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‘Two and a Half Men’ plus Ashton Kutcher should equal huge ratings

Angus T. Jones (from left) AshtKutcher JCryer can barely hide their enthusiasm about new seasCBS comedy “Two Half Men.’

Angus T. Jones (from left), Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer can barely hide their enthusiasm about the new season of the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men.’

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Updated: November 17, 2011 12:46AM

BURBANK, Calif. — “It’s fun to be having fun again. At times, it was less fun.”

That might seem an odd statement coming from a sitcom actor, but it makes perfect sense when the speaker is “Two and a Half Men’s” Jon Cryer.

The top-rated CBS comedy, which shut down last spring amid the enormous turmoil surrounding departed star Charlie Sheen, is back in the funny business with a replacement, Ashton Kutcher. Its return (8 p.m. Monday, WBBM-Channel 2) is sure to be one of the year’s most-watched TV series broadcasts.

Kutcher’s Walden Schmidt is an emotionally immature Internet billionaire who comes to live with Alan Harper (Cryer) and his son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), after the death of Charlie, which will be highlighted by a funeral in the first episode.

“It was easy from Day One, which is remarkable. I was really impressed with how [Ashton] leapt into this, into what could conceivably be construed as a high-pressure situation,” says Cryer, who sat down for an interview with Kutcher and Jones after a recent “Men” rehearsal.

Kutcher found the initial few days “a little scary. You didn’t know what everybody’s dynamics were, just wanting to feel everyone out, who can take a joke, who can’t.”

After Kutcher pulled a joke on a crew member, the mood lightened. “I think there was something about that that made everyone go, ‘Ah, OK, we can have fun.’”

In the show, Alan becomes a mentor of sorts to Walden, who has just had a breakup. (Judy Greer plays his ex and Jenny McCarthy will return as a guest star.) “But, of course, any fool can see that that’s a terrible idea because Alan is a mess,” Cryer says.

Fans shouldn’t worry that the ninth-season show will be radically different, he says. “What’s been remarkable is the writers have managed to introduce a new character, make every other character you’re used to ricochet off that character in a really fun way, yet retained completely the feeling of the show, which is an incredibly tall order.”

Besides Charlie’s funeral, the show will deal with his absence going forward. But don’t expect sentimentality. “That’s not what the show does,” Cryer says.

Cryer, on the receiving end of some of Sheen’s scorn during last spring’s media circus, wishes his former colleague the best. (Executive producer Chuck Lorre, who bore the brunt of Sheen’s wrath, declined to comment.)

“Of course, it’s sad, anybody watching a friend go through that in such a horribly public way. It hurts and I have never had anything but good wishes for Charlie,” Cryer says. “I understand why almost everybody involved directly in the situation did exactly what they did, and I don’t think there was any other outcome that could have occurred. I miss working with Charlie. I had a great time working with him and I owe him a great deal, and I hope that [in] this new chapter in his life that he can come out of this in a healthy and happy way, and heal his family and heal himself.”

Cryer says he plans to record Comedy Central’s roast of Sheen, which was taped last weekend and will be broadcast an hour after “Men’s” season premiere. “I’ll ignore it,” Kutcher says.

Both Cryer and Kutcher say the media bear some responsibility for the events involving Sheen. “I think Charlie should have gotten 50 percent of the ad revenue made by every network that [dealt] with him during that period of time, because these guys, they took advantage,” Kutcher says.

Jones, who is starting his senior year of high school, says he was OK either way about the show continuing. “If it went away, I would have my senior year actually at school, which I’ve never done for a whole year, and now that we’re coming back, it’s another awesome year on the show with awesome Ashton.”

“And?” Cryer interjects.

“And I guess Jon, too,” Jones responds wearily.

The actors are under strict orders not to reveal too many details. Secrecy surrounds the revamped series, with actors getting scripts with such heavily imprinted watermarks that “we can’t actually physically read them,” Cryer says.

Kutcher likes some secrecy. “I hate going and seeing movies where you already know everything that’s going to happen and you feel you’ve already seen all the good jokes. What’s going to be great is this first episode, nobody’s going to have seen any of the jokes. It’s going to be completely fresh. Then, when it’s revealed my character is gay, people are going to flip out.”

“They’re going to lose their minds,” Cryer says. “That and the alien thing.”

Adds Jones, “And pirates.”

Gannett News Service

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