot to death by Herb when it was found out that Alan was the father of Jake's baby sister, Milly. Although it was revealed after this last event that the entire setup was All Just a Dream.
Celebrity Paradox: In "Is There A Mrs Waffles?" Charlie watches Dharma and Greg (an inside joke as that was another Chuck Lorre production). Then they turn up to buy Charlie's house after he's killed.
Shortly before Evelyn's wedding, Charlie mentions Apocalypse Now by name, and references it at another point. Charlie Sheen's father, Martin Sheen, stars in Apocalypse Now, and has at least two appearances on the show. Charlie Sheen even appeared as an extra in the movie.
Alan, in one episode, manages to get Charlie medical treatment by claiming to be Matthew Broderick. When the doctor finally gets around to treating Charlie, he asks Alan why there's no sequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a film which featured Charlie Sheen in a cameo role as (fittingly) a drug addict.
In "West Side Story", Larry and Lyndsey, and Alan and Gretchen, are playing a Pictionary-type game where Larry thinks the object Lyndsey is drawing is a duck (it's actually a witch hat). He guesses various duck-related topics, including "Duckie, from Pretty in Pink!" Of course, Duckie was played by Jon Cryer (Alan), who gives Larry a strange look at this point.
Mila Kunis is mentioned in "How to Get Rid of Alan Harper", and guests stars in "Lan Mao Shi Zai Wuding Shang", not playing herself.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Jake's new baby sister, especially considering on how the show played up on whether if Judith's new baby is Jake's half-sister or his sister. note Judith and Herb had a fight and separated in which a depressed Judith seems to be nicer to Alan and they are in a sexual relationship in which Judith seems to want to get back together with Alan. However shortly before Judith and Herb reunited, Judith began hating Alan again and told him to go away. Shortly after Herb and Judith have reunited Judith is pregnant, before and after the baby was born Alan believes that he is the father of the child while Judith strongly denies it due to her hatred of him. However shortly after the baby was born, the child was never mentioned again and only Jake was accounted for when it came to Judith's children note Though it was briefly brought up in "A Giant Cat Holding a Churro", where Alan tells all of his embarrassing secrets to Lindsey, and again in "Frodo's Headshots", thanks to a dream whipped up by Alan's guilty subconscious.
And Rose, who has yet to be prosecuted for Charlie's murder despite in effect confessing it to the assembled crowd at his funeral.
Companion Cube: For Alan, Danny the dummy, for a short string of episodes.
Compensating for Something: In the episode where Walden and Alan switch lives so that Walden can date women who are not after him for his money, Alan drives Walden's car and wears his diamond-encrusted watch. Walden's date, Kate, thinks Alan is doing this to mask his small penis, which visibly offends Walden.
Cousin Oliver: The upcoming season will have Charlie's long-lost daughter to replace Jake.
Crapsack World: For Alan, it's pretty crappy. He lives with a brother who sits back and enjoys watching him screw himself over and over and gets more than he does. Not to mention having an ex-wife who spends alimony payments for inherently selfish purposes, as well as the fact that all of his love affairs he has have a Failure Is the Only Option promise, and virtually every single person he meets is a Jerk Ass or a Gold Digger. Alan has it pretty bad.
Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everyone fits this role at one time or another, but Berta and Dr. Linda Freeman (Charlie's shrink) most frequently.
Demoted to Extra: Jake, starting Season 10. According to some critics, the best episodes of this season were Jake-centric. By season 11, Jones has officially left the show entirely. The roles of Rose, Evelyn and Judith have also been greatly reduced in the later seasons.
Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Alan, while staying at Lindsey's home, finds her ex-husband's pipe and starts using it to look more distinguished. Unfortunately, he leaves it too close to the drapes and burns the house down.
The Door Slams You. Happens to Alan courtesy of his dimwit son and his dopehead friend while investigating a noise in the middle of the night. Part of a long Humiliation Conga that leaves him a twitching, broken, possibly rabies-infected nervous wreck.
Berta immediately ripped Charlie a new one when it looked like he was trying to sleep with Judith when she was briefly staying at the house due to her house being damaged.
