NEW YORK – Pressed by a deadline to keep TV’s most popular sitcom alive after it was derailed by Charlie Sheen’s personal troubles, CBS and Warner Bros. Television said Friday that Ashton Kutcher will replace Sheen in “Two and a Half Men.”

The show resumes production this summer and will be on CBS’ schedule in the fall, with Kutcher playing a new character, not Sheen’s Charlie Harper.

The deal apparently came together quickly, following reports earlier this week that negotiations with film actor Hugh Grant to join the show had fallen through. Kutcher is familiar to television audiences through his role on Fox’s “That 70s Show,” film roles like the romantic comedy “No Strings Attached” and for producing and hosting the prank show “Punk’d.”

A deadline on deciding whether the show would continue was looming, with CBS set to unveil its fall schedule to advertisers in New York next Wednesday.

Kutcher is not as well known as Sheen but is 12 years younger and has a huge following of fans who check in on his every utterance on Twitter. He said Friday he believes that “we can fill the stage with laughter that will echo in viewers’ homes.

“I can’t replace Charlie Sheen but I’m going to work my ass off to entertain the hell out of people,” Kutcher said.

Kutcher’s quote was the only mention of Sheen in Friday’s news release. Warner cut short the show’s eighth season and fired Sheen two months ago following his public implosion through hard partying and angry criticism of show creator Chuck Lorre.

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

Sheen advised Kutcher: “Enjoy planet Chuck. … There is no air, laughter, loyalty or love there.”

Dylan denies reports that Chinese censored his set lists

Bob Dylan doesn’t understand all the fuss about his tour last month in China.

In a brief letter posted Friday on his website, www.bobdylan.com, the singer-songwriter disputed reports that he had originally been denied permission to perform in the country or that government officials had censored his play list.

“As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing,” Dylan wrote. “There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous three months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.”

In a column published April 9, The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd criticized Dylan for not singing such protest anthems as “The Times They Are a-Changin,”‘ and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Dylan, she wrote, “sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left.”

Stewart to host O’Reilly in debate over rapper’s White House invite

Bill O’Reilly wants to rap with Jon Stewart.

The host of Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” has invited the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” as a guest Monday. Fox News said Friday that O’Reilly and Stewart will debate the invitation for Grammy Award-winning rapper Common to perform at a White House poetry night.

O’Reilly has criticized Common’s presence at Wednesday’s event. He says some of Common’s lyrics celebrate violence.