UPDATE MONDAY: I’ve got more information on the shrouded-in-secrecy ninth-season premiere of CBS’ comedy Two and a Half Men, which will feature the debut of new star Ashton Kutcher and which I now hear will be a two-parter. I have been able to confirm that Charlie Sheen’s character Charlie Harper is indeed dead and the season premiere will feature his funeral. Charlie’s girlfriends will come back for the occasion, and his house indeed will be put on the market. The episode will feature potential buyers coming to see the house (as I reported earlier, the list is expected to include real-life celebrities and stars from Men co-creator Chuck Lorre’s other series), with Ashton Kutcher among them. However, I hear he will not be the rightful owner of Charlie Harper’s digs by the end of the premiere episode, with the storyline expected to be extended into Episode 2. As part of CBS and Men producer Warner Bros. TV’s efforts to keep details of the premiere under wraps, I hear the cast has been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, something potential audience members for the Friday taping will be required to do too.
PREVIOUS SUNDAY 6 PM: Speculation over the plot of the rebooted Two and a Half Men is expected to go into overdrive next week when production on the upcoming ninth season begins. Co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre has been mum on the setup for Two and a Half Men 2.0 and the way new star Ashton Kutcher will be introduced to the series. In keeping with the secrecy, I hear the cast members of the show were supposed to get their scripts for the season opener on Friday night, only two days before the Monday table read. As for what is in the script, the few in the know are keeping details close to the vest, but I hear that the Malibu beachfront house where Charlie Sheen’s character Charlie Harper lived with his brother (Jon Cryer) and nephew (Angus T. Jones) is put up for sale. Word is that a number of real-life Hollywood celebrities, including stars from other current and/or previous Lorre series, may tour the house, possibly joined by Kutcher. (It is unclear whether he will play a character or himself.) As for Charlie Harper, there has been speculation that Lorre won’t be able to resists killing off the character after being verbally savaged (and sued) by the actor who played him. The signs point in that direction — the Season 9 premiere is expected to feature all or most of Harper’s numerous ex-girlfriends. In terms of production next week, I hear that attendance at the table read will be kept to a bare minimum, but the Friday taping will be done in front of a live audience, not on a closed set. Still, I hear that some key scenes may be filmed separately with no audience and that producers will try to prevent leaks as much as they can, including banning press from the taping. But keeping details under wraps will be virtually impossible in the era of texting and Twitter.