WASHINGTON (AFP) - Hit US television sitcom Two And A Half Men has signed off after 12 seasons, with a finale in which the show's volatile former star Charlie Sheen was everywhere, yet nowhere.
Sheen was famously fired from the show after going on a weeks-long, drug-fuelled bender that became daily fodder for Hollywood gossip magazines.
After going on the attack against the show's creator Chuck Lorre, his character - hedonistic advertising jingle writer Charlie Harper - was killed off in season nine, opening the way for film star Ashton Kutcher to step into a new lead role.
But there was another plot twist in Thursday's hour-long swan song double episode.
It emerged that Harper had, in fact, been alive all along and out for revenge after escaping from a basement well where his "widow" kept him captive.
Many of the characters featured during the previous 260 episodes got a mention in a plot centred on Harper's real whereabouts, and Arnold Schwarzenegger made a cameo turn as a police lieutenant.
Sheen himself, however, was a no-show, despite an invitation from Lorre.
The star - a serial rehab patient - had been asked to return as "a ninja warrior from Mars" who rants about drug abuse and then dies under a falling piano.
"We were very well aware there was this desire (among fans) to see him, but it didn't work out. And what can you do?" Lorre told Entertainment Weekly magazine.
Sheen, 49, who now stars in the FX television adaptation of the 2003 movie Anger Management, got in the last word on his Twitter account, hinting at an upcoming cameo on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs.
"I go where the love is," he told his 11.4 million followers.
Two And A Half Men, which also starred Jon Cryer as Harper's chiropractor brother, has long been among the most popular comedies on US television.
According to early Nielsen ratings data, Thursday's finale pulled 13.2 million viewers - about on par with the premiere of CBS's reboot of The Odd Couple starring Matthew Perry of Friends fame.
Seen in more than 50 countries abroad, Two And A Half Men will enjoy immortality in the United States thanks to syndicated re-runs.