Charlie Sheen's spectacular departure earlier this year, which was lived out on the pages of TMZ rather than a Lorre script, looked like it would be the end for the mightily successful sitcom.
Lorre and CBS, however, had other ideas. Enter stage right, Ashton Kutcher.
Sheen's King of the bachelors Charlie Harper has been pushed under a subway in Paris, leaving Alan and Jake Harper without a home. After some brief cameos from John Stamos, Dharma and Greg's Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson, Kutcher's depressed, divorced, but super-rich Walden Schmidt comes to the Harper family's rescue.
Walden is a hard character to get a handle on in the first episode. He emerges literally from within a cloud of Charlie Harper's ashes, downtrodden, suicidal and unloved. He ends the show naked, a homeowner and a hit with the ladies - Charlie Harper Version 2.0 in other words.
Kutcher and Jon Cryer double-team nicely, while Kutcher recaptures the warmth that brought him mainstream appeal in Dude, Where's My Car? and That 70s Show. It will be interesting to see how Angus T Jones (is he still the half man?) fits into the relationship, as he was largely absent from the episode apart from a few fart gags at Charlie's wake.
However, episode one of the ninth season was less about saying hello to Ashton Kutcher and more about saying goodbye to Charlie Sheen.
While he was being roasted by fellow celebirities on Comedy Central, Lorre and his team of writers took revenge on the 'Tiger Blood' drinker.
Of course, the gags could have been about Charlie Harper, but viewers can make their own minds up on whether there was any vengeance in lines such as "His body exploded like a balloon full of meat" (the description at the funeral of Charlie's death) or "I only had to give him clean sheets and hose down the vomit off the occasional drug-addled hooker" (housekeeper Berta's assessment of life with Charlie).
Kutcher stripping off (twice) and the information that he is "hung like an elephant" could also be read as a snipe at Sheen, demonstrating that the show has a new, younger, better-looking model.
Even Charlie Harper's ashes are treated with disdain, sucked up in a dustbuster.
The revelation that he wanted his ashes to be "swallowed by Pamela Anderson" also doesn't seem too far fetched after some of Sheen's more unusual TV appearances at the start of the year.
It's too early to call whether Two and a Half Men has been given a new lease of life by Kutcher, but the early signs are promising. Lorre's sharp one-liners remain chiselled and the absence of Charlie Harper's boozing and misogyny is barely noticeable. Sheen's implosion may just turn out to be a blessing for a show that was starting to look tired in its ninth year on air.
Two and a Half Men airs on Mondays at 9/8c on CBS. Ashton Kutcher's debut airs in the UK tonight at 9pm on Comedy Central