The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum discusses the rise of the lovable scumbag protagonist, looking primarily at FX’s screwball spy show Archer and HBO’s Jose Canseco emulating Eastbound & Down. It’s a great read for a variety of reasons, though the quote that stands out most to me is this one:
Each of these comedies maintains a tricky balance: they puncture their dirtbag’s delusions, but the satire stems from something deeper than contempt. If he’s a bully, we understand his rationalizations. If he’s a predator, the women around him aren’t just prey. (On a few of these shows, the ladies get down in the dirt, too, particularly on “Always Sunny” and “Archer,” which features both savvy and cretinous female characters.) On a show like “Two and a Half Men,” the primal joke was on lesser, envious men, as well as the skanks who fell for Charlie Harper’s wiles. The version that starred Sheen was tactical enough to savage its own showman now and then—but it always came back to glamorizing him in the end.
See, it’s not just the quality of writing that puts Archer miles above Two and a Half Men, it’s the measure of comeuppance levied on their respective leading men.