CBS's long-running sitcom "Two and a Half Men" wrapped up its first post-Charlie Sheen season last night, and the network has already renewed it for a tenth season, bringing this season's main cast -- Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer, and Angus T. Jones -- back intact. But behind all the good press, a dirty secret is lurking: Viewers seem to be abandoning "Men" in droves.
The initial numbers paint a rosy picture: When they renewed the show, CBS crowed that "Men" is up 13 percent in total viewers (15 million) and up 27 percent in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic (5.2) this season. But a lot of that bump comes from the huge numbers "Men" pulled for Kutcher's debut back in September, when a whopping 28 million viewers tuned in to see how "Men" would move into the post-Sheen era.
Viewership has eroded slowly but steadily ever since, to the point where an original "Men" episode hasn't topped the 12-million-viewer mark since February. By comparison, that's below what last season (the final one with Sheen) averaged, and a far cry from the 15 million viewers per week the show enjoyed during its heyday. And last night's finale didn't help matters: It was flat with last week's episode, attracting just 11.33 million total viewers and getting trampled by ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
Watch a scene from last night's "Two and a Half Men" finale right here:
So is it all Ashton Kutcher's fault? By and large, viewers do seem to be rejecting the switch from Sheen to Kutcher, as evidenced by the comments on our renewal story. (Don's declaration that "No doubt the show bites the big one without Sheen in it" is a common sentiment.) But some fans point to the writing as the main problem with "Men's" ninth season. Benjamin writes that the show's dialogue is now "all masturbation and double entendres. They have made Jon Cryer look like a blithering idiot. The producers and CBS should be ashamed of all the toilet humor."
So while it's still a sizable hit by most standards, CBS might be a little concerned about the souring viewer sentiment surrounding "Men" -- especially considering the large salaries due to Kutcher, Cryer, and Jones in Season 10. (Combined, the trio will earn close to $2 million per episode next year.) And it will be interesting to see if disgruntled "Men" viewers will follow their old pal Charlie Sheen to his latest TV endeavor: the new FX comedy "Anger Management," debuting next month. Now that's one TV ratings battle where we can't wait to see who's "winning."