As Two and a Half Men approaches the end of its ninth season (and first without former star Charlie Sheen), Ashton Kutcher is poised to approach a pile of money that would even make his wealthy character’s mouth water. When Kutcher was brought on to replace Sheen following the actor’s warlock-fueled PR blitz/disaster, he only signed for a single season, but talks are beginning to bring Kutcher back as Internet billionaire Walden Schmidt for the 10th season of the series. (At this point, the CBS ratings giant seems locked in for an additional season.) As a result, it’s likely that the already highly paid Kutcher will request a pay increase for his Men future. But is the CBS program’s new star worth even more money?
As it stands, Kutcher ranks among the highest-paid sitcom actors working today, earning between $700,000 and $900,000 per episode. The actor’s first episode on Men drew in a colossal 27.7 million viewers; the season has maintained good ratings ever since. Right around the time Kutcher joined the program, he began to experience some off-air intrigue. His highly publicized marriage to actress Demi Moore ended, and he thrust himself into a Twitter debacle over the Joe Paterno controversies. High-profile antics like these certainly did not hurt Kutcher’s Two and a Half Men ratings.
However, this doesn’t mean that Kutcher is a celebrated replacement for Sheen. A good number of Two and a Half Men fans have vocalized a distaste for Kutcher’s performance, pleading via the Internet with the powers that be to “bring back Charlie.” (Just look at the comments section of any of Hollywood.com editor Matt Patches’ weekly Two and a Half Men recaps.) Readers might as well be pleading for Kutcher to “bring back Kelso” — the actor cemented himself as a TV star back in the ’90s for playing an off-the-wall doofus on That ’70s Show, but on Two and a Half Men, Kutcher is regularly relegated to playing the straight-man, a subdued observer of the Harper men’s madness. Although Kutcher does have comic chops in his holster, the actor barely gets to use them on the show. Should Two and a Half Men be paying for a comic superstar if they’re not actually taking advantage of his comedic skills?
Still, it is likely that Two and a Half Men will return for a 10th season with Kutcher in tow. The actor has expressed a fondness for his work on the show, and has helped the sitcom maintain sound ratings in Sheen’s absence. And even if Kutcher’s take on Walden Schmidt isn’t critically acclaimed, should CBS care? The soon-to-be richer Kutcher is helping CBS rake in high Nielsen’s numbers. And, as Sheen would say, that’s winning, isn’t it?