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On the Scene of 'Two and A Half Men': No goodbye speeches, just 'business as usual'

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charlie-sheen2Image Credit: Armando Gallo/RetnaIf April 9 was Charlie Sheen’s last day on Two and A Half Men, there was no sign of it on the Burbank soundstage where the sitcom shot its seventh season finale. One attendee who spoke to EW.com described the taping as “business as usual.”  The cast got a standing ovation before and after the taping and no one gave any sort of goodbye speech – at least not in front of the studio audience.  A season-ender wrap party, which is customary, was scheduled for the night of April 10.

Earlier Friday, People.com posted a statement from Sheen that hinted that the taping – which marks the end of his current contract – could be his last. “If tonight’s show is the end for me as Charlie Harper, so be it. Another journey has begun. I take from the experience 161 shows filled with a kaleidoscope of amazing experiences, memories, friendships and gratitude. I remain humbly inspired.”

Sheen went on to explain that “approaching the start of the current season and as far back as June ‘09, I submitted my terms for season eight to Warner Bros. and CBS respectfully.”  And yet Sheen did not indicate any plans to outright quit the show that’s made him the highest paid actor in primetime – which have led many in Hollywood to assume that he is holding out for an even bigger payday. Warner Bros. TV had reportedly offered him nearly $1 million per episode, up from the $850,000 he receives today – though Sheen said the claims were “without merit.” 

“A negotiation ploy is something you do to get the best possible deal,” Sheen’s publicist told People.com. “Charlie told them what he wanted a year ago.”

Sheen is still facing jail time for charges of felony menacing, criminal mischief, and third-degree assault from the dispute with his wife, Brooke Mueller; a trial date has been set for July 21. The 44-year-old can afford to take a step out of the spotlight, especially since he has a stake in Men’s syndication profits (not to mention the $18 million or so he raked in for this season). And it certainly would not be unprecedented for a sitcom to go on without one of its stars; Laverne & Shirley did it without Cindy Williams in 1982, albeit to painful results.

Any significant change would surely hurt ad sales for Men, which reportedly commands north of $220,000 for a 30-second spot. It could also prompt CBS to bump the show from its 9 p.m. perch on Mondays in favor of The Big Bang Theory. It seems far more likely that Warner Bros. may persuade its volatile star to work an abbreviated schedule in order to assure fans and Madison Avenue that while Sheen may be down, he’s definitely not out.