TV Column: Ashton Kutcher plays dumb over laptop logos on ‘Two and a Half Men’
By Lisa de Moraes,
A“Two and a Half Men” star has gone rogue on CBS. Where have we heard that before?
This time, though, it’s the show’s new star, Ashton Kutcher, who appears to have punked his new network, handing over millions of dollars’ worth of free promo time in the series to companies in which he has a financial stake.
It all started Monday, when the network aired this season’s second episode (which, we should note, drew 20 million viewers).
Kutcher is reprising the pretty-but-several-sandwiches-short-of-a-picnic shtick that made him a household name on Fox’s old sitcom “That ’70s Show.” Now, he’s playing Web billionaire Walden Schmidt, who is totally lacking in life skills.
As Schmidt, Kutcher is seen with a laptop. The laptop is encrusted with decals that are logos. Several of the logos are of companies to which Kutcher has fiscal ties.
Since word broke, CBS has been sticking to a statement in which it says that the aggressive shilling “was not part of any advertising transaction with CBS.”
The network did disclose the relationship with one of the companies, a social-networking Web site:
“An actor on this program has a financial interest in foursquare,” CBS told viewers in the closing moments of this week’s episode.
The Federal Communications Commission is kind of a stickler about those disclosures. And in its statement, CBS said: “Our policy is to disclose such financial interests in a credit at the end of the broadcast.”
But that’s only one of the companies whose logos were plastered on the laptop, or for which Kutcher’s company, Katalyst, handles social media, according to various news reports.
That would seem to suggest that CBS was not aware of Kutcher’s involvement with the other companies.
A CBS rep declined to comment, referring to the company’s statement. Asked whether the decals will appear in the episode when it is rerun on the network, the rep said he did not know.
Yet earlier this month, Kutcher told attendees at a tech conference in San Francisco: “I put a bunch of . . . portfolio companies” on the laptop during taping.
He added: “I pulled it off for, like, one episode, and then CBS came in and told me they were going to have to take all the companies off the laptop because they didn’t want to promote companies they weren’t taking a piece of, or something.
“I don’t know exactly why,” Kutcher continued, reverting back to that which he does best: playing pretty and dumb.
“So now they’re greeking” — obscuring the logos on — “all of the stickers that were on there,” Kutcher said, sadly, according to the Web site for the conference sponsor, TechCrunch.com.
Fox’s It ‘Girl’
The Fox network might finally have a half-hour, live-action comedy hit on its hands.
The network announced Wednesday that it had picked up an additional 11 episodes of “New Girl” — giving it a full-season order of 24 episodes — after its impressive second-episode ratings.
“New Girl,” starring Zooey Deschanel as a schoolteacher who moves into a Manhattan apartment with three guys after catching her boyfriend cheating, bagged 9.3 million viewers in its second outing Tuesday. More important, the sitcom — which Fox scheduled after “Glee,” hoping the new show could hang on to some of the established hit’s audience — outstripped “Glee” for a second consecutive week (this time, by about 700,000 viewers).
“New Girl” officially has the highest Week 2 retention of its Week 1 audience of any new show this season. That’s great news for Fox, which hasn’t had any luck launching a half-hour, live-action comedy in ages.
“It’s great that audiences have responded so positively so far, and we’re confident that even more people will embrace the show — and more comedy on Fox — this season,” Fox Broadcasting Company entertainment chief Kevin Reilly said optimistically in making the announcement.
Grammer’s new order
And speaking of comedy being hard, Kelsey Grammer, who famously flamed out in his last several attempts at a new sitcom — Fox’s “Back to You” and ABC’s “Hank,” for instance — appears to have found his new niche, headlining a dramatic tragedy for former HBO programming chief Chris Albrecht over at Starz.
Starz has greenlit a second season of Grammer’s new “Boss” before the first season even premieres.
The premium cable network has ordered 10 more episodes to keep the series in the pipeline. Grammer stars — it’s his first dramatic TV series role, if you don’t count the tragedy that was “Hank” — as a powerful Chicago mayor who’s trying to hide his worsening mental health.
One TV critic, who gives his readers a lot of credit, described “Boss” as “King Lear-esque.” Grammer is also an exec-producer on the series, which won’t premiere until Oct. 21, marking the TV directorial debut of filmmaker Gus Van Sant.