Everybody Must Get Stoned: Happens on a few notable occasions but now more frequently in recent seasons. In one episode, Walden, Evelyn, Jenny, Berta, and Marty Pepper (played by Carl Reiner) all get high after the "buzz-kill" Alan leaves.
(Sort of) In the pilot episode, the actress who plays Chelsea appears in the supermarket and hits on Charlie while he's shopping with Jake.
In recent episodes, Charlie hooks up with Rose because she tricked him into thinking she got married, making her more attractive to him. She has been around since the very beginning as his stalker and has finally gotten her due (such as it is).
Charlie was always a bit of a Jerkass, but in the early seasons, he had the occasional Jerk with a Heart of Gold moment, and it was shown that deep down, he cared about his younger brother and nephew. Later on he couldn't care less what Alan does. Also, his drinking habits came to where he was seen with a drink in his hand, whether it be morning or night, and often found himself in several What Did I Do Last Night? scenarios (which in turn became more outlandish as well). Possibly as a backlash to Charlie Sheen, Charlie was mentioned to have been a hard drug user after his death, despite having never been seen doing anything other than drinking and smoking cigarettes (except weed in one episode).
Alan has probably gotten it the worst. He went from being a down-on-his-luck man who felt bad about sponging off Charlie to doing literally anything for money, and caring less and less about his son as the series progressed (although that isn't entirely unwarranted). With the addition of Walden to the cast, Alan's nebbish traits have gotten upped to eleven, with him making no effort to find a place of his own or get a job and relying on Walden for money. It's gotten so bad that he was completely willing to go gay and marry Walden if it meant that he could stay at the house. There is now a joke about Alan refusing to leave in every episode. His moral compass has also dissolved completely, giving in to sex with a philandering Lyndsey without remorse (despite her having a boyfriend), and generally acting as selfish as Charlie in some episodes.
Jake went from being a slow and lazy Cheerful Child to being too stupid (and flatulent) to function in normal society. Literally, he started to lose IQ points long before Toxic Friend Influence Eldridge arrived. His attitude towards his parents, despite everything his father attempted to do for him (at least in the beginning), turn Jake into an Ungrateful Bastard.
Judith was always a Jerkass too, but goes from being rational with Alan about their divorce to tormenting him whenever she feels like it, neglecting Jake, and treating her second husband, Herb, like he's a third class citizen.
Evelyn always considered Alan the good son, but in recent episodes, she seems repulsed by the very thought of him, and seems to prefer newcomers Walden and Jenny more.
Walden's starting to show signs of this as well. In Season 9, he had a few casual encounters; now, he can't sleep with a woman without developing some kind of romantic attachment to her, and has relationship problems as a result.
Lyndsey into a bitchy alcoholic.
Flirty Stepsiblings: Charlie and Evelyn's fiance's daughter, played by Jenny McCarthy. It was later revealed that she wasn't actually the guy's daughter too (they were both con artists) so there was a ton of Not Blood Siblings going on.
Follow the Leader: Starting with Season 10, the show started to incorporate quite a bit of the geeky humor that made The Big Bang Theory so popular. Justified in that the jokes are more fitting to Walden's character and background than the Charlie-esque storylines the show was still trying to use in Season 9... and the fact that Chuck Lorre produces both shows.
Jake. Alan squeaks a few off now and again as well. He once admits red wine causes him to fart.
Berta's daughter had this problem while pregnant, much to Alan's dismay:
"Wow, that one's got some hang time!"
Who could forget a less-than-affectionate Lyndsey telling Alan to back off in no uncertain terms? One appearance has her getting back together with Alan, one of the reasons being she can fart "like a buffalo" and he still won't leave her. She then proceeds to do so.
Genius Ditz: Walden is great with computers but has trouble picking matching shoes. This aspect of his character has faded later on.
Jake is a socially inept moron on so many levels, but he is a fantastic cook.
Go to Your Room: It's more "Go do your homework.", but Alan does this to Jake whenever he wants to avoid an awkward conversation at dinner.
In one episode, Alan actually says "Go to your room" to Jake upon returning home. This was for Jake imitating the growl of a wild animal, causing Charlie & Alan to flee and jump into a body of water. Earlier, the three of them got lost searching for a ranch and went from driving to walking.
