Pasadena - A clean-cut Ashton Kutcher said on Wednesday that he's interested in continuing with Two and a Half Men beyond this season - and CBS wants him, too.
Kutcher's addition to television's most popular comedy following star Charlie Sheen's implosion was a grand experiment that has worked out better than CBS or the producers could have dreamed.
The show is up 20% in viewers over Sheen's final season, the Nielsen ratings company said, and Kutcher has also brought in a younger crowd.
"I've had a blast," said Kutcher, who plays the heartbroken Walden Schmidt. "Since I stopped doing That '70s Show I've always wanted to go back and do television."
Kutcher appeared at a news conference without the long hair and beard he has worn this season. It was cut as part of the plot in an episode of Two and a Half Men that airs on Monday, he said.
Kutcher will be working on movies after filming for this season of Two and a Half Men concludes, but "right now I'm looking at it as a hiatus", he said.
CBS would have to strike a new deal with actors and producers to continue the show beyond this season. All parties seem interested in working it out, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said.
"In spirit and intent, everybody is very motivated," she said.
'Why not try?'
Series creator Chuck Lorre said he gave thought to ending the series after Sheen left last season and couldn't imagine it continuing. But CBS and his co-creator, Lee Aronsohn, nudged him to continue.
"Lee said, 'Why not try? If we fail, no one would be physically harmed,'" Lorre said. "It seemed like such a heartbreaking way to end, and we didn't want it to, so we said let's keep the light on."
Writers were able to change the tone by making Kutcher's character a heartbroken Internet billionaire who has everything he wants except the woman he loves. Jon Cryer, who played Sheen's annoying little brother, is now Schmidt's older friend. It was all a welcome tone change, Aronsohn said.
"It's been a lot of fun and a challenge to create a different show with a lot of the same elements," he said.
Lorre, who was the target of sharp barbs from Sheen last spring after he was fired, said he wished his former star well.
"I really do," he said. "I'm glad he's sober and I think it's terrific."