Ashton Kutcher made his debut on "Two and a Half Men" on Monday night's season 9 premiere, which also explained what happened to Charlie Sheen's character following the actor's firing and features cameos from popular television stars.
Warning: Spoiler alert!
In the episode, which earned the CBS show record ratings, it is revealed that Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, had died. His family, friends and stalker-turned fiance, Rose, played by Melanie Lynsky, attend his funeral. She explains to the crowd that she caught him cheating and then he mysteriously got run over by a train, after which his body "exploded like a balloon full of meat."
Jon Cryer, who plays his brother Alan, is faced with the dilemma of what to do with Harper's ashes. When he finally decides to sprinkle them on the beach, so that "pretty women" can walk on them, Kutcher's character, Walden Schmidt, appears in the window, freaking Alan Harper out and causing him to drop the urn.
Charlie Harper may be dead, but Schmidt is reborn - he had tried to kill himself by drowning in the ocean after being dumped by his wife. He changed his mind after realizing the water is cold. Alan Harper, ever the "friend-zoned" doormat, feels sorry for him and sets out to help him get his groove back.
It does not appear that he needs any help in that area. Aside from his scruffy good looks, Kutcher's character appears to have another thing going for him and he also reveals (pun intended) a quirk that serves as a running joke - he likes to walk around naked. Throughout the episode, there are many complimentary jabs about his masculinity.
There are also numerous jokes about Charlie Harper's substance abuse. Sheen, whose personal life was similar to that of his party-loving character, was fired from "Two and a Half Men" in March amid a slew of personal troubles, including drinking and drug addictions, and on-air rants against co-creator Chuck Lorre.
Meanwhile, Alan Harper appears more concerned with a financial problem - he cannot afford to keep his brother's beach house. Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson reprise their roles from the show "Dharma & Greg" - also co-created by Lorre - and John Stamos plays himself as the three visit the home as potential buyers.
Luckily, the wealthy Schmidt digs Harper's ... digs. Problem solved. Now if he could just cure his broken heart. Alan Harper takes him out to a bar to find a temporary fix. And like Charlie Harper, or rather, Charlie Sheen, Kutcher's character soon scores a goddess. Two of them.
Kutcher is of course no stranger to comedy, with credits that include hyperactive teenager Kelso in the sitcom "That '70s Show," host of the prank show "Punk'd" and starring roles in films such as "Dude, Where's My Car?."
Despite the suggested nudity, his character on "Two and a Half Men" is so far more subdued than his previous characters, although a few more rebounds, so to speak, may change that. Cryer has said that the actor is "fearless" and that the new season of "Two and a Half Men" is as raunchy as the show has ever been.
Production companies are constantly seeking ways to utilize social media for promotion. With more than 7.6 million Twitter followers, Kutcher certainly has the Internet-savvy, younger fanbase CBS may have sought for the series, its most succesful sitcom.
But will the the core audience Charlie Sheen helped build for "Two and a Half Men" remain, and even grow, with Kutcher taking his place as one of 2.5 male leads?
Tell us what you thought about the episode and about Kutcher's character below.