Could Ashton Kutcher not return to "Two and a Half Men?"

LOS ANGELES Jan 11 ( - With Ashton Kutcher leading "Two and a Half Men" to even higher ratings than it earned with Charlie Sheen -- when it was already TV's biggest sitcom -- it seems absurd that he wouldn't return to the show.

But Kutcher's return isn't a lock -- even though he says he'd like to come back for another season. Kutcher said at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Wednesday that he plans to shoot two movies during the summer, which he hopes will be a break between his first and second season on "Men."

"Right now I'm looking at it as a hiatus," he said.

A return will likely include a bigger paycheck. Sheen earned nearly $2 million an episode including syndication payments, and Kutcher earns less than half as much under the one-season contract that brought him to the show.

"The deal that we structured for the show was kind of a test deal: Can we get the show up, can we get it going," Kutcher said. "The show's outperforming the numbers from before I was here, and so I think that people responded to it. For me, having a show that people like and people want more of, that will dictate my decision."

Asked how long the show can go on, show co-creator Chuck Lorre said it was up to CBS's entertainment president.

"That's a question you should ask Nina Tassler," he joked.

Lorre said he "absolutely" considered ending the show when Charlie Sheen was fired, adding, "It was impossible to think of it going forward."

What changed that, he said, was Ashton Kutcher.

"There was clearly interest at CBS to keep this thing going," he said. "And at first it seemed like an impossible ... and maybe slightly ridiculous thing to try to do. ... But we just went, why not try? What's the harm in trying? If we fail, no one will be physically harmed."

"And also no one will be surprised," added co-creator Lee Aronsohn.

(Editing By Zorianna Kit)


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