So as the ninth season of Two and a Half Men began Monday night, it was adios Goodtime Charlie and hello Ashton Kutcher.
The episode began in a funeral parlor with Charlie's remains in a closed casket and a crowd of beautiful bitter babes in black - including Jeri Ryan and Jenny McCarthy - gathered to make sure the STD-riddled Casanova was really dead.
Charlie's stalker/widow Rose (Melanie Lynskey) basically explained that she had pushed him in front of a Metro train in Paris and that "his body just exploded . . . like a balloon full of meat."
Looked like Alan (Jon Cryer) was going to lose Charlie's choice oceanfront home in Malibu. Then out of the blue (literally, he was trying to drown himself) a billionaire techie shows up on Alan's deck.
It's Ashton Kutcher as (I'm not making this up) Walden Schmidt. The writers are going to have to decide what they intend to do with this character: Is he going to be a dorky socially inept recluse, or is he going to be the guy who beds two hot chicks the same night his wife kicks him out? Until then it's kind of hard to forecast how this show will mesh.
By the way, if you're worth $1.3 billion in California and your wife divorces you, you're not a billionaire anymore, buddy.
Two and a Half Men still has that rollicking, rapid comic rhythm and loosey-goosey style, but the changeover was hardly seamless. At this point, Kutcher isn't suited to the part and the part isn't suited to him.
Half an hour later, Charlie was roasted on Comedy Central by a head-scratchingly eclectic panel (Jon Lovitz, Kate Walsh of Private Practice, Steve-O, Mike Tyson, William Shatner, and others). It was Sheen's job to sit in the hot seat for 97 minutes and chuckle as one after the other heaped scorn on him.
One of the roasters, Jeff Ross, who took part in Sheen's "Torpedo of Truth" tour this summer, noted, "This lineup is so pathetic, I was hoping I'd get replaced by Ashton Kutcher."
Ross also joked, "Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez said they would have been here tonight but they had a family obligation."
Claiming to be an old friend of Charlie's, Lovitz said, "He's nothing like the character he plays on TMZ."
It got nastier. Comedian Anthony Jeselnik riffed, "The only reason you got on TV in the first place is because God hates Michael J. Fox."
The strangest segment of the evening, hands-down, belonged to Tyson. Adopting a refined aura and name-dropping Homer, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost, he still managed to get bleeped more than anyone on the dais. I'm not sure what you have to say to get censored on cable.
Sheen has been busy lately on his reparation tour, acting sane and contrite all the doo-dah day (during appearances from Today to The Tonight Show). He capped it off with a gracious (if self-serving) benediction for Two and a Half Men during the Emmys on Sunday night.
Whatever healing his campaign has accomplished, Monday night's Roast undid.
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared on his pop culture blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.