Ashton Kutcher played it coy when asked if Two and a Half Men would be renewed for a 10th season, but the Nielsen ratings say Walden Schmidt is a lock for at least one more tour of duty.
Speaking at the 29th annual PaleyFest in Beverly Hills, Kutcher on Monday said, “I don’t know if the show’s been picked up for another year,” before adding that he hasn’t heard from “the powers that be.”
Co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre played the same hand, saying that the decision to proceed with a fall season rests in the hands of Warner Bros. and CBS. Lorre did acknowledge the 800-pound gorilla in the room, noting, “It’s unusual when they cancel a show that’s in the top 10.”
Two and a Half Men is actually the top-rated scripted series on television, and through the first 25 weeks of the 2011-12 season, ranks fourth among all broadcast programs.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Men is averaging a 4.7 rating in the all-important adults 18-49 demo, edging sibling comedy The Big Bang Theory (4.6). TBBT enjoys a slight advantage in total deliveries, averaging 14.1 million viewers per episode to Men’s 13.9 million.
An integral part of CBS’ wildly successful Monday comedy lineup, Men holds down the 9 p.m. time slot. At 8 p.m., How I Met Your Mother is averaging 9.22 million viewers and a 3.7 in the demo, while newcomer 2 Broke Girls is the season’s biggest new hit, averaging 10.8 million viewers and a 4.0 rating.
Ratings are based on first-run episodes and encores. When repeats are tossed out of the mix, 2 Broke Girls is averaging a 4.5 rating in the dollar demo.
Sophomore comedy Mike & Molly closes the block at 9:30 p.m., averaging 10.9 million viewers and a 3.5 rating.
Kutcher is nearing the end of the one-year, $15.4 million deal that brought him to Men last May. While not exactly peanuts, Kutcher’s salary is worlds away from the $27.5 million deposed star Charlie Sheen was pulling down in his final season.
In the inevitable event CBS decides to pick up Men for another season, Kutcher and his co-stars are likely to command significant pay increases. Jon Cryer currently makes $13.2 million per season, or $660,000 per episode, while Angus T. Young, the titular half-man, earns $5.5 million, or $250,000 a pop.
If Sheen’s explosive exit seemed to doom the show to a premature cancelation, this season has been nothing short of a triumph. Men is up 20 percent versus last season’s average delivery of 11.6 million total viewers, and the guaranteed ratings have improved 34 percent, from a 3.5 to a 4.7.
The other shows in the Monday lineup are also pumping up their numbers. How I Met Your Mother is up 23 percent in the demo (3.7, up from last season’s 3.0), while Mike & Molly has lifted its advertiser-friendly deliveries 17 percent to a 3.5.
Men buried Sheen’s character and introduced Kutcher's lovelorn Internet billionaire on Sept. 19. The season premiere drew 28.7 million viewers and a 10.7 rating in the 18-49 demo, more than doubling the show’s opening numbers from a year ago.
In a red-carpet interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lorre reiterated his earlier take on a renewal. “I’m not confident about anything,” he joked. “Why get cocky at this point? Anything could happen. I’m just grateful we got to this point.”