Burning Question

Is Ashton Kutcher to blame for Two and a Half Men's ratings drop?

The CBS sitcom is averaging fewer viewers under Mr. Demi Moore than it did when Charlie Sheen was the star. Who's winning now?

When Two and a Half Men aired its first episode with Ashton Kutcher (who replaced Charlie Sheen this fall after the latter's well-documented meltdown), a record 28 million viewers tuned in. Five weeks later, the show has shed nearly half that audience, bringing in an average of about 14.2 million, according to E! Online. That's one million below Sheen's average last season. (For his part, Sheen is unsurprised, telling TMZ that he is "extremely disappointed" with the new season.) With viewership sliding — and Kutcher on the receiving end of not-so-flattering press surrounding alleged marriage infidelities — is Kutcher's job in danger?

Kutcher should be a little worried: Don't "expect CBS to cut Two and a Half Men anytime soon," says Andre Tartar at New York. But Kutcher's future could be in doubt. The actor is only signed to a one-year contract. If the ratings continue to fall, "the network may have real reason" to cut ties with Kutcher — especially because he "has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons."
"Two and a Half Men loses half its premiere audience"

Ashton's job is safe and sound: Sure, Two and a Half Men's ratings have been on a slide, says Leslie Gornstein at E! Online. But considering Kutcher's debut on the sitcom scored record ratings, there was nowhere else to go but down. The bottom line is that Men is still the number one comedy on TV, even in the "ever-coveted" 18-49 demographic. "There have been no signs of Kutcher being in trouble with the network — only with his wife."
"Is Two and a Half Men headed six feet under?"

The ratings aren't even that disappointing: Let's put this in perspective, says Lynette Rice at Entertainment Weekly. "The competition should be so lucky to report such 'dips' in the ratings." Even when producing its lowest-rated episode of the season, Two and a Half Men still trounces shows airing on competing networks. There's no ratings freefall, just an expected leveling out. The hype over Sheen's departure and Kutcher's debut "has finally settled down and the ratings are starting to show it."
"Two and a Half Men comes down to earth, Dancing With the Stars trips"

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