LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Ashton Kutcher is joining a revamped version of the top-rated TV comedy “Two and A Half Men”, CBS said on Friday, ending months of disarray after the acrimonious firing of wayward star Charlie Sheen.
Kutcher, 33, the husband of actress Demi Moore, is joining the cast for the upcoming ninth season of the money-spinning show that is scheduled for broadcast in the fall of 2011.
Jon Cryer, the other principal male lead on the sitcom, said he was “jazzed” about the show returning and the addition of Kutcher.
Friday’s statement from CBS did not say what role Kutcher would play but industry sources said he is not expected to be a direct replacement for Sheen’s womanizing bachelor character.
“We are so lucky to have someone as talented, joyful and just plain remarkable as Ashton joining our family,” Chuck Lorre, creator and executive producer of “Two and A Half Men” said in a statement.
“Two and A Half Men” is the most-watched comedy on U.S. television with about 15 million regular viewers and has been a lucrative source of advertising revenue for CBS, and syndication fees for its makers Warner Bros. Television.
Sheen, who was fired in March after weeks of erratic behavior and for publicly insulting producers, claimed bitterly on Friday that the show would flop without him.
“Kutcher is a sweetheart and a brilliant comedic performer ... Oh wait, so am I!”, the actor said in a statement. “Enjoy the show America. Enjoy seeing a 2.0 in the demo every Monday, WB,” Sheen added, referring to the coveted 18-49 age group of viewers.
Production on “Two and A Half Men” was shut down in February and March and the show’s future was in doubt after producers made clear that Sheen had no chance of returning.
Friday’s announcement came five days before CBS presents its 2011-12 program line-up to advertisers in New York.
Kutcher, 33, is best known for his role as a dim-witted stoner in “That ‘70s Show,” and as the creator of “Punk‘d”.
He was last seen in the January romantic comedy movie “No Strings Attached” and has a 6.8 million Twitter following.
“I can’t replace Charlie Sheen but I‘m going to work my ass off to entertain the hell out of people!”, Kutcher said in a statement.
Cryer, who played the uptight, divorced brother to Sheen’s Charlie Harper, has been largely silent since his co-star’s departure.
On Friday, Cryer expressed his “enormous gratitude to Charlie Sheen” and said he would miss him.
But he added in a statement; “I‘m also looking forward to this new beginning. Ashton is an extraordinarily talented guy and his presence will be an asset to our show.”
Some media reports suggested on Friday that Kutcher would get about $1 million per episode for “Men”. But a source familiar with negotiations told Reuters that figure was “ridiculously high.”
Sheen, 45, who has been in and out of drug rehab for the last 12 months, was the highest-paid actor on U.S. television, earning more than $1.2 million per episode.
Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television, said Kutcher would bring a “new and distinctive comedic flavor” to the comedy, whose audience has traditionally been young males.
British actor Hugh Grant was reported earlier this week to have pulled out of talks citing “creative differences.” Actors John Stamos, “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven, and Rob Lowe had also been rumored as possible additions.
Twitter was rife with comments about the addition of Kutcher. Eric Stangel, a writer on comedian David Letterman’s TV show, suggested that Sheen should rename his current one-man U.S. tour “Torpedo of Unemployment”.
Editing by Christine Kearney