I've had close encounters with both guys and here's my prognosis: Even if California's ex-governor gets divorced from Kennedy doyenne Maria Shriver and even if the jokes land with a thud next September on CBS's most popular sitcom, Schwarzenegger and Kutcher will survive.
Kutcher first: FOX TV threw an insane party for his other sitcom, That '70s Show, just before the series launched back in 1998. Cosmos were imbibed. Notes were taken. Notes were lost. Tape recorded interviews swerved into incoherent blasts of white noise and clinking glasses.
But this I remember: Perky Mila Kunis was baby-fat cute and friendly but it was this gangly Iowa farm boy who really got the place hopping. Loose-limbed, lanky, talking a mile a minute, Kutcher generated a high-spirited brand of magnetic pep and it wasn't just the cocktails speaking. Even then, Kutcher had star quality.
More importantly, Kutcher has proved himself a go-getter of the first magnitude. He made ten movies in three years and though most of them weren't very good, the actor escaped network TV ghetto and redefined himself as a movie actor. He also created MTV's Punk'd. He re-invented Twitter as a celebrity confessional/self-exposure tool. He stayed out of trouble despite tabloid fascination with his marriage to Demi Moore.
So, can Kutcher replace Sheen?
After seven seasons of training in '70s Show's TV comedy boot camp, Kutcher can slam dunk punchlines in his sleep. Whether viewers will buy the well-behaved family man as a free-wheeling playboy remains to be seen. Either way, flop-proof Kutcher will keep tweeting.
Like Kutcher, Schwarzenegger made his share of mediocre movies and lived to tell about it. One of them was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. To hype the sequel in 2003, he came tooling around the corner of a baking hot Los Angeles production lot on a golfing cart, cigar jutting out of his gleaming chompers, and strolled over to my table for a chat.
Schwarzenegger's charm can't be underestimated, especially when he leans within a few inches of your face and flashes the Mother of All Teutonic Grins. But even in close quarters he refused to come clean about every reporter's first question: was he getting into politics?
Schwarzenegger non-replied, "When I promote a movie that costs $178 million, it would be unfair to the movie to start making confusion by putting two messages out there - a political message and selling my movie. I don't do that because I'm too much of a professional, therefore I stay on message, which is Terminator, Terminator, Terminator."
Weeks later - after Terminator 3 opened - Schwarzenegger announced he'd be running for governor of California.
Whatever happens next in his private life, remember this: Schwarzenegger is a world class salesman. He will forge ahead and keep the agenda on his terms. Like his son Patrick tweeted earlier this week: "Small speed bump in life, luckily we own hummers, we will cruise right over it."