Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer Offered Two-Year Deals to Return to 'Two and a Half Men'

"Two and a Half Men" (CBS)
Danny Feld/CBS/Warner Bros.

Ashton Kutcher's Sept. 19 debut generated a football-sized 29 million viewers, and the second week's 20.5 million still topped last season's average with Charlie Sheen.

But the offers provide no raises from what the stars currently make, and that's shaping up as a big problem for the reps for the actors.

Negotiations have begun to bring CBS' Two and a Half Men back for another season -- and possibly two more.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that CBS and studio Warner Bros. Television have made offers to series stars Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer to return to the high-rated sitcom for two more seasons. But the offers provide no raises from what the stars currently make, and that's shaping up as a big problem for the reps for the actors. 

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Kutcher, who joined the show for its current ninth season after original star Charlie Sheen was fired for his erratic behavior, is widely believed to make $700,000 per episode, or $15.4 million for a 22-episode season. (Sheen made $1.25 million per episode when he was fired.) Cryer, who has been with the series since its inception in 2003, makes a bit less than Kutcher, according to sources. 

The proposal from CBS and Warner Bros. is a starting point for what likely will be a lengthy negotiation. TV Guide reported Tuesday that Kutcher has asked for $1 million to return for another year, but sources say the negotiations are more complex than that. An insider believes that neither Kutcher, Cryer and series co-creator Chuck Lorre aren't especially enamored with the idea of continuing the show for two more seasons; the talent would prefer that the show end after next season, its 10th. But if the money is right -- meaning a raise is offered, according to this source -- the key talent would be much more likely stay on. 

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That's why CBS' initial offer of a two-year deal with no raise is potentially problematic. If CBS insists on two years at the current pay levels, it might end up with nothing. Then again, the cast already is extremely well-paid, so taking the current salaries would hardly be an insult. The network, rather than WBTV, is taking the lead on salary negotiations because its license fee fronts the cost of shows that reach this many seasons.

Adding to the pressure, taping of this season's finale is scheduled for next week, and if the episode ends up being a series finale, Lorre and team would like to write a fitting end for the characters. But if negotiations with Kutcher (repped by CAA) and Cryer (repped by UTA) haven't wrapped up by then -- "A big longshot," says one dealmaker -- the episode will need to be written as if the show might return but might not. 

Still, it's highly likely that some kind of a deal will happen. Two and a Half Men is a financial cash cow for CBS and WBTV. Ratings have been down lately -- the show hit a season low at the end of the February sweep with a 3.6 rating among viewers 18-49 and 11.9 million viewers -- but this season's average is still higher than last year, thanks to huge fall numbers fueled by Kutcher joining the cast. And syndication deals are worth tens of millions of dollars per season of the show.

A CBS spokesperson says, “We decline to comment on rumor and speculation.”


Twitter: @THRMattBelloni