Former underwear model catapulted into spotlight!
Ashton Kutcher - an actor the big brass at the studio is counting on to revive a hit show (that some say is on its last legs ) - was trotted out earlier today to introduce himself to loyal fans of the effervescent comedy "Two and a Half Men".
Looking lean and raring-to-go - the sexy star of such films as "Where's my Car, Dude?" - was noticeably keyed-up and quick to take a dig at Charlie Sheen who once starred on the entertaining sitcom..
“I can’t wait to get to work with this ridiculously talented ‘2.5’ team and I believe we can fill the stage with laughter that will echo in viewers’ homes,” Kutcher qupped, as he fielded questions from journalists at a high-profile press conference aimed at triggering renewed interest in the once-smart, amusing, well-written comedy which continued to snag top ratings over the past eight years.
Of course, Kutcher was taking a poke at Sheen who recently inferred that charismatic performer was not capable of drawing in the all-important 2.5 demographic that is needed to propel "Two" forward and beyond with American viewers who have sat on the sidelines fascinated by all the brouhaha generated by the scandalous antics of bad-boy Sheen.
Producers are optimistic that the casting of Kutcher - who faired well in "That 70's Show" will trigger new directions in plot lines for the writers - and ultimately - breathe new life into the popular TV sitcom.
“Sheen’s character was getting a little thin,” says Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York.
“As good as Charlie Sheen was, his TV alter ego, Charlie Harper, had begun to wear out. You can only do so many stories with a drinking, drugged-out womanizer."
As Charlie Sheen is beginning to find out in real life!
With that in mind, one has to seriously wonder about the obvious, in the aftermath.
Will “Two and a Half Men” be as successful as it was when the mean Sheen machine was at the helm?
More importantly, will the entertaining piece of fluff continue to be a magnet capable of attracting A-list talent to CBS like moth to flame once again?
Predictions become iffy, at best, when analysts are forced to take a wider view of the terrain.
In some instances, when stars have departed suddenly from Television bill-of-fare for whatever reason (death, contract disputes, to move on), a handful of top-rated shows have managed to not only maintain a toehold - but also (with the right set of circumstances) - leap forward in popularity to gain momentum and "stick" even after the curiosity factor has long since worn off.
For example, when David Caruso left “NYPD Blue” in 1994, critics opined that the show would suffer.
“The ultimately interesting point in all this is debated in television and theater classes across America all the time,” says Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson, author of “New New Media.
“Is it the overall characters or the overall story that is most compelling to audiences?”
“If Ashton Kutcher succeeds in the absence of Sheen, it will weigh in on the side that characters are less important than the overall story. If he doesn’t succeed, it will be evidence that overall, characters are more important.”
On the other hand, some shows just konk out, after all the potential storylines (and the obvious variables) have inevitably panned out.
In the case of Sheen, the one joke joke, may have rustled up its last laugh this past season.
With Kutcher in the role of a fresh character, the sitcom may find itself transfused with life-saving creative energy, that may catapult it forward for another season or two.
In the final analysis, the network may prove the critics wrong, once again.
"Two and a Half Men" may have survived all these years not because of Sheen's sheer talent - and comic genius - but by virtue of ensemble cast performances that charmed and won over the American public.
Notwithstanding, Kutcher's demographics across the board may be a force to reckon with, too.
Does lightning strike twiice?
The jury is still out.
Ashton out-on-town with Cougar Demi Moore!