By James Hibberd
Updated May 13, 2011 at 04:41 PM EDT

It’s official: Ashton Kutcher has replaced Charlie Sheen as the star of CBS’ Two and a Half Men.

Kutcher joins returning stars Jon Cryer, Angus T. Jones, Holland Taylor, Marin Hinkle and Conchata Ferrell on the top-rated series, which will be back on the air next fall. Production starts this summer.

“I can’t wait to get to work with this ridiculously talented 2.5 team and I believe we can fill the stage with laughter that will echo in viewers’ homes,” said Kutcher in a statement. “I can’t replace Charlie Sheen but I’m going to work my ass off to entertain the hell out of people!”

Kutcher will reportedly earn nearly $1 million an episode to join the hit series. It’s not clear whether the salary includes any backend profits from reruns but it’s still hundreds of thousands more than what any A-list star would earn to join a show.

“We are so lucky to have someone as talented, joyful and just plain remarkable as Ashton joining our family,” said Chuck Lorre, creator and executive producer of the show. “Added to that is the deep sigh of relief knowing that our family stays together. If I was any happier, it’d be illegal.”

CBS and Warner Bros. searched for a well-known name to fill Sheen’s shoes, with Hugh Grant coming closest to signing onto the show before dropping out earlier this week. Kutcher has plenty of sitcom experience from his days on That ’70s Show, though the Fox series was more of an ensemble whereas on Men the actor will have to perform a large amount of the comedic heavy lifting.

Since word of his casting leaked yesterday, fans have debated whether he’s a good choice for the role, but the main issue is having anybody other than Sheen starring in a hit show that was, to some extent, built around his persona.

“Ashton is a pop culture triple threat—film star, cutting-edge producer and a social media pioneer,” added Nina Tassler, President, CBS Entertainment. “He brings creativity, energy and personality to everything he touches.”

“Ashton Kutcher brings a new and distinctive comedic flavor to Two and a Half Men,” said Peter Roth, President, Warner Bros. Television. “We look forward to a great future for this revamped and reenergized show.”

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Two and a Half Men

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