Proving that morbid curiosity will always win out with American viewers, 28.74 million people watched last night's season premiere of Two And A Half Men, in which Charlie Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, was killed off off-screen, then mocked for half the episode, before a dripping wet Ashton Kutcher showed up to prove that the crazy carnival will whirl on unabated, providing at least another year of dirty jokes and smutty laughs. In fact, barring a few post-Super Bowl episodes and a handful of other event episodes, that's one of the highest ratings for a scripted show, period, in the last several years. (CBS lists it as the most-watched scripted season premiere since the season two premiere of Desperate Housewives way back in 2005 when that was a thing people cared about.) The audience rose throughout the half-hour, too, until over 30 million people were watching the episode by the end, according to the 15-minute breakdown.
That was also enough to boost the premiere of 2 Broke Girls, which followed. The comedy, either the best new show of the season or the worst show to ever have appeared anywhere ever because this is the Internet and hyperbole is king, landed 19.37 million viewers, down significantly from Two And A Half Men but big enough to qualify as the biggest premiere for a new comedy in 10 years. The last comedy to debut this well? NBC's Breckin Meyer vehicle Inside Schwartz. You all probably remember that one extremely well, huh? (2 Broke Girls won't get the Two And A Half Men lead-in from now on, as Mike & Molly returns to the slot next week. Given Melissa McCarthy's Emmy win, that show might have performed even better following the debut of the Kutch, not that CBS is complaining.)
The halo effect from Two And A Half Men even extended to the hour of How I Met Your Mother that aired before it, which pulled in 11 million viewers for the first half hour and 12.22 million for the second episode. The latter half-hour is now the show's most-watched episode ever, which just seems strange. Future generations looking over Wikipedia's ratings breakdowns may well wonder if our time was just in need of badly green-screened Martin Short cameos or something. The only show on CBS to not benefit from the excitement? Hawaii Five-0, which was down from last year's premiere (which was, admittedly, the pilot), with but 12.19 million viewers.
Where CBS easily won the night, that episode of Hawaii Five-0 was beaten by the season premiere of ABC's Castle, which proved that resolving a big cliffhanger will almost always land you a solid audience, in this case an audience of 13.28 million. ABC hung in there against the CBS competition overall, as Dancing With The Stars landed just over 19 million viewers. NBC, however, tanked, with The Sing-Off grabbing just 5.3 million viewers despite being a fairly significant hit for the network last year. Its highly promoted The Playboy Club followed that up with but 5.02 million viewers, making those of you who had the show as your pick in the "first cancellation of the fall" sweepstakes extremely happy, until you realized that, well, this is NBC, and they really have nothing else going for them. (Those of you who've been waiting to make "NBC is terrible!" jokes can start hauling those out of cold storage right about now.) Both The CW and Fox mostly avoided the carnage, the former airing reruns and the latter airing the Hell's Kitchen finale, choosing to save its heavily promoted "Dinosaurs are fun!" show Terra Nova until next week.
Even Comedy Central got in on the fun. The Charlie Sheen roast proved the most popular roast in the network's history, pulling in 6.4 million viewers, most of whom were probably hosting big Charlie Sheen-themed parties and splitting into "Team Sheen" and "Team Kutcher" camps. What? More people didn't do that? Well now we just feel weird.