Jake mentions getting "a soccer ball to the nads" at least twice.
Handsome Lech: Rose is a rare female example. Despite being rather attractive, she is a stalker, would regularly climb over Charlie's balcony instead of visiting by using the front door and has engaged in elaborate schemes to make him fall for her, including keeping him sick so she can play Florence Nightingale and, more recently, put on a fake wedding just to make Charlie want her.
Henpecked Husband: Herb and Alan are both abused by Judith. Alan is equally henpecked by his second wife, Kandi.
Heroic BSOD: Charlie's response to Chelsea leaving him in Season 7. Luckily for him, Alan was there.
Also, Alan's response to Kandi leaving him in the Season 4 premiere. It took a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from his mother to snap him out of it.
Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Charlie and Alan's childhood was like this, but later on, the show gets upped to having nearly every character's childhood being somewhat screwed up.
Hollywood Dateless: Although gnomish, nebbishy, and for all practical purposes homeless, Alan does fairly well in the tail department. Most of the failures in his relationships come about as a result of either his crippling insecurity and neediness or the fact that he gravitates towards emotionally-damaged women. This included his first ex Judith, his second ex Kandi, his former receptionist Melissa—and her mother—Rose, and a pill-popping suicidal woman played by Janeane Garofalo and Rose herself (not Melissa's mother but Charlie's Rose, the Rose that is mad and played by Melanie Lynsky).
Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted in "818-jklpuzo;" the singer comes off as realistically unable to sing.
Also averted in "And the Plot Moisens". Jake is realistically terrible at singing.
Charlie goes through one in the episode "Release the Dogs" where after he breaks his promise to Jake not to date his friend's mom, gets splattered with slime, falls off the balcony and gets a face and mouth full of sand while chasing Jake, and gets chased by police dogs across the beach.
Hypocrite: Judith. For one thing, she chews out Alan and Charlie for the women they bring to Charlie's house while Jake is around, whom she deems as inappropriate, while she has been known to bring strange men to her house while Jake is around just the same.
She left Herb for having an affair when she's had several while they were married with people Herb considers his friends.
I Can Change My Beloved: When Charlie's mother meets his first serious Love Interest, they square off like a confrontation is about to take place. Instead, the mother simply asks desperately, "Can you fix him?" Exasperated, the girl confirmed, "I'm trying." She is, but it doesn't work.
Ms Pasternak wants to do this to Charlie in both of her appearances.
Idiot Ball: Charlie automatically assumes that a child with dark hair and eyes (a common feature) who wears similar clothes to him and supposedly has the same name is his child. Most guys would order paternity tests, and given the kind of guy Charlie is, one would think it would be standard procedure for him.
If I Had a Nickel: "An Old Flame with a New Wick" has, "If I had a nickel for every time a girl broke up with me and came back as a man, I'd have a nickel!"
In Love with Love: Walden, who can’t have sex with any woman without starting to think she’s ‘the one’. It got to the point his therapist tells him to ‘bang Anything That Moves’ (in these words) to stop forming emotional attachments so quickly.
In the Blood: Season 11 introduces Charlie's lesbian daughter, Jenny, who is just as much of a drinker and womanizer as he was.
Informed Flaw: In Rose's earliest appearances, the major characters reacted to her as if she was ugly; this was phased out and replaced by sheer creepiness relatively quickly, though. Rose's actress is, by most standards, very pretty.
Inventor of the Mundane: Walden Schmidt is a billionaire after developing BlunGoGo.com, a website that he sold to Microsoft for $1.3 billion. No one has ever heard of it because Microsoft decided to bundle it with the Zune.
It's All About Me: This arguably applies to everyone, but especially Evelyn, the two brothers' mother. She frequently reacts to news that affects anyone except her with "Do you have any idea what you put me through?!"
Judith is a master at this.
I Was Young And I Needed The Money: Lindsey says this almost verbatim in "A Giant Cat Holding a Churro", when Alan finds out that she once appeared in a softcore porn film.
Jerkass Has a Point: In The Leather Gear is in the Guest Room (S05E07), Alan bought a bowl that Charlie didn't like and keeps arguing with Charlie about it. Charlie makes a good point in that he took Alan and Jake in and pays for nearly everything that they need, the only real thing he asks of Alan is to not try and fill his house with stuff he doesn't want there, which he has the right to say, since it's his house.
