Ashton Kutcher, elusive 'Internet billionaire'

Ashton Kutcher's "Two and a Half Men" character has a name: Walden Schmidt.

And he's "an Internet billionaire," according to CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler, who Wednesday morning was refusing to confirm or deny that the new season would begin by killing off Charlie Sheen's character, Charlie Harper.

"It's going to be a big event and the chatter and the conversation is a part of what the fun of it can be," said Tassler, who can probably be forgiven at this point for thinking of the death of Sheen's alter-ego as fun.

But as thrilled as CBS says it is about Kutcher as a replacement, he's not been brought in to face the Television Critics Association' semiannual grillfest (though Ted Danson, who's joining "CSI," will be here).

When I asked Tassler why we weren't getting to talk to Kutcher, she said the show's in production.

So, of course, are half the shows on television at the moment, and while it's inarguably expensive to shut down production for even a few hours, most networks arrange to do it for events like this.

Tassler's argument: There's just too much riding on this first episode of the season.

When you walked on to the set on Monday, she said, "You could cut the air with a knife."

Asked by another reporter if the network had put any policies in place for the future to deal with actors who exhibited "erratic behavior," Tassler quipped: "That would probably be every actor in the business. That would be a little hard."

Ultimately, "I don't think [the fallout from Sheen's public meltdown and firing] would change the way we employ actors."