Fall TV Preview

Could Two and a Half Men's Ashton Kutcher Be Playing... Charlie Harper?

I may be about to waste 534 words here — and/or maybe I simply watched too many soaps back in the day — but I’m beginning to wonder if Two and a Half Men boss Chuck Lorre is planning to cheese off Charlie Sheen the most pointed way possible by having series newcomer Ashton Kutcher simply take over the role of unapologetic cad Charlie Harper. Crazy like a warlock? Hear me out.

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There’s been some jibber-jabber about how Lorre is (supposedly…) determined to ensure that Sheen can never set foot on the show again, that he might go so far as to involve (the fictional) Charlie in a grisly accident.

But what if the accident is not designed to kill Charlie H. but instead necessitate some tongue-in-cheek, soap opera-style plastic surgery that results in him looking like Demi Moore’s rakish boy toy? Can’t you just see hapless Alan rolling his eyes at the dumb luck his brother has in undergoing facial reconstruction that only makes him look better, younger… and a foot taller? It’d be like Roseanne‘s Becky switch, but with facial hair.

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What sent me on this potentially ridiculous riff? Three things.

1) The new key art replicates the “microphone” three-shot from days of yore. Right when Two and a Half Men is on the cusp of a rebirth, poised to put some rather dreary days behind it, why evoke the past so squarely?

2) No one is revealing the name of Kutcher’s character. Yes, IMDb has him listed as “Raymond,” but neither CBS nor Warner Bros. TV is confirming that as accurate. Why would there be any top-secrecy? Are we at a point in spoiler safeguarding where the name of a sitcom character is being held under lock and key? It all seems just a bit… conspicuous. Unless, that is, because his name is Charlie.

Now you are rolling your eyes. But as I pored over this preposterous twist, it more and more paved the way for comedy. Yes, there’s the refreshed look and the wholly inexplicable height spurt. Now think about it from Charlie Harper’s point of view: With a new face, he’d feel free — obligated, even — to revisit scorched-earth conquests from his past, with impunity.

Or, take it in a whole different direction and give the accident victim amnesia. What if Charlie couldn’t recall his carousing, skirt-chasing days? Would Alan labor to keep him from heading back down that reprehensible path? And what if, despite everyone’s efforts, NuCharlie nonetheless kept falling into the beds of gorgeous women?

3) Perhaps most importantly, let’s look at the pragmatic side of things: By having Kutcher play Charlie, Two and a Half Men can have its cake and eat it too by essentially continuing with the exact same premise and dynamics that made it TV’s most-watched sitcom for years, but without lugging around the baggage that is Sheen. (After all, the speculation that Kutcher will play some “long-lost uncle” or, even more far-fetched, a “stranger who buys the house and lets Alan and Jake live there” don’t come prepackaged with as much zing.)

What do you think? Do you entertain the possibility that Kutcher is literally taking over Sheen’s role?