Believe it or not, the crass, lowbrow "Two and a Half Men" has actually performed fairly well at the often snooty Emmys. Former lead actor Charlie Sheen netted four Emmy nominations between 2006 and 2009, while costar Jon Cryer won for supporting actor in 2009. Three times it was nominated for best comedy series (2006-2008). Now that Ashton Kutcher has propelled the series to its highest-ever ratings (27.7 million), award pundits wonder: Could Kutcher win "Men" its first lead actor Emmy?
The last time a TV series switched out its main star and received awards attention was when James Spader replaced Dylan McDermott on "The Practice." Spader went on to win the lead drama actor race in 2004, and when his character was spun off to "Boston Legal," he won two more trophies (2005 and 2007). Ironically, when Sheen replaced Michael J. Fox on the sitcom "Spin City," Sheen went on to win a Golden Globe.
Award shows clearly take notice whenever lead actors are replaced, and no replacement has received more buzz, attention and ratings recently than Kutcher. The former "That '70s Show" star has never been nominated for a major award, though he has reaped a slew of Razzie nods including: worst actor for "Cheaper by the Dozen" (2004), worst screen couple (with Brittany Murphy) for "Just Married" (2004), worst screen couple (with Cameron Diaz) for "What Happens in Vegas" (2009) and worst actor for "Killers" (2010) and "Valentine's Day" (2010).
While the jury is still out on whether Kutcher's role as lovelorn Walden Schmidt on "Two and a Half Men" is worthy of a serious award, critics who watched his highly anticipated return to television Monday night had mixed reviews. Snippets:
Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly): "It’s easy to see how Kutcher is going to fit into the ensemble. He’s part-contrast-to-Charlie (he ordered ginger ale, not liquor, while out at a bar with Alan), and part-Charlie 2.0 (he beds women with ease, but in a nice, horny-puppy-dog kind of way). Welcome to Charlie Sheen’s world, Ashton Kutcher. You’re living the dream."
Lori Rackl (Chicago Sun-Times): "Filling the void left by a well-established character isn't easy, but Kutcher mostly succeeded.... After eight long seasons, the show might end up being better off with some new blood -- of the non-tiger variety."
Eric Ditzian (MTV): "Nothing's changed. Ashton Kutcher may have joined the cast, but the same collection of writers is still churning out jokes about threesomes, venereal diseases and flatulence."
Joe Flint (Los Angeles Times): "I thought Ashton Kutcher was fine on 'Two and a Half Men,' but I'd be lying if I didn't say I missed that Vatican assassin Charlie Sheen."
David Eckstein (Zap2it): "The only question no one knows the answer to yet is whether the Ashton Kutcher experiment will work. Time will tell."
-- Tom O'Neil
Photo: Ashton Kutcher with Jon Cryer in "Two and a Half Men." Credit: CBS