I like Ashton Kutcher as much as the next guy. In fact, I probably like Ashton Kutcher more than the next guy. Therefore, it pains me to say this:
I don't think he can pull this Two and a Half Men thing off.
I think the ship is sinking, and sinking fast.
Meanwhile, I'm not entirely convinced it's his fault. I think the show was doomed before the first episode aired. And not because Sheen is gone, either.
Instead, I think it's the role they have Kutcher playing.
The character is a spineless, immature, naive, doofus. In fact, he's such a bumbling buffoon that he's not even endearing. Which is surprising, because Kutcher has always had a knack for making his buffonish characters endearing (most notably Kelso).
Now, this leading character could potentially work in the context of another show, but it simply doesn't fit the void left by Sheen's character.
After eight years, we are trained to expect Alan Harper to be the doofy brother, and his son Jake to be the brainless kid. Then, there is supposed to be a selfish, incorrigible alpha male serving as the head of the household.
However, instead of this alpha male, we now have a character who is a hybrid of Alan and Jake. In other words, Kutcher's Walden Schmidt character is a brainless, doofy man-kid.
So the show essentially goes from being Two and a Half Men to Three Hopeless Adolescents.
Case in point: early in last night's episode, after having his ex-wife tell him that it's customary for the man to pick the restaurant, Kutcher asks Jake for a recommendation on a good place to take a woman.
You catch that? He asks Jake -- the seventeen-year-old brainless dope.
Then, in preparing for his date, Kutcher asks Alan how he looks, going so far as to ask for tips on how he should present himself.
Give me a break.
Alan's character was created to be the helpless nitwit asking for dating advice, not giving it. This is the basis for the entire show.
Again, this could potentially be funny in a different show. But not in Men; not in a show built around the premise that a doofus and his son living with a suave playboy is instant humor.
Now, obviously, when creating a new character, the writer's couldn't draw the Kutcher character to have the exact character as the departed Charlie Harper, but here's the problem: he can't be his polar opposite, either.
That's what the Kutcher character is, and that's why the show won't work.
While there's plenty more evidence I could give, I think it sums it up best that, throughout this piece, I've only referred to Kutcher's character as "Kutcher's character." Walden Schmidt is simply too weak to ever crawl out of the shadow of being "Ashton Kutcher."
So, ultimately, while it was a fun gimmick, and while I will remain a Kutcher fan, it appears those of us who thought this Two and a Half Men stunt might fly have been Punk'd.