In A Little Clammy and None Too Fresh (S05E12), Charlie gets sick and Rose takes care of him and gives him some medication she says is cold medicine. Charlie wakes up two weeks later and has turquoise fingernails and believes that Rose got him sick and has been drugging him as part of a plan so she can move in and be with him. Alan thinks he's crazy and Charlie points out that Rose could easily do this and it turns out that it was part of her plan in the end.
In S03E15, Mia's spent the entire episode forcing Charlie to change into someone he's not. Charlie points out that he's unhappy having to be someone he isn't, especially since Mia herself isn't attempting to change at all and that he shouldn't have to do that.
Judith makes a good point in S07E03, just because Jake has a learners permit doesn't mean he's ready to drive. It turns out to be unfound though, since he's surprisingly a good driver.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Charlie was this sort of character in the early seasons, before becoming a bigger Jerk Ass as the show progressed. When Alan and Jake appear to be moving out, Charlie very nearly tells Alan he can stay before Alan's bluff about finding a good place to live falls through. Charlie however, does not rub it in his face; it's almost a nice moment. The time he helps Jake prepare for his first boy-girl party also qualifies.
Berta. She may be snarky and rule the house through fear, but she often gave Charlie good advice and showed that she cared about him and Alan in her own way.
Evelyn is a narcissist that abused Charlie and Alan growing up and still abuses them to this day and has caused the death of two of her ex-husbands (One by food poisoning, the other committed suicide) and caused the death of a cockatoo that she owned. She's never gotten any comeuppance for any of this.
Judith abuses everybody in her life and despite all of the hell she inflicts on people.... The nearest to any form of retribution is the occasional vicious one liner from Charlie and Alan flustering her ego.
Charlie a lot most all of the time too (Well, until he went to Paris, that is).
This was actually addressed in the episode "Release the Dogs" where Alan goes through a lot of stress and angst over how Charlie seemed to have everything easy and coast by in life, never receiving punishment for his terribleness. By the end of the episode, it's hilariously subverted when after Charlie promised Jake the he wouldn't date Jake's crush's mother yet did so anyway, Jake with some help from Rose pours a bucket of slime over Charlie's head, has him jump over the balcony and crash into the beach, and then get chased after by police hounds.
Charlie at the very least has the odd moment as The Chew Toy and is implied to have several psychological dents from his perverted lifestyle.
When Alan runs a Ponzi scheme on his family and friends, he manages to get enough money from Rose to pay everyone back before they find out what he did.
It's heavily implied that Rose murdered Charlie, and made it look like an accident. Alan and Berta both realize this, and Alan casually tells it to several people, but nobody does anything about it. In fact, fast forward a year & not only is Rose still walking free, but it turns out she's started stalking Walden too. She doesn't even have any reason to, she just does it for no reason. It's implied that she's even stalked Jake.
Rose is actually a walking Karma Houdini, given that she stalks Charlie endlessly since their one night stand, despite Charlie having a restraining order against her. She's superglued his testicles, breaks into his house constantly and various other actions and this is all Played for Laughs.
Alan's lawyer in "No sniffing, no whining". Despite commiting malpractice repeatedly when drawing up Alan and Judith's divorce settlement, she isn't even reported to the Bar Association (in Real Life, Alan could sue and report her to the Bar). See Artistic License - Law above.
Karmic Death: Charlie went to Paris, and married Rose, then cheated on her. Let's just say he scorned the wrong woman and she pushed him into a train.
The Lad-ette: Season 11 introduces Charlie's daughter, Jenny, who is basically a female version of her father: she loves drinking, partying and women.
Early in Season 9, after Walden has settled in as the replacement for Charlie, Alan points out how bizarre their living arrangements are when you stop & think about it, for no other reason than to let Walden (Read: the viewer) know that he (Read: the writing staff) is fully aware of how weird it is.
Last Disrespects: Charlie has a dream in which he attends his own funeral (as a ghost). At the funeral, women spit on his coffin, the eulogy is filled with derogatory jokes, and Alan ends the service by inviting the congregation back to his beach house for a wake/luau.
