Why Ashton Kutcher's a smart choice to replace Charlie Sheen on 'Two and a Half Men'
A very strange thing happened yesterday: as word began to leak that CBS and Warner Bros. had approached Hugh Grant about replacing Charlie Sheen on "Two and a Half Men," a bunch of my fellow TV critics took to Twitter, e-mail, instant messaging and possibly even some ancient social media device called a telephone to expression some variation on the phrase, "Huh. I might actually have to watch that show now."
You could have counted me among those, as it was both such a surprising choice (who expects to see Hugh Grant on an American sitcom?) and yet a perfect one, since Grant plays cads so well (see "About a Boy") but is only occasionally asked to do so.
Alas, things didn't work out with Grant. Tonight, the news broke that the actual man who would be Sheen is Ashton Kutcher, and this time the reaction from many of my bretheren was more along the lines of "Ugh. Now I never need to watch again."
And on that level, I agree with them. Ashton Kutcher is not going to turn me into a regular "Two and a Half Men" viewer all of a sudden going into the ninth season.
But that's missing the point. Though I'm not particularly excited to see Kutcher gaming attractive but dumb women and laughing wryly at Jon Cryer (or some other minor variation on the Charlie Harper character), I actually think he's a great fit for the show - in at least one way, significantly better than Grant.
Like Sheen, Kutcher brings a certain tabloid notoriety to the gig. His celebrity is more a matter of having married a very famous, and much older actress - if there was a period where he was regularly getting in trouble in the press, I've long since forgotten - but I think filling Sheen's shoes is easier when you bring in somebody who's more than just a good comic actor. (Grant, on the other hand, had both the fame and the scandal, but, again, oh well.)
And Kutcher is a good comic actor - specifically, a good sitcom actor. He did, after all, spend 7 seasons as a regular on "That '70s Show," which was not only quite funny in its early days (before it began repeating the same half-dozen jokes over and over), but which made clear quite early that both Kutcher and Topher Grace had the chops to go onto bigger things. The movies haven't entirely worked out for Kutcher (though "No Strings Attached" was a success earlier this year), but he's very comfortable in this format - far more than Grant would be, at least initially - and has proven in the past that he can excel in it.
I can absolutely see him doing most of what Sheen did, and doing it well. In some ways, bringing in a younger guy still at the peak of his handsomeness makes a Charlie Harper-type character (which we all assume he'd be playing) make even more sense while still being funny. Kutcher can be a d-bag who's irresistible to women and feels superior to Alan. Easy.
Will Kutcher's presence reinvent the show? No. But that's not the point. From CBS' perspective, "Men" needs no reinvention. It was the biggest comedy hit on television and a license to print money before Sheen had his final meltdown. They need Kutcher to come in and hang onto that audience that enjoyed the show for what it was, even if many people found it skeevy, or misogynist, or lazily crude, or whatever. If he happens to bring in some of his Twitter followers - particularly on the younger end of the demopgrahic - swell, but if a Kutcher-fronted "Men" can come close to the ratings the show was pulling with Sheen, it's a huge victory for all involved on the network and studio levels.
I would have definitely sampled a Hugh Grant version of "Men" for a while, but this is not a show that was ever meant to please the critics first (or at all). "Men" with Kutcher likely won't be a drastic change from "Men" with Sheen, and that's exactly what CBS needs.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Let Streaming Genie help you.