May 19, 2024

Media Decoder: Studio Eyes a Revised Sitcom Without Sheen

It is not certain that CBS’s hit comedy “Two and a Half Men” will return next season, but the show’s studio, Warner Brothers, confirmed Thursday that it was trying to bring the show back without its original star, Charlie Sheen.

A senior Warner Brothers executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because no deal has been set yet for the new version, confirmed Thursday that Chuck Lorre, the creator of the series, has set to work on a reconstruction of the show’s format.

The executive did not reveal any details of the new format but emphasized that the one definitive aspect of the new effort will be the presence of a new star. “We are not bringing the show back with Charlie,” the executive said.

CBS declined to comment.

The executive also said that Mr. Lorre is actively working on reconfiguring the series around a new star, one who has not yet been hired –- or even selected. “We have no offers out to anyone,” the executive said.

Jon Cryer, left, and Angus T. Jones on “Two and a Half Men,” which could resume.Greg Gayne/Warner Brothers Television Jon Cryer, left, and Angus T. Jones on “Two and a Half Men,” which could resume.

The list of potential actors does not include several of the names that have been floated as possible replacements for Mr. Sheen. The executive specifically ruled out Jeremy Piven of “Entourage,” Woody Harrelson of “Cheers” and Bob Saget of “Full House.”

“Two and a Half Men,” which has been the most watched comedy on television over much of the last decade, suspended production only about two-thirds though the current season because of conflict with Mr. Sheen. His drug-influenced behavior, which had forced previous interruptions in the production, and his disparaging comments about Mr. Lorre, led executives from Warner and from CBS to shut the show down on Feb. 24.

Mr. Sheen then initiated a highly publicized campaign to try to resume the show without Mr. Lorre. He was fired on March 7 and filed suit against Warner Brothers.

More recently, Mr. Sheen has made statements, mainly during a stage tour, indicating he was open to returning to the show with Mr. Lorre back in charge. But those entreaties have gone nowhere, according to both the Warner Brothers executive and an intermediary who has been in contact with Mr. Sheen.

Eliminating Mr. Sheen from the series carries risks because “Two and a Half Men” has been built around his character. He played a somewhat fictionalized version of himself, a bachelor with a taste for women and alcohol.

But Mr. Lorre has one of the most impressive records of any comedy writer in recent years, with two other successful shows on CBS’s schedule, “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike and Molly.”

He will have to work fast, however. CBS announces a new fall schedule on May 18.

“We have about three weeks,” the senior Warner executive said, adding that it is not a sure thing that a new show will come together. “There is a scenario where the show doesn’t come back,” the executive said. But all the parties involved, the studio, the network and Mr. Lorre are committed to trying to keep the show alive, the executive added.

“Things will start to move within the next week, I think,” the executive said.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 28, 2011

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated who Charlie Sheen has filed suit against. He is suing Warner Brothers, not Warner Brothers and CBS.

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