Charlie's actual funeral was only a step below this. Alan's eulogy was interrupted by Charlie's ex-girlfriends insulting the deceased, and Evelyn butted in bluntly...to remind everyone that Charlie's house is up for sale.
Lazy Bum: Jake, at least until he joined the Army.
MD Envy: Alan is a chiropractor who gets made fun of constantly for his work.
Mistaken for Gay: Charlie and Alan on several occasions. Neither of them ever seem to want to point out that they're brothers.
A running joke in Seasons 9 and 10 is the notion by many that Walden and Alan are gay since they are two grown men that live together. Mostly on Alan's part, since his looks pretty much confirm this to them.
Moral Dissonance: Charlie can be pretty abusive to Alan to the point of being like a sadistic abuser in a relationship and yet all the other characters act as if Alan has done something to deserve it. No one ever seems to bring up that Charlie could've gotten rid of Alan if he didn't sleep with his divorce lawyer and made him pay Judith ridiculous amounts of alimony for petty vengeance.
Musical Episode: The song "You're a Douche" at the end of "Grab a Feather and Get In Line."
Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Subverted during Charlie's funeral; Alan tries to say nice things about him in his eulogy, but Charlie's ex-girlfriends interrupt him with insults. Later subverted by Alan himself:
Judith: And I thought your brother was a horrible influence. (on Jake)
Alan: Don't speak ill of the dead! But you're right, he was a terrible human being.
Chelsea before Season 9. She treated Alan the nicest out of everyone in the show.
No Last Name Given: Every main cast member whose last name isn't "Harper" (or "Schmidt") does not have a surname revealed. We still don't know the surnames of Rose, Berta, Kandi or Chelsea. We also don't know Judith's maiden name.
Odd Couple: Charlie and Alan. Walden and Alan later on.
Odd Friendship: For all her quirks, Rose was always nice with Jake, and both enjoyed each other's companies.
Oh, Crap: Walden telling Alan & Berta that he's met a woman at a bar elicits this reaction, after he mentions she was called Rose & that she knew Alan.
Actually any episode where Rose is introduced by a third party, such as Chelsea or Zoey, to Charlie & Alan (or just Alan in "the Ashton era") qualifies. Such episodes w/ this instance took place when Melanie Lynskey was no longer a regular cast member & a certain period of absence had to suffice to enhance Charlie's & Alan's shock upon seeing Rose again. It's implied Rose had to get to Chelsea or Zoey before meeting Charlie or Alan as the women she introduced herself to were less familiar w/ her than the Harpers. Charlie in fact quipped that when he saw Rose, he made the neat description of likening his anus to trimming a cigar.
Once per Episode: An attractive woman shows up for one or two episodes. If Charlie isn't sleeping with her, Alan will be. This was dropped when Charlie was dropped. Instead, Walden has a different long term love interest per season and Alan just has a on and off relationship with Lindsay.
Starting Season 11, a joke about Alan's cheapness or inability to move out.
One-Hour Work Week: Walden is the head of a billion dollar company, yet he seems to have tons of free time to hang out with Alan and is hardly ever shown working.
Charlie had a few here and there in the later seasons.
Played for Laughs: Anytime Alan is almost suicidally depressed, Charlie is always thinking of himself no matter what. To be fair, Alan's never going to do actually do it, due to Status Quo Is God.
Ponzi: Alan accidentally sets up a pyramid scheme by asking his friends and family for money for advertisements and paying them back with each other's money.
Pretty in Mink: Alan's literal dream woman is a Lady in Red who mentions she has several fur coats, that all feel the same in the dark.
Primal Scene: In the episode "Don't Worry, Speed Racer", Charlie recalls a previously repressed memory about seeing his mother having sex when he was 8. This ruined Yosemite Sam for him, because the guy had a big red mustache. When he tries to confront her, he ends up seeing her having sex again.
Product Placement: Subverted. Characters are seen drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on several occasions. Subverted by the fact that the labels aren't all that visible, but anyone familiar with them would recognize them.
Parodied when Charlie and Alan are watching a crime show that's an obvious expy of CSI: Miami, with a female in the Horatio Caine role. After she makes her Glasses Pull and snappy one-liner, they cut to "Squeeze Box" instead of "YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAH!"
