Can Rebranding Save a Hit Comedy Show?

By Sarah Knight, Copywriter

Within the next few weeks the fall television season will begin, and I must say I am concerned about the fate of Two and a Half Men, one of my all-time favorite shows. After all, actor Charlie Sheen, the sitcom’s main character, found himself ousted from the show last season for his drug use and making disparaging comments about the show’s creator and executive producer.

The good news is rather than giving up on what The New York Times has called “the biggest hit comedy of the past decade,” the creator of Men, Chuck Lorre, has put the show through what I would call a “rebrand” rather than a spin-off. With the original plot gone awry due to Sheen’s unprofessional departure, Lorre and his staff have had no choice but to revamp the series and communicate a differentiated message to viewers. And if not done correctly, the hit show, which was original launched in 2003, will lose current fans and fail to attract enough new viewers to sustain it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, the original premise revolved around a hedonistic, freewheeling jingle writer, Charlie Harper (Sheen), whose life gets complicated when his uptight, divorced brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), and Alan’s growing, underachieving son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), move into his Malibu home.

As the show heads into its ninth season this month, Ashton Kutcher will replace Sheen as the show’s leading man. From what I’ve read, the Sheen character will be killed off and Kutcher’s character, Walden Schmidt, will play a divorcee who becomes roommates with Alan and Jake, and they all three find a way to cope with their losses.

Given that my profession has always revolved around marketing and communications, and DGS specializes in branding, I am curious to see what Lorre and his team have in store for us. All I know is that if the rebrand is going to be successful, they need to convincingly prove that Sheen was not the end-all, be-all of the show. It will also help if viewers are willing to move away from the Men they’ve always known and accept a fresh perspective, which I’m guessing isn’t a problem given Sheen’s bizarre, narcissistic behavior following his dismissal from the show.

However, putting the wrong person “in charge” can really hurt the rebranding process. And with Ashton Kutcher at the helm, I am a little nervous. Although I’ll admit I don’t have anything solid to attribute my angst to other than the fact that Kutcher’s marriage to Demi Moore annoys me. I will give him kudos though for not professing his love for her by strangely jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch.

When it comes to Kutcher, I am obviously the minority because this model-turned-actor was the first Twitter user to have more than 1 million followers. Perhaps this fact helped him land the leading role at Men? Because I’m quite sure his performance in Dude Where’s My Car did not.

Despite my trivial annoyance with Kutcher, I want the show to succeed. I love Jon Cryer’s character and can’t take another mindless reality show where living in Jersey and following the mantra “Gym, Tan, Laundry” is the key to achieving maximum potential everyday. Therefore, I plan on open-mindedly giving Kutcher a chance when the new season of Two and a Half Men airs on September 19.

 

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