Almost 28 million viewers tuned in to see the Two and a Half Men season 9 premiere, no doubt spurred by a macabre fascination at Charlie Sheen’s departure and Ashton Kutcher’s arrival. Elsewhere, NBC’s The Playboy Club did poorly in its debut.

The extremely public fight between former Two And A Half Men star Sheen and series creator Chuck Lorre has been news fodder for the last six months. Sheen was fired from the most popular comedy in the country and replaced with Ashton Kutcher. The undeniably vindictive manner in which Sheen’s character was given the boot didn’t help matters.

Public interest in the CBS comedy soared to even greater heights as Sheen continued to lambast his former boss at every opportunity. The combination of loyal fans and lookie-loos checking out Ashton Kutcher’s first episode made for an incredible rating of 27.8 million viewers, with 10.3 million in the key 18-49 demographic. Truly, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

The premiere of Two And A Half Men is the highest-rated scripted show in years, narrowly besting the 2011 Super Bowl episode of Glee for total viewership (Glee still beat it for prime viewers with over 11 million). However, both critical reaction and audience feedback have been overwhelmingly negative – CBS may have a hard time keeping the show’s viewership up to even its former levels.

CBS undoubtedly carried the premiere night of the broadcast 2011-2012 season. The two lead-in episodes of How I Met Your Mother scored 11.3 and 12.2 million viewers respectively, with a maximum key viewership of 5.1 million. Immediately following Two And A Half Men, the series premiere of Two Broke Girls scored an excellent 19 million viewers (7 million in the key demo) making great use of its high-profile lead-in. Hawaii Five-0‘s season two premiere scored 12 million viewers, a better-than-average showing for the rebooted series.

ABC’s two-hour premiere of Dancing With The Stars maintained over 18 million viewers, but less than four million were in the 18-49 range. Castle, now starting its fourth year, won 14.4 total viewers at its highest point, but likewise topped out at 3.4 million key viewers.

NBC continues its downward slide among the big four networks (Fox sat the night out, showing only the Hell’s Kitchen finale among reruns). The two-hour premiere of reality show The Sing-Off peaked at 5.7 million viewers. Even more disheartening, NBC’s expensive and much-hyped period piece The Playboy Club scored only 5 million total viewers in its series premiere, with just 1.6 million in the key demo – only 4% of its 10:00 time-slot viewership.

For a quick look at all the new Fall TV shows, check out Screen Rant’s 2011 Fall Television Preview.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelCrider

Source: TV By The Numbers