The reason for Season 8's sudden halt in production, and ultimately why Charlie is revealed to have died between Season 8 and Season 9, is because of Charlie Sheen's erratic behavior.
Judith's actress left the show, so she was written out in Season 10.
Jake's absence midway through Season 10 is (partially) down to Angus T. Jones trashing the show in an online video.
Judith coming out as a lesbian, but then revealing she was just using as an excuse to divorce Alan, was in part due to the writers realising that Friends did the exact same thing with Ross & Carol.
Rearrange the Song: After writing Charlie Sheen out of the show necessitated new opening titles (which also meant abandoning the shot of Angus T. Jones circa season one morphing into his present day form), someone involved in the production pointed out that they also needed to replace the child singer in the theme song.
Satellite Love Interest: Kandi. She really showed no signs of wanting to know what Alan was like on the inside, just interested in the sex. And it really doesn't help that she dumped Alan soon after he got a gambling jackpot. But in her defense it was said that she dumped him because he didn't want to have children with her.
Missi: You're just so sweet. I swear, I could just eat you up, but, you know, then I'd probably get a sugar rush, because you're just so sweet, and if you think I talk a lot now, you should really hear me after I- (Jake kisses her) I'm definitely gonna shut up now, because you're a really good kisser, and the last thing I wanna do- (Jake kisses her again)
Sibling Yin-Yang: Charlie and Alan, on every possible front: Charlie is a suave, macho, self-confident, ladies' man while Alan is nerdy, effeminate, insecure and hopeless with women; Charlie is easygoing while Alan is uptight and anal-retentive; Charlie is a bachelor and a hedonist while Alan is a traditional family-values kind of guy...the list goes on.
Something We Forgot: In "People Who Love Peepholes", Alan moves out of the house and leaves Jake behind.
Status Quo Is God: No matter what plot twists we're wrung through, Alan is still sponging off of Charlie, Jake is still a young doofus, Evelyn is still a self-absorbed drunk, Judith is still an absolute bitch, Charlie's still single, etc, etc. Well, except for the changes brought by Charlie's death between Seasons 8 & 9.
Sudden Name Change: In Season 2 Episode 2, Ryan Stiles' Character is introduced as "Greg" or "Dr. Greg Melnick." In all subsequent appearances or mentions, he is referred to as "Herb" or "Herb Melnick"
An episode where Charlie is hired to write the American theme song to a dark and moody Japanese cartoon has him compose a cute, goofy song instead, which actually does get used for the show. This seems to be a stab at some of the business practices of 4kids entertainment at the time.
Numerous to Charlie since Charlie Sheen was fired. There were even some beforehand in Chuck Lorre's vanity cards which may have sparked their whole feud.
When Jake made his first appearance after Angus T. Jones publically slammed the show in Season 10, the opening minutes of the episode featured Jake saying he was beginning to think he was no longer part of the family & numerous cracks about him joining a cult.
Taking the Kids: Judith used this as a threat from time to time, to drum up zany sitcom conflict so she can take advantage of Alan.
Toilet Humor: Greatly emphasized in the ninth season that it's arguably much more gross than funny; the episode "Not In My Mouth" stands out in particular as you can see in the Vomit Discretion Shot entry below.
Too Dumb to Live: How Jake hasn't killed himself in some crazy stunt is a mystery, given how stupid he's become.
Alan evolved from a down on his luck man who had to rely on Charlie for financial support and felt bad about it to a sleazy weasel who happily mooches off of Charlie and then Walden without remorse and makes no effort to find a place of his own.
Judith was always a Jerk Ass, but throughout the series she managed to become even worse, to the point that she abuses and neglects Jake, does everything in her power to make Alan's life even worse just for kicks (Like giving Kandi her divorce lawyer) and even treating Herb like he's a third class citizen for no apparent reason.
Chelsea and Mia. By the time Charlie's dead, they outright loathe him, even though he was pretty good to both of them until they broke up.
A transman in 'Old Flame with a New Wick' when one of Charlie's old girlfriends come back...with a new wick. He starts to date Charlie's mom. Once the obligatory torrent of puerile jokes are through, the episode is surprisingly sensitive.
