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Dead or alive, Charlie Sheen ruled the TV airwaves on Monday, pulling in record audiences for his Comedy Central roast and more than 28 million Americans to his "Two and A Half Men" TV funeral.
Some 28.7 million watched CBS bury Sheen's wayward TV character Charlie Harper and introduce new star Ashton Kutcher in an all-time series high audience for the lucrative comedy, according to updated figures from research company Nielsen.
And after months of headlines following Sheen's bitter exit from the most-watched comedy on U.S. TV, 6.4 million people watched his sex life, drug use and recent career meltdown draw laughter on Comedy Central's TV roast by fellow celebrities including "Jackass" stuntman Steve-0 and boxer Mike Tyson.
Comedy Central said Sheen's was its most-watched roast ever, while the audience for "Two and A Half Men" was more than double that of last year's season opener and bigger than any episode in the show's first eight seasons with Sheen in the starring role.
Monday's season premiere of "Two and A Half Men" crushed the opening of "Dancing With the Stars" on rival ABC despite a celebrity cast that gave viewers their first glimpse of the ballroom contest's first transgender contestant, Chaz Bono, and TV legal analyst Nancy Grace both doing the cha cha.
Nielsen figures showed that 18.6 million people watched the season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars" -- a 24 percent drop from last year's opening show.
Reviews for Kutcher's debut on "Two and a Half Men," playing a heartbroken Internet billionaire with a penchant for walking around nude, were kind and suggested that the series -- a cash cow for both CBS and program makers Warner Bros television -- was far from dead.
"Kutcher's performance was good, nearly as poker-faced fine as Sheen's was ... Kutcher will probably prove just as skilled," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker.
TV Guide's Matt Roush said that judging by first impressions the revamped "Men" will "will survive both Charlies just fine for at least a little while longer."
The Los Angeles Times called the premiere "a promising beginning" adding that "Kutcher brings a softness to a series that could be brittle and sour, misanthropic and misogynistic, and temperamentally middle-aged."
Sheen was the highest-paid actor on U.S. television before being fired in March after an insulting tirade against the show's creators and producers that followed months of partying and attempts at rehab.
Sheen and Warner Bros are said to be close to a settlement of the actor's $100 million lawsuit over his firing. Sheen has also made a number of contrite appearances in the past week, including delivering an awkward mea culpa at the Primetime Emmy Awards show on Sunday.
Tags: Charlie-Sheen Two-And-A-Half-Men Ashton-Kutcher
Television network CBS on Thursday canceled production of its top-rated comedy "Two and A Half Men" for the rest of this season because of actor Charlie Sheen's "statements, conduct and condition."
"Based on the totality of Charlie Sheen's statements, conduct and condition, CBS and Warner Bros. Television have decided to discontinue production of "Two and a Half Men" for the remainder of the season," the network and the show's makers said in a statement.
The statement followed an expletive-filled attack by Sheen on Thursday against the producer of the comedy, just days before he was due to return to work after a month in rehab.
In an interview on a syndicated radio program and in remarks to celebrity website TMZ.com, Sheen called "Two and A Half Men" producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre a "charlatan (who) chose not to do his job," a "piece of shit" and a "stupid, stupid little man ..."
"I was told if I went on the attack, they would cancel the show," Sheen said of his bosses on the Alex Jones Show, a radio program based in Texas that airs on more than 60 stations across the United States.
Lorre could not be reached for comment.
"Two and a Half Men" is a huge money generator for the broadcaster and production company, and earlier this year the network said it was "highly concerned" about Sheen. CBS is a unit of CBS Corp and Warner Bros. Television is part of the Warner Bros unit of Time Warner Inc.
Production of "Two and a Half Men" was shut down last month after Sheen was persuaded to seek help following a wild 36-hour party at his home that ended with him being hospitalized for abdominal pains.
Throughout much of 2010, he was involved in a series of drug and alcohol-related incidents, and in August pleaded guilty to an assault on his now ex-wife.
Sheen, the highest paid actor on U.S. television, was scheduled to return to the set on Tuesday. Four of the remaining eight episodes for the current TV season, which ends in May, had already been axed due to the unexpected hiatus.
CBS and Warner Bros said in January they were "profoundly concerned" about Sheen's health and supported his decision to begin rehab.
Audiences for "Two and a Half Men" have remained strong despite Sheen's well-publicized personal problems. The show attracts about 15 million U.S. viewers.
Tags: Two-And-A-Half-Men Charlie-Sheen
People.com is reporting that Charlie Sheen — the highly paid star of CBS’ Two and A Half Men – wants to leave the top-rated comedy when his contract expires at the end of this season. The actor has reportedly told friends that “he’s not coming back” to the show. “Leaving is 100 percent his idea,” a source told People.com. Apparently, the network has been trying to negotiate a new deal but Sheen turned down the offer. His spokesman would only confirm that his deal is through this current season.
A source close to comedy said negotiations are ongoing and that no one is assuming this will be Sheen’s last year. Representatives for CBS and Warner Bros. TV declined to comment.
The studio temporarily halted production of Men last month after Sheen announced he would spend time in a rehab facility. He returned to the set March 16, the day after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client to charges of felony menacing, criminal mischief, and third degree assault, which stem from an alleged Christmas day argument with his wife, Brooke Mueller. A trial date has been set for July 21.
It seems unlikely that Sheen would want to leave the show that made him one of the highest-paid actors on TV today. There’s some thought around Hollywood that the actor could be angling for an even richer salary given the show’s continued success on CBS: At 14.98 million, Men remains TV’s most-watched comedy.
Tags: Charlie-Sheen Two-And-A-Half-Men