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Five Hit Shows That Replaced Stars—and Remained Hits

Ashton Kutcher, Charlie Sheen Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images; Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

It's official: The question is no longer will Ashton Kutcher replace Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men, it's can he successfully replace Sheen. 

We've already argued Men will survive without the Warlock. And now we're giving you five more reasons why—in the form of five more series that pulled off star switcheroos. Successfully, of course: 

RELATED: Kutcher vows to work his "ass off"

NYPD BLUE, Jimmy Smits RANDY HOLMES/ABC

1. Jimmy Smits for David Caruso on NYPD Blue: This law-and-order show wasn't no Law & Order. In Caruso, it had produced a minor sex symbol. And so when the breakout star broke away after the first season, fretting ensued. Then Smits arrived, picked up five Emmy nominations and kept on keeping on…

2. Rick Schroder for Smits on NYPD Blue: …He, that is, Smits, exited in 1998. Now, surely, a star-driven show couldn't survive two major star defections, could it? Oh, yes, Mr. Sheen, it could. In fact, NYPD Blue survived three star defections, with Mark-Paul Gosselaar helping lead the show to four more seasons after Schroder himself opted to leave. 

Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Donato Sardella/WireImage.com

3. Steven Tyler and/or Jennifer Lopez for Simon Cowell on American Idol: To be honest, we're not sure which one replaced the Dark Knight. Maybe neither did. All we know is Idol is still TV's No. 1 (and No. 2) show, which leads us to ask: (1) whether the judges were ever the star; (2) whether you can really, truly know a show's star until the presumed big dog leaves; and, (3) whether any of this gives Mr. Sheen further pause.  

4. Kirstie Alley for Shelley Long on Cheers: You think Bewitched had it hard, having to recast Darren and hoping nobody would notice and/or care? You think Spin City had it tough, having to replace the beloved Michael J. Fox with the checkered Sheen? Try being Cheers, and having to reconfigure, reimagine and redo a show that, at its heart, had been about Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Long). Men's Chuck Lorre and Kutcher would be wise to determine where the show went right because, in the end, Cheers ran longer without Diane/Long than it had with the character or the actress. 

5. Cheryl Ladd for Farrah Fawcett in Charlie's Angels: Fawcett was the Caruso of the 1970s, except much, much bigger. But for all her poster-selling powers, she wasn't bigger than Aaron Spelling's killer concept. Angels explained Fawcett's absence with a couple of lame lines in the first minutes of season two ("She's in Spain right now. She's practicing for a big race."), and went jiggling on its way.

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