Whenever Charlie Sheen makes the kind of shocking headlines like he did on Thursday, the attention always turns to the home of — and the producers behind — Two and A Half Men and what role, if any, they should play in his recovery. The answer is a significant one, even though attempts made by CBS and Warner Bros. TV have apparently fallen on deaf ears.
Here’s what we know: Representatives from both companies have recently approached Sheen with offers to temporarily halt production so the actor/father can seek the help that he needs. (Sheen, who was rushed to the hospital Thursday after complaining of severe stomach pains, went home later that evening.) Clearly, both companies are looking to protect their investment: Averaging 14.7 million viewers, Men is the most-watched comedy on TV and commands well north of $200,000 per 30-second spot in advertising rates. As for WBTV, the production company not only has a deal in place with CBS to deliver Men episodes through 2012, it recently closed a rich new syndication pact to deliver Men reruns to Tribune and Sinclair TV stations through 2021.
Then, there’s the 300-plus cast and crew members on the WBTV lot who rely on Men for their livelihoods.
Apparently, the studio developed a scenario in which it could deliver fewer episodes — or even do some without the actor — so he could address his health. Unfortunately, the 45-year-old actor declined the offer — and there’s not much CBS or WBTV can do as a result. Legally, the hands of the companies seem to be tied: As long as Sheen is showing up to work, learning his lines, and continuing to headline the sitcom, he’s not in breach of his contract that pays him well in excess of $1 million an episode, a key source informs EW. So-called moral clauses in contracts are rare in TV, and one doesn’t exist in Sheen’s multi-million dollar deal, EW has confirmed.
It’s not clear what Sheen’s union can do, if anything, to lend a helping hand. A representative for the Screen Actors Guild declined to comment.
If Sheen were no longer available to make the show, Men would be history. “I don’t see Two and A Half Men going to One and A Half Men,” admits one insider.
Strangely, Sheen’s health and off-screen behavior never seems to hurt his top-rated show. Now in its eighth season, Two and Half Men remains TV’s No. 1 comedy and consistently wins its timeslot in the all-important 18-49 demographic. Though TMZ (which, like Entertainment Weekly, is a subsidiary of Time Warner) continues to crank out salacious headlines about Sheen’s sexual proclivities, many TV viewers remain blissfully unaware of his private antics. If they do know about them, they don’t seem to care: A recent Harris Poll lists Sheen as the sixth most popular TV actor, behind CBS star Mark Harmon (who’s No. 1) but ahead of David Letterman (who’s at No. 9).
And as some insiders note, Sheen only seems to get into trouble when he is not working. Thursday’s incident occurred during a scheduled hiatus of Men. The show is set to resume production on Tuesday and Sheen’s spokesman said he will be there.
Still, that doesn’t mean CBS and WBTV shouldn’t play a key role in helping to protect one of their most valuable assets. “There seem to be a lot of red flags blowing in the midst of a hurricane, but what those flags mean for Charlie Sheen is still open to interpretation,” says William C. Moyers, a vice president at Hazelden, the addiction treatment center in Minnesota. “The people who care most about Charlie — his family, his friends, his employer — at some point need to stick together and say enough is enough. But at the end of the day, only Charlie Sheen can take action and address whatever haunts him.”
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