Kutcher steps in to save ‘Two and a Half Men’

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By Kristen Cloyed, Entertainment Editor

The season premiere of “Two and a Half Men” left Charlie Sheen in the dust as producers prayed Ashton Kutcher would be replacement gold.

Monday night’s ninth season premiere begins at Charlie Harper’s funeral, his trademark bowling shirt hanging near a closed casket. No time is wasted as we learn that he ran away to Paris with his slightly obsessed neighbor, Rose (Melanie Lynskey). After she caught him in the shower with another woman, he mysteriously slipped on the Metro platform and his body “exploded like a balloon full of meat.”

There are no tears. Only Charlie’s brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), tries to pay respects. He attempts a proper eulogy, only to be interrupted by a shady man looking to collect $38,000 for illegal drugs, former conquests sharing stories of STDs, and even Charlie’s mother announcing her son’s Malibu beach house is for sale.

“Two and a Half Men” continues with its typical comedy. Ashton Kutcher makes his first appearance at Alan’s back door, sopping wet and looking to use the phone. Alan spots the stranger while holding an open urn of Charlie’s ashes, which he tosses in the air with a girlish scream of terror. Charlie’s remains fly everywhere.

It turns out Kutcher’s character, Walden Schmidt, is a billionaire who tried to drown himself in the ocean but chickened out when the water was too cold. His wife, Bridget, is dumping him, and he no longer wants to live.

The show’s producers have effectively tied Kutcher into the show. Alan takes Schmidt out for drinks, probably because the billionaire reminds him of himself. When Schmidt gets there, he immediately picks up two women, following in Charlie’s footsteps.

The replacement isn’t entirely smooth. Kutcher’s comedy seems forced as producers struggle to establish his character’s quirks. As a result, Kutcher spends half his screen time half-naked and sulking.

After eight seasons, it’s not easy to replace the character that carried the show. “Two and a Half Men” isn’t the only show shaking it up for the new season. “CSI,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Office” all have fresh faces set to take the lead.

For now, Cryer will probably take the reins while Kutcher settles in. But if Kutcher’s previous television stunts are any indicator, he won’t fail.

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