Ashton Kutcher will reportedly replace Charlie Sheen on Two and A Half Men, which has always been one of those lame CBS shows that are big hits for inexplicable reasons – or just because they’re so undemanding. Among the many sources glomming on to the "unofficial" news: CBS’s own Early Show. (A no-surprise update: it's now official.)
From the network’s point of view the change makes perfect sense. Kutcher is good-looking, has charm, has sitcom roots from That 70’s Show, and a high celebrity profile. He’s more famous for his oddball marriage to Demi Moore than for his acting, but he hasn’t behaved like a lunatic in public the way Sheen has. That’s not nearly enough to make me watch a show that succeeds by fitting into the sitcom cookie cutter. (Strained premise of mismatched brothers and a kid tossed into one house; jokes that really need a laugh track.)
CBS reportedly almost brought in someone who really would have shaken things up: Hugh Grant, who was negotiating. Now that would have been an intriguing move simply in the realm of weird pop culture trends. It probably wouldn’t have made the series any better, but it would have been hard to beat as a wacky, revealing career move. Grant would have been the rare major movie star to step into a regular TV role that was not on some prestigious HBO or Showtime series. Would that have been an admission that his best movie days are over? Sure. And would it have made him richer than ever? Yup.
Where Grant is a film star without a recent hit, Kutcher is still an actor with a spotty film record. He was good in What Happens in Vegas, not so much in the horrible recent romcom with Natalie Portman, No Strings. But he’s a safe choice, which after all, is what CBS wants. And Grant’s near-miss tells us that movie stardom isn’t what it used to be.