Following a stormy month that culminated with wayward star Charlie Sheen attacking his employers in vitriolic public rants Thursday, CBS and Warner Bros. announced that they would cancel the rest of the season of the hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” casting a pall over the fate of TV’s most-watched comedy.
Interviewed on the radio program “The Alex Jones Show,” Sheen, who is said to be vacationing in the Bahamas, called his boss, Executive Producer Chuck Lorre, “a clown,” and referred to him as “Chaim Levine” (Lorre’s birth name is Charles Michael Levine). In a later interview with the website TMZ.com, Sheen said, “I violently hate Chaim Levine,” and accused Lorre of taking money from him.
Within hours, the studio and network issued a joint statement: “Based on the totality of Charlie Sheen’s statements, conduct and condition, CBS and Warner Bros. Television have decided to discontinue production of ‘Two and a Half Men’ for the remainder of the season.”
The decision will put at least 200 show staffers out of work indefinitely, as well as deprive No. 1-ranked CBS of the anchor of its Monday night comedy lineup. Sheen has a deal that carries him through May 2012, although it’s unclear now whether CBS will risk ordering the show again for next season.
The series was supposed to return to production Monday after Sheen — who earns nearly $2 million per episode — completed an unusual home-based rehab program. It was the second time in as many years that the show was forced to halt production due to the star’s substance abuse problems. But producers believed there was still enough time left this season to complete four more episodes, as opposed to the eight more originally scheduled.
But over the last few weeks, Sheen began an escalating series of tirades and bizarre behavior. Earlier this month, he told radio host Dan Patrick that he was ready to return to work but his employers weren’t. He reportedly partied with baseball stars and headed on vacation with his estranged wife, a porn star and a third woman.
Studio and network bosses, who had urged Sheen to enter rehab after a trip to the emergency room last month, relied on addiction specialists who said that the actor could return to work, with the proviso that he continue treatment for months afterward. But the personal attack on Lorre pushed the studio to switch gears.
Shortly after the network and studio announced that they would terminate the season, the gossip website Radaronline quoted Sheen as saying that he would allow it to film his drug test Monday. “That’s how confident I am” of passing, the star was quoted as saying.
In a letter to TMZ issued after the network decision had been made, Sheen wrote of Lorre: “Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words — imagine what I would have done with my fire-breathing fists.”