By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Sep 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

I expect enormous ratings tonight at 8 when "Two and a Half Men" kills off  Charlie Sheen's "Charlie Harper" on the same night Sheen is ripped in a roast on Comedy Central at 9.

That's not to say the show will necessarily be a hit, but the replacement of the troubled Sheen with Ashton Kutcher could renovate an aging but still successful sitcom in an unexpected way, bringing a young audience to the show.

As if "Two and a Half Men" needs a promo, here's one from CBS:

It's just one of the questions about the new fall season which launches in earnest tonight. Some new shows and season premieres have dribbled out, bit this is the biggest week of the new season.

And among the biggest gambles: Are network viewers interested in either of a pair of 1960s dramas, starting with NBC's "The Playboy Club" debuting tonight at 9 on Channel 4. The other is ABC's "Pan Am," which starts Sunday night at 9 on Channel 12.

"Mad Men" thrives with a small audience for that stylish 1960s drama on cable's AMC. It's not clear if that interest translates into the much larger audience needed to support a network show.

Also a gamble is Fox's expensive "Terra Nova." With Steven Spielberg's name on the show (as an executive producer, and an elaborate premiere (not coming until next week on Channel 6), it should premiere well. But it's the audience that sticks around in succeeding weeks that counts.

But the biggest Fox gamble is "The X Factor," which moves Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul to a show that's not dramatically different to "American Idol." It's been hyped like crazy, and its performance will be watched closely.

It starts Wednesday at 7 on Channel 6.

The show I'm most hopeful about is Fox's "New Girl" with the likable Zooey Deschanel. This comedy about a modern day "That Girl" starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 6, following ratings powerhouse "Glee."

Here's a little look:

Tonight's new stuff: NBC launches a new season of the a capella "Sing Off" at 7, followed at 9 by the new "Playboy Club," on Channel 4.

  • ABC has the latest run of "Dancing with the Stars" at 7 and  the return of "Castle" at 9 on Channel 12.
  • CBS has two new episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" at 7, followed by "Two and a Half Men" at 8 and the new "2 Broke Girls at 8:30, and the new season of "Hawaii Five-O" at 9 on Channel 58.
  • The CW has the new "H8R" at 7, and Sarah Michelle Gellar's "Ringer," which premiered last week, on Channel 18.

Hoping for a stronger "Community" season: NBC's "Community" barely made it to a third season, so the numbers will have to improve when the show returns Thursday at 7 on Channel 4.

The sitcom, from Milwaukee's Dan Harmon and featuring Marquette grad Danny Pudi, is being beefed up with the addition of beefy John Goodman.

Tell you friends, especially the ones with a quirky sense of humor, to be sure and tune in.

Here's one more advance look:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.