Speaking at a media conference on Thursday (June 2), CBS Corp. president and CEO Les Moonves said that he expects “huge numbers” for the sitcom’s Season 9 premiere in the fall. Which doesn’t seem out of line — the hiring of Kutcher to replace the fired Charlie Sheen was one of the bigger TV stories of the past month, and Kutcher’s first episode of “Two and a Half Men” should attract a sizable number of curious viewers.
But Moonves also said, according to several reports, that Kutcher’s “Men” debut could draw an audience similar to the network’s broadcast of the AFC championship game earlier this year. Really?
The AFC title game on Jan. 23 averaged almost 55 million viewers, along with a 19.7 rating among adults 18-49. The last time an episode of any TV series (i.e., not a sports telecast or a special like the Oscars) topped 50 million viewers was the finale of “Friends” in 2004.
When it was in originals during the 2010-11 season, “Two and a Half Men” averaged about 14.7 million viewers and a 4.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic. An AFC Championship-esque audience would mean a roughly fourfold increase in the number of people who watched the show last season, and that’s just not gonna happen.
Will “Two and a Half Men’s” ratings spike for Kutcher’s debut? Most likely. But will they draw the biggest audience for a regular network TV series in seven years? That feels like a pretty big reach.