'Two and a Half Men's' Ashton Kutcher vs. Charlie Sheen Ratings: Who's #Winning?

 Danny Feld/CBS/Warner Bros.

No Charlie Sheen? No Problem!

Monday night's Sheen-less premiere of Two and a Half Men, delivered eye balls. Nearly 28 million people tuned in to catch Ashton Kutcher’s debut as Internet billionaire Walden Schmidt in the CBS show’s revamped version. 

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That's nearly 90 percent jump from last season's premiere episode, which had 14.6 million viewers total viewers. Though the show has always been a ratings juggernaut (last year it averaged 13.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched comedy on TV), Sheen has never delivered those numbers. His highest-rated Men show came in the second season when over 24 million people tuned in to the show’s May 16, 2005 episode. And, by the end of the last season, amidst Sheen's high-profile meltdown, which resulted in his firing from the show, viewers seemed to have soured. Season 8's finale (Sheen's final show for the series) tied a season-low with 14.5 million tuning in. 

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In comparison, American Idol averaged 25 million viewers last season, nearly 20 million people tuned in to watch each episode of ABC's Dancing With the Stars Season 12, while the second season of Fox's Glee hovered around 11 million watchers each week, and CBS' stalwart CSI (in it's 11th season) averaged 12.7 million. 

Almost immediately after the episode ended, critics weighed in on Kutcher's first show, which saw not only the death of Sheen’s Charlie Harper (by subway train no less), and the introduction of Schmidt (who purchases Harper’s home after showing up on its doorstep following a failed suicide attempt) but also the return of familiar faces, namely, Jon Cryer’s Alan and Angus T. Jones’ Jake. It was expected that the first Sheen-less episode would draw large numbers of viewers due to the curiosity factor, but time will tell how the ratings hold up.

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The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic, Tim Goodman said he believes Sheen will get the last laugh after watching the reboot, writing "his new show – if it ever happens – will be exponentially funnier than the laugh-free 22 minutes from last night." Of Kutcher's performance he wrote, "I couldn’t quite figure out if Kutcher was going for vacant, naïve, nerdy or astonishingly dumb (for a character who is a billionaire), because I’ll never watch this show by choice again."

USA Today's Robert Bianco was less harsh, saying, "Change is always hard, but in this case change was both unavoidable and for the best. What fans have to hope Kutcher brings to the mix, aside from a new character, is a new energy and a better balance.”

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Newsday's Verne Gay noted that there was nothing for viewers to truly latch onto. “Last night was neither terrible, nor good. It just was,” he wrote. “Here's a reasonably safe assumption about Ashton Kutcher's first outing on Two and a Half Men last night: If you never watched the show before, or watched it and dismissed it, then there was nothing here to make you change your mind.”

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The pros weren’t the only ones to offer up their opinions. Viewers also took to the internet to give their take on the episode. 

"Although Two and a Half Men isn't the same without Charlie Sheen, I think Ashton and Jon are off to great start! Hilarious season premiere!," viewer Kristine tweeted.

Though many fans disagreed. So Klassik wrote: "WTH! Two and a Half Men was absolutely Horrible. This thing WILL and SHOULD be cancelled ASAP!! Charlie Sheen IS the show. Won't watch again."

Gali Hogan Sweetness echoed his thoughts, tweeting, “Just finish watching Two and half Men....it was funny but only because of Alan...they should forgive Charlie Sheen and take him back.” 

It will be interesting to see whether Men can hold on to its viewers, or if the show’s huge opener was merely a case of curiosity.

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