Ashton's the one

Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen on CBS’ hit sitcom, Two and a Half Men, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed this evening (May 12).  B&C reported that Kutcher was in contention for the role earlier today.

Last night, B&C was told that Kutcher’s deal was done, although THR said this afternoon that the actor is still putting the “finishing touches” on the deal. The move answers one of TV’s biggest questions going into next week’s upfront in New York City: Who will replace Charlie Sheen?

Earlier this week, reported that Warner Bros. had been thisclose to signing movie star Hugh Grant for the role, but that Grant pulled out at the last minute. Kutcher, however, also seems like a good choice. He comes with the requisite movie-star good looks, comedic chops and an appeal to a young demographic. Kutcher has one of Twitter’s largest audiences with 6.7 million followers.

Kutcher, 33, has plenty of sitcom experience, having starred as Michael Kelso in Fox’s That 70s Show from 1998 through 2006. Since then, he’s gone on to a range of projects, from producing MTV’s Punk’d and The CW’s Beauty and the Geek to starring in feature films. Most recently, he appeared with Natalie Portman in the romantic comedy, No Strings Attached. He and producing partner Jason Goldberg also have a production company, Katalyst Films and he’s an investor in restaurants in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. He married actress Demi Moore in 2005.

Unsurprisingly, CBS and Warner Bros still aren’t talking, but CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is certain to make a big deal out of this hire at next week’s presentation at Madison Square Garden.

After going on a highly public rant against the creator and executive producer of Two and a Half Men, Chuck Lorre, Sheen was fired from CBS’ hit sitcom, Two and a Half Men, in early March. He has subsequently gone on to do a live tour of the U.S. to very mixed reviews. Sheen is suing Warner Bros. and Lorre for $100 million in a breach of contract lawsuit.

Hiring the right actor to take Sheen’s place on Men means millions to Warner Bros. and to CBS. Warner Bros. stands to make several billions of  dollars (that’s billions, with a b) on Two and a Half Men in domestic and international station and cable deals, while CBS charges more than $200,000 per 30-second spot in the sitcom, which is TV’s most-watched. TV stations have the right to pass on the Sheen-less episodes, but if new episodes of Men continue to perform, TV stations should still want to acquire them.

Men’s launch group, Tribune, and other stations, have re-upped the show through 2021. If stations end up passing on the show’s next season, then that term would be shortened to 2020. On cable, Two and a Half Men airs on FX.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.