In season 11, Alan dates a transwoman briefly. Her treatment is very sensitive, save a few light-hearted jabs in the form of residue pre-transition behaviour (paying for him on a date, giving him her jacket, punching an obnoxious man being mean to him, and scratching her ‘phantom nuts’), which Alan doesn’t mind or even enjoys. In a surprising twist, their relationship ends when she gets back together with her ex-wife, at Alan’s surprisingly selfless encouragement. (Although he does get a kick of watching them reconcile.)
Viewers Are Morons: The episode "Does This Smell Funny To You?" has a subplot about Jake not being able to find his Gameboy. When he does eventually find it, it's actually a Nintendo DS. Apparently the writers thought viewers wouldn't know what a DS was almost two years after the DS came out. It is possible that Jake was just calling it a Gameboy, though (as many people in real life did at the time).
Vitriolic Best Buds: Walden and Alan again. Yes, Alan is still a moocher. And yes, Walden still acts like a lovesick high schooler. But by season 10 it's clear that they don't have any other friends but each other.
Whenever they're not fighting, Charlie and Alan were this.
Whenever they're united about something, Charlie and Evelyn are also this.
Volleying Insults: In "Not in Front of the Child", Alan and Charlie play a "word game"; they trade insults using each letter of the alphabet.
Both played straight and averted in "Not In My Mouth". Lindsey gets terribly drunk and vomits everywhere on Walden's private plane. Though we never see it coming out of her mouth, puke appears on Alan and Walden's shirts, and a great huge splat strikes the window. Also seen in the Charlie era, where following a night of binge-boozing he excuses himself to the kitchen to retch loudly in the sink.
Charlie: Hey, guess who had a Cobb salad for dinner?
The umbrella stand by the door has been used as a hurl receptacle twice, once by Jake during a bout of the flu, and another time by Charlie after an angry Melissa kicked him in the pills.
Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In one episode, Jake is doing an experiment called the "human volcano" which involves Coke, mentos, and a massive projectile vomit onto Alan.
Weather Dissonance: Whenever Alan wants to take Jake on a camping trip or some similar outdoorsy bonding experience, it rains.
What's a Henway?: Occurs in "I Called Him Magoo," After Alan's girlfriend said her first time having sex was at a Police concert:
Girlfriend: A little bit.
What the Hell, Hero?: Alan gives this to both Evelyn and Charlie in "A Sympathetic Crotch to Cry On". Evelyn isn't a hero, though.
What Did I Do Last Night?: Charlie. A lot. But one example in particular had him wake up the next morning finding out he tried to mail his pants back to the manufacturer because he snagged himself zipping up.
The actress who plays Chelsea, one of Charlie's few meaningful relationships for a long time (some would say too long) had already appeared in other roles in previous episodes, including the Pilot.
The April Bowbly, who later played Kandi, made an earlier appearance playing a woman in Charlie's shower, called "Bubbles." It is possible Bubbles was Kandi, as Kandi shows up two episodes later and acts just like her (April Bowbly is credited as "Kimber" in that episode, even though she's never adressed as such in the entire episode).
Jenna Elfman appeared in a two-part episode in the first season as a woman named Frankie. She later appeared as Dharma in the Season 9 opener.
Judy Greer, who plays Walden's wife appeared in the fourth season as Herb's sister, Myra.
Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer had previously appeared together in Hot Shots!. Sheen and Ryan Stiles (Herb) appeared in Hot Shots! Part Deux.
Jon Cryer played Lilly Truscott's dad in Hannah Montana, while Missi is played by, well, Miley Cyrus. Angus T. Jones also cameoed as Siena's obnoxious cousin in the season premiere of Hannah Montana's final season.
Though in the latter's case, the two never appeared on screen together.
It's worth noting both shows (season 1-3 of Hannah Montana) are set at a beach house in Malibu. The producers missed a gold mine of potential Actor Allusions.
Emily Osment, who played Miley Cyrus' best friend on Hannah Montana guest starred in the Season 10 episode "Bazinga! That's From a TV Show" as the daughter of Jake's 36-year-old girlfriend, whom he was cheating on her with. They even openly refer to her as "Hannah Montana" at one point.