Television lost one of its true character actresses last week with the death of Conchata Ferrell at age 77. And we lost one of our own as Ferrell was a native West Virginian and a graduate of Marshall University.
Ferrell had an extensive resume of credits from stage, film and TV, but she will probably always be best known for her role as Berta on “Two and a Half Men,” which earned her two Emmy nominations.
For those of you not familiar with “Men,” Charlie Sheen played Charlie Harper, a playboy jingle writer whose life is turned upside down when his brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), moves in after his wife throws him out, bringing with him his young son, Jake (Angus T. Jones). Berta was Charlie’s housekeeper and surrogate family, who also had her life changed by the arrival of Alan and Jake — often forcing Charlie to play peacekeeper. While Berta was quick to make harsh, sarcastic (but always hilarious) comments about Charlie’s drinking and womanizing, it was clear that she actually cared about Charlie and Charlie cared about her, which explains why he put up with her lousy housekeeping.
According to IMDB, Ferrell appeared in 211 episodes during the 12 seasons of “Men.” And while she didn’t play a major role in all of the episodes she appeared in, she made the most of the camera time she had, often getting the biggest laughs with just a couple of brief lines. Because she had so many classic moments, choosing her top episodes is pretty difficult, but here are my three favorites:
3) “If I Can’t Write My Chocolate Song, I’m Going to Take a Nap” (Season One)
When Berta quits because of Alan’s constant interference in her work, Charlie falls apart, forcing Alan to persuade her to come back with a visit to the home of another of her clients, Steven Tyler (who makes a voice-only appearance). This episode marks Ferrell’s first appearance on the series, as evidenced by the different way Sheen pronounces Berta.
2) “Hey, I Can Pee Outside in the Dark” (Season One)
Jake’s mysterious foul mood causes Alan and his ex-wife to worry that he’s having trouble dealing with the divorce. Alan takes Jake to counseling, but it’s Berta who figures out what’s actually wrong with Jake and fixes the problem. This episode is a perfect example of Ferrell making the most out of just a few words.
1) “Repeated Blows to His Unformed Head” (Season Four)
Berta convinces Charlie to accompany her to confront the man who fathered her grandchild, in the process, introducing Charlie to swap meets and meth labs. Not only is this episode hilarious, but it also gives us a great look into Charlie and Berta’s relationship, as well as Berta’s bond with her children.
All 12 seasons of “Two and a Half Men” are currently streaming on Peacock. You can also stream selected episodes on TVLand.com and the TV Land app.