LOS ANGELES – Move over, Raymond - here comes "Two and a Half Men." (search)
The CBS (search) sitcom notched a best-ever 19.1 million viewers Monday night - continuing to strengthen its position as the heir apparent to departing network stablemate "Everybody Loves Raymond," (search) which ends its long run in May as TV's top-rated sitcom.
"It's certainly making a very good case for itself - creatively and in terms of ratings," says Wendy Trilling, executive VP of comedy development at CBS.
"The fact that its numbers are actually going up from 'Raymond' pretty regularly is impressive," Trilling says. "There haven't been any decisions made about next year, but it's showing every sign [of taking over for 'Raymond']."
Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer star in "Men," now in its second season, as two mismatched brothers thrown together when Alan (Cryer) moves in with older brother Charlie (Sheen) at his posh beach house after his marriage busts up.
Angus Jones plays Alan's young son, Jake, while Holland Taylor plays the brothers' manipulative mom, Evelyn.
Monday's top-rated episode featured a guest-starring turn by Sheen's real-life wife, Denise Richards (hey, it is November sweeps after all). "This show is a bona fide hit ... and CBS has no worries about the 9 p.m. Monday timeslot next season [when 'Raymond' goes away]," says industry analyst Marc Berman of Mediaweek.
" 'Two and a Half Men' isn't like 'Becker,' which was a timeslot hit," Berman says. "It maintains its lead-in and builds on it - and CBS lucked out because they can slide ['Men'] into the 9 p.m. slot. Do you know how fortunate they are to have that?"
"Men," which was warmly received by critics when it bowed last season, has continued to build its audience.
This season, it's averaging 16.4 million viewers, up 3 percent over last year (not including Monday's episode) - and is also up 8 percent in the coveted adults 18-49 demo.
"The chemistry between Cryer and Sheen is good and the show added Conchata Ferrell this year [as Charlie's housekeeper] - and she brings a lot to the show," Berman says. "It's like a new version of 'The Odd Couple.'"
Left to right: Charlie Sheen, Angus Jones and Jon Cryer look like they're "Men" enough to wear the comedy crown as "Raymond's" reign comes to an end.