CBS drew a stunning 27.7 million viewers for Ashton Kutcher's debut on "Two and a Half Men" Monday.
The ninth-season premiere drew a 10.3 rating/24 share in the prized 18-49 demographic, and was easily the most-viewed episode in the show's history. It was also the highest-rated show on television since the Feb. 27 Academy Awards, which had an 11.7 rating and 37.6 million total viewers.
The show boosted the 9:30 p.m. premiere of "2 Broke Girls," which had a 7/16 and 19.1 million total viewers, according to preliminary numbers. It was the most-watched fall comedy premiere in a decade.
The night's other premiere — NBC's "The Playboy Club" — tanked with a 1.6/4 and 5 million total viewers. It tied the now canceled "Crusoe" for NBC's lowest-rated fall drama premiere ever.
"Two and a Half Men" drew plenty of people curious about how the show would deal with Charlie Sheen's exit and whether Kutcher would gel with his castmates. But if it can keep even half of its season premiere viewers, it will easily remain television's biggest sitcom.
CBS, the night's top-rated network, started the night with an hour of the returning "How I Met Your Mother." It scored a 4.7/13 and 11.3 million total viewers in its first half hour and 5.1/13 and 12.2 million in its second. At 10, "Hawaii 5-0" was down 51 percent from "Girls," scoring a 3.4/8 and 12 million.
ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" was the fifth highest-rated show of the night, behind the CBS comedies. Airing from 8-10, its season premiere had a 3.9/10 and 18.6 million total viewers. The season premiere of "Castle" at 10 had a 3.3/8 and 13.6 million total viewers.
NBC's "The Sing Off" from 8-10 couldn't provide much of a lead-in for "The Playboy Club" — it had a 1.9/5 and 5.2 million total viewers.
Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" had a 2.5/7 and at 8 and a 2.6/6 at 9. It averaged 5.9 million total viewers in both hours.
The CW ran repeats.
"Girls," which CBS has said was its best-testing pilot ever, looks strong going into fall. But it will have to move into a new 8:30 timeslot next week, when "How I Met Your Mother" won't give it as big a lead-in as "Men" did.
And big debut ratings are no guarantee of long-term success: The most watched fall comedy premiere prior to its debut Monday — NBC's "Inside Schwartz" — had 22.5 million viewers after an episode of friends in September 2001. But it was canceled after nine episodes.
The "Men" premiere, meanwhile, had the best ratings for a scripted premiere since "Desperate Housewives" in September 2005.