Charlie Sheen? Though Chuck Lorre created Men with Sheen solely in mind, there are plenty of scribes in the network comedy business who think the executive producer would be crazy to give up now on TV’s No. 1 comedy.Spin City did it. So did 8 Simple Rules, Cheers, NewsRadio, and Hogan’s Family. Even The Office wants to try its luck without Michael Scott. So should Two and a Half Men move ahead sans
“Even if they lose a quarter of their audience, it’ll still be a hit, so they’d be crazy not to try to replace him,” says one veteran showrunner with a hit comedy on cable. “In my experience, change is good creatively for a show. Look at Cheers or Law & Order. The challenge of reinventing a show is a positive thing.”
Adds an Emmy-winning scribe on an NBC series: “A lot of people have worked very hard on that show for a lot of years. They’ve earned the right to at least give it a go. If it doesn’t work, then call it quits. But at least give it a try.”
Even one source close to the long-running comedy is quietly hoping that Lorre will feel empowered to continue with a ninth season, just based on some of Sheen’s insensitive comments over the last two weeks. (Among the actor’s many criticisms of the showrunner that helped to make him a star, Sheen called Lorre a clown and “a stupid, stupid little man.”) Lorre, regrettably, has not defended himself to the media.
For now, insiders say it’s still too early to predict what Lorre and Warner Bros. TV will want to do, so provocative headlines about how Rob Lowe or John Stamos may be up to the task to replace Sheen are premature — if not so wrong. (Would Charlie’s harpy mother Evelyn want to spar with a guy she also happens to find immensely adorable?) But we already know CBS topper Les Moonves would like to see more episodes. Addressing a Morgan Stanley technology conference in San Francisco last week, the chairman said, “I hope it’s back.”
But will Moonves want to see the network’s pact for a ninth season of Men renegotiated now that Sheen is gone? Though the network reportedly pays $4 million per episode, CBS might be able to argue that the comedy has lost some luster now that its lead is history. Then again, has it — or will it? Interest in the comedy is as strong as ever: Last night’s rerun of Men, for example, attracted 10.1 million viewers and was the second-most-watched show for the night behind an original episode of House. The promise of a new season of Men without Sheen could attract a whole new level of rubberneckers during the 2011-12 season.
Most of the EW.com readers who took our poll — 43 percent — thought Men should go on without Sheen. Have an opinion yourself? To place your vote, click here.
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