BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Down through the years, most sitcom kids have been the best and the brightest, top of their class, wise beyond their years — and annoying beyond belief.
Not so Jake (Angus T. Jones) on the hit CBS comedy "Two and a Half Men" — arguably one of the most realistic and funniest sitcom kids ever.
"Well, (creator/executive producer) Lee (Aronsohn) and I, from the very beginning, made a conscious effort to make him a real kid," said creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre. "We don't care for that sitcom kid, either, as viewers, so we certainly didn't want to foist another one on the audience. As as far as his lack of academic ability, well, again, you write what you know."
Jake is a TV- and video game-obsessed preteen boy. Just like most of the preteen boys in America. He's not all that interested in school — he doesn't apply himself — which is familiar to just about anyone who's had a son that age.
How can you not laugh when his answers on a school test include that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation "in pen" and that Sacajawea was "a big bag of jawea."
"It's been a great part of the show in that he's not a slam-dunk. He's a character in transition," Lorre said. "What he's going to do with his life is very much up in the air. And it certainly doesn't look like it's going to be an Ivy-League education."
And, while it's certainly not highbrow humor, it's also utterly realistic that a boy that age would find humor involving, um, flatulence, quite funny.
"Anybody who has a son that age is familiar with fart jokes," said Conchata Ferrell, who stars as Berta.
"And we have fart jokes because everyone in the cast farts constantly," Holland Taylor (Evelyn) added as Jones pointed to his TV dad, Jon Cryer.
"It's a catering issue, really," Cryer said.
"It's simply the only way we can go on," Taylor said.
Of course, while there are all those flatulence jokes for Jake there's all that, um, more adult humor as well.
"We do make an effort (to make sure that) if the humor is adult, that it be not so bold that it wouldn't require some explanation," Lorre said.
"A lot of the adult jokes, the funny thing about them is they go over Angus' head," Taylor said. "And that's part of the joke. . . . Jake doesn't get most of the adult humor, and that makes it funnier."
Do they go over his head?
"I'm letting them think stuff," Jones said. "Couple jokes."
Do you get more of the jokes than they think you do?
"I don't really know," Jones said . . . pretty much proving Lorre's point.
He's a real kid, but he's also a real good actor.
"We've never really been limited in the amount of material we can write for him because he's a magnificent actor," Lorre said. "I think that needs to be said. Age has no factor here. He's a very talented actor. He works not one line at a time but entire scenes — like putting him in a play every week."
"Two and a Half Men" is the No. 1 comedy returning this fall and seems certain to be on CBS's schedule for years to come. Which means we'll get to see Jake (and Angus) as they grow into teenagers.
"The only thing that's going to change as he gets older is the problems of an older child are more complex," Lorre said, "and we'll be able to write about those.
"We're slowly going to get into more complicated stories as he gets older, sure," Lorre said. "That's actually a gift built into the series as he gets older — the stories will adapt to that. He's going to bring his life into the house, and that life is going to be much more difficult."
TV STARS GET FAN MAIL, and some of it is kind of scary.
"I hardly ever get fan mail from kids. Mostly from adults," Jones said. "I remember one said she loved my singing voice in the beginning of the show and I should do an album. She said she'd buy it and tell all her friends to buy it."
The only problem is . . . that's not really Jones singing over the opening credits. Nor do Charlie Sheen or Jon Cryer contribute vocals. They're lip-syncing to tracks laid down by studio vocalists.
As for that woman who wrote to Jones, he didn't reply.
"No. I don't really write back," he said.
Hey, he's 11.