Viewers Flock to Sheen-Free ‘Two and a Half Men’

CBS wins first night of season with Kutcher, '2 Broke Girls'

The numbers are in and they speak for themselves: Charlie don't channel surf. Or rather, his fans don't.

Charlie Sheen on Monday night was given a less-than-reverent sendoff from Two and a Half Men, but the reception that greeted his replacement was warm indeed.

The season premiere of Chuck Lorre’s ribald sitcom drew 28.7 million viewers and a 10.7 rating/25 share in the 18-49 demo, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, more than doubling the show’s opening numbers from a year ago.

New cast member Ashton Kutcher was introduced shortly after Charlie Harper’s funeral service, during which a clutch of female mourners expressed their contempt for the deceased lothario. (Having been struck by a train in a Paris Metro station, Sheen’s character “exploded like a balloon filled with meat.”)

Later in the episode, Kutcher’s Walden Schmidt appears at the Malibu beach house once shared by Charlie and his brother Alan (Jon Cryer). A lovelorn Internet billionaire, Waldon is both a failed suicide and an unselfconscious naturalist. (Kutcher spent a good portion of his screen time in the buff.)

For his part, Sheen made a game effort to demonstrate that he’s stanched the flow of “Tiger Blood,” going so far as to tweet a photo of himself and three other gents taking in the ninth-season opener of Men: “Surrounded by friends and watching the premier of Two and a Half Men. Odd…But cool..! So far a lot of laughs!! Nice…”

Immediately after Men, the series premiere of 2 Broke Girls retained 67 percent of its lead-in, averaging 19.4 million viewers and an extremely promising 7.1/16 in the demo. Compared to the series premiere of regular time slot occupant Mike & Molly, 2 Broke Girls was up 79 percent in total viewers.

According to the early Nielsen numbers, Girls now stands as the most-watched fall comedy premiere since September 2001, when Inside Schwartz bowed to 22.5 million viewers in NBC’s post-Friends slot.

While Girls got off to a sizzling start, next week the show will give up the plum post-Men slot for its regular 8:30 p.m. starting time, where it will lead out of How I Met Your Mother. Ted, Barney, et al., delivered 11.6 million viewers and a 4.9/13 in Mother’s one-hour season premiere.

Also making its debut last night was NBC’s The Playboy Club, which struggled in its 10 p.m. slot against ABC’s Castle and CBS’ Hawaii Five-0. The retro bunny hop delivered an anemic 5.02 million viewers and a 1.6/4 in the demo, tying Crusoe as NBC’s all-time lowest-rated fall drama premiere.

Crusoe was canceled in January 2009, after just 12 episodes.

The dead-on-arrival Playboy Club got very little assistance from the season premiere of The Sing-Off, which managed just 5.3 million viewers and a 1.9/5 in the demo. 

Despite Playboy Club’s ugly start, the Parents Television Council on Tuesday continued to hammer away at the show, calling out sponsors Unilever and Chrysler for their complicity in “mainstreaming pornography.” (Ironically, if Playboy Club were nearly as titillating as the PTC insists, it probably would have put up much better deliveries.)   

“The ratings for The Playboy Club speak for themselves,” said PTC president Tim Winter. “Clearly, Americans aren’t interested in tuning in to a show that amounts to little more than a chauvinistic advertisement for the Playboy brand. Advertisers should take a cue from viewers and find something else to support.”

Should Playboy Club fall much further, the PTC will need to find another show to demonize. As it stands now, things don’t look promising for the period piece.