The ratings are in. Fall's first episode of Two and a Half Men, featuring a clothing-optional Ashton Kutcher in his debut as Charlie Sheen's replacement and a mean-spirited funeral for Sheen's character, scored an astounding 28 million viewers. That makes the show the most watched sitcom since the series finale of Everybody Loves Raymond in 2005. Over on Comedy Central, the brutal roast of Sheen became the network's highest rated roast ever, and the second most-watched show of any kind in the channel's history. Given the number of eyes glued to Sheen-related programming Monday night, is the supposedly disgraced actor "still winning?"
No. It's Kutcher who comes out on top: Ashton Kutcher "more than fulfilled his goal" of saving TV's top sitcom, says Shelley Fralic at the Vancouver Sun, with the premiere's "stunning" ratings dwarfing those of Sheen's last episode. Meanwhile, Sheen's been relegated to a derided "mea culpa tour": His "seemingly sincere and sober" appearance at the Emmy Awards earned a particularly lukewarm reaction. "Who's winning now?"
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Yes. Sheen's still got some tiger blood left in him: The spectacular Men numbers actually say more about Sheen's popularity than Kutcher or the CBS sitcom itself, says Bill Carter at The New York Times. The uptick in viewers should be attributed to rampant fascination with the actor's meltdown, and curiosity over how the sitcom was going to handle his firing. Even though Sheen wasn't in the episode, "it was all about him."
Sheen has always been — and will always be — winning: Sheen has proved over the years that he's capable of withstanding any kind of public shaming, says Matt Zoller Seitz at Salon. His most recent flameout got more press coverage than "most foreign wars," and a mere blink-and-you'll-miss-it apology tour will likely land him yet another remunerative sitcom deal. Americans are addicted to his "depraved magnetism" — without it, as evidenced by the subpar season premiere, Two and a Half Men has gone from "bad to worthless." Face it: "Charlie Sheen is here to stay."
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