The big entertainment news this week is the announcement that Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen on “Two and a half Men.” CBS and Warner Brothers are optimistic about the future of the show and Charlie Sheen, as you would expect, is claiming victory and predicting the early demise of the show.
CBS has every reason to be optimistic. If the old adage is true that all publicity is good publicity, the show has banked billions of dollars of free pub. Beyond that, Ashton Kutcher is a big star who is one of the most media savvy in Hollywood. He was one of the first to embrace twitter and has nearly seven million followers. (@aplusk) He has a track record as a comedic actor and by most accounts is creative and hard working.
Kutcher is a risky choice because the primary demographic for the show currently is men. Kutcher appeals to women, although many of his projects like “Punk’d” have strong appeal among young men. If the show continues to be raunchy, irreverent and full of sexual innuendo it could actually grow the audience with Kutcher’s appeal to women and younger viewers.
The main reason the show will probably continue for at least two more seasons is financial. Prime time sitcoms are expensive to produce and CBS will save at least one million dollars an episode. The ratings can actually go down and CBS will still make more money. CBS has a powerhouse Monday night lineup and “Two and a half men” is the number one comedy on TV. When you add in the lucrative syndication fees the studio gets for every new episode, success is almost guaranteed.
That said, I continue to be disappointed by the crude and base humor on prime time “broadcast” TV. The lines between cable and broadcast continue to be blurred. Five years ago the jokes you routinely see and hear on broadcast TV would only have been seen on FX or in HBO specials. My problem is that the big four networks are still broadcast into every home in America on public airwaves. Because of that, we should expect a higher standard. Viewers make the choice to purchase cable with content that is more adult. You don’t have that choice with broadcast. Granted, few of us use antennas anymore so the lines get even fuzzier. This is a difficult issue for the FCC and us citizens as the owners of those airwaves.