IN­SIDE: Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - DEBBIE SCHIPP New Two And A Half Men, WIN, Tues­day, 8.30pm

IT was the most pub­lic celebrity melt­down of the year. A huge star in and out of re­hab pit­ted him­self against a pow­er­ful stu­dio, with one of tele­vi­sion’s most pop­u­lar com­edy shows at stake.

When Char­lie Sheen set fire to his ca­reer in Fe­bru­ary he took down his $ 1.2-mil­lio­nan-episode pay cheque for Two And A Half Men and, for a while there, the show it­self.

Now, Warner Bros and CBS must be hop­ing for the ul­ti­mate break-up re­venge story when they un­veil new Two And A Half Men lead­ing man Ash­ton Kutcher to au­di­ences.

The stu­dio bosses will also dis­pense with Sheen’s Char­lie Harper in what’s tipped to be the most-watched sit­com episode in tele­vi­sion his­tory.

Less than 12 hours af­ter the show airs in the US, Aus­tralian view­ers will be able to make up their own minds about whether bring­ing Kutcher in as Sheen’s re­place­ment is a win­ning move. De­tails of the episode which ush­ers in Kutcher’s new char­ac­ter – in­ter­net ge­nius and so­cial clod Walden Sch­midt – and how Harper dies have been closely guarded.

In re­cent weeks, Kutcher and co-stars Jon Cryer ( the other man) and An­gus T. Jones ( the half, all pic­tured) have been on a care­fully man­aged pub­lic­ity trail de­signed to build the hype but give lit­tle away. The se­crecy is in stark con­trast to the pub­lic break-up be­tween Sheen and his bosses.

By the time Sheen had made sev­eral ver­bal at­tacks on pro­ducer Chuck Lorre, they fired Sheen, cit­ing ‘‘ moral turpi­tude’’, and set about res­ur­rect­ing the show.

Kutcher may not be tak­ing over Sheen’s role, but knows he has big shoes to fill.

Af­ter sign­ing on for $ US700,000 an episode, the 33-year-old, who is mar­ried to ac­tress Demi Moore, said in a state­ment that while he could never re­place Sheen, ‘‘ I’m go­ing to work my ass off to en­ter­tain the hell out of peo­ple’’.

Lorre ad­mits he also took some con­vinc­ing that the former That ’ 70s Show star was right for the role.

‘‘ I was com­pletely con­vinced that we needed a forty-some­thing co-star who would be a peer to Jon,’’ Lorre told Hol­ly­wood Reporter.

‘‘ It was ob­vi­ous my as­sump­tion was wrong. Here was a guy with great com­edy in­stincts, tons of ex­pe­ri­ence and who is fear­less. Tak­ing the job proves that.’’

Co-star Cryer – ac­cused by Sheen of be­ing a ‘‘ troll’’ dur­ing one of his rants – has raved about his new col­league.

‘‘ Work­ing with Ash­ton is a blast,’’ he told En­ter­tain­ment Weekly.

‘‘ It’s a lot of fun . . . be­cause we have to dis­cover what works be­tween us, and he’s game for any­thing.

‘‘ There are lines that have been crossed al­ready that prob­a­bly never should have been crossed, as you’ll see in the first episode.’’

Asked had there been ten­sion on the set given the head­lines the show had made all year, Cryer said ‘‘ that was only the first cou­ple of days the first week’’.

‘‘ Ash­ton kind of blew that [ ten­sion] out of the water pretty quickly,’’ he said.

‘‘ He’s will­ing to do any­thing for a joke. Plus, he hired a mas­sage ther­a­pist for the en­tire crew, which had a re­lax­ing ef­fect.’’

In the US, adding spice to the rat­ings bat­tle for the first Kutcher episode, ri­val chan­nel Com­edy Cen­tral has sched­uled the Char­lie Sheen Roast ( a one-off show in which Sheen will be the butt of jokes and sto­ries from high-pro­file celeb mates) in the same times­lot. But WIN, for which Two And A Half Men had long been a rat­ings favourite, is aim­ing to cash in on the con­tro­versy with a bumper Tues­day night for the new sea­son de­but.

It will screen the fi­nal episode of sea­son 8 ( the last Sheen shot) at 8pm, then the fast­tracked Ash­ton Kutcher/ Char­lie demise of­fer­ing at 8.30pm.

WIN will pre­miere a new com­edy, the Joy of Sets, at 9pm, then Char­lie Sheen Roast at 9.30pm.

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