It's been one of the most popular shows on TV for eight seasons, but who would have thought that on the eve of its ninth, it would be one of the most controversial? And yet here we are - a few months removed from Charlie Sheen's public meltdown, his fire-spewing tit-for-tat with "Men" creator Chuck Lorre, and the eventual nationwide live tour. The dust has settled, Sheen has been replaced by actor Ashton Kutcher, and the world awaits to see whether Sheen was the real draw of the show or if the adventures of one and a half Harpers can go on regardless of who's in the middle.
We've heard the rumors, we've watched as the stars have made the talk show rounds teasing the new season, but here's what we think will go down while Comedy Central is busy roasting Sheen as a novel bit of counter-programming.
5. The show will open with Charlie's funeral
This is a "no duh," of course, since this has been the worst kept secret of all time. Sheen himself has even casually talked about it, mentioning that "there is no urn" when asked by "Today" host Matt Lauer if her could ever return for a guest appearance. The buzz is that Sheen dies when he falls (is pushed?) onto metro train tracks while vacationing in Paris…and the term "meat explosion" has been tossed around. There's always a chance for a last minute, pre-premiere tweak as far as the death details, but you can absolutely bank on the fact that this wacky featherweight comedy will open with…a funeral. Yay!
4. There will be a cliffhanger
Kutcher's character, lonely internet billionaire Walden Schmidt, will be introduced in the premiere, but the show is going to be coy about how and when he actually moves in with Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones. Maybe…he WON'T! It could happen, you know, if you ignore the thousands of dollars they are paying Kutcher per episode, the ad campaigns, the new show opening….but, hey, it'll be suspenseful. Kinda.
3. Two and a Half Men 2.0: The Rise of Angus
The old "Men" dynamic was Underachieving Kid/Nebbish Dad/Horndog Uncle. With Schmidt being described as handsome but awkward around women, the much-needed "irrepressibly randy creep" element is missing. Or is it? Angus T. Jones, this is your moment. You're no longer the cherubic little porker - You are, what, 35 now? You've thinned out, you have grown up less awkwardly than Haley Joel Osment. Time to let your inner Sex Panther roar. Someone has to keep the parade of model-turned-actress hopefuls coming through the door.
2. Twitter will be a running joke
Not sure if you know this, but Ashton Kutcher is the King of Twitter (self-proclaimed). He was into that, like, waaaaay back in Halcyon Days of 2006, when tweets were burned into wood pieces and floated down rivers until people (called "Followers") plucked them from the water and giggled at their wit. Seeing as he's playing a character who made his billionaires on the internet (never mind how - it's the internet), the stage is set for Kutcher to indulge in his two greatest loves: Self promotion and re-tweeting that self promotion.
1. Before Schmidt, it will be cameo-central
Chuck Lorre wouldn't possibly pass up a chance for even more publicity, so perhaps he'll make Walden just one of many possible suitors for the Harper household. And who better to make up the suitor roster than every actor who has been rumored to replace Sheen since Sheen flamed out? We're talking….<deep breath>….John Stamos, Richard Greico, Scott Baio, David Arquette, Bob Saget, Woody Harrelson, Jeremy Piven, Gary Busey, Emilio Estevez, and, erm, David Hasselhoff. It would make the first episode of season nine the best episode of "House Hunters" ever.
1/2. Demi Moore will cameo
We give it half a season before she shows up. Book it.
"Two and a Half Men" season nine premieres tonight at 9 PM ET