For the second year in a row, TV’s most-watched comedy is suffering a production halt as star Charlie Sheen checked himself back into an undisclosed rehabilitation facility.
What was supposed to be the tail end of a scheduled hiatus on CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” quickly spiraled into a public relations nightmare Friday, with no word on when or if the hit show would return this season. CBS has aired 14 episodes, with two more already filmed; that would leave eight episodes in jeopardy.
The 45-year-old actor was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Thursday morning with severe abdominal pains, later described by Sheen’s publicist, Stan Rosenfield, as stemming from a hernia condition. Sheen was released Thursday night and initially was expected to return to the set of the hit comedy series Tuesday.
But things quickly changed. By midday Friday, Rosenfield issued a statement saying the actor had entered rehab.
“He is most grateful to all who have expressed their concern,” Rosenfield said. “Mr. Sheen asks that his privacy be respected at this time and that no additional information will be provided.”
The turnabout served as yet another headache for CBS and Warner Bros. Television executives, who scrambled in the wake of the news to place the show on a production hiatus. Just earlier this month, executives reportedly had tried to push Sheen back into rehab after gossip sites were filled with lurid tales of his alleged exploits with drugs and sex.
But TV’s highest paid actor — who narrowly avoided jail time last year in a domestic violence case — balked at the intervention efforts and the network and studio are said to have backed down. A few days later, CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler said the network had “a high level of concern” about its star.
On Friday, Warner Bros. and CBS, along with executive producer Chuck Lorre, issued a joint statement: “We are profoundly concerned for his health and well-being, and support his decision.”
Lorre could not immediately be reached for additional comment.
A Warner Bros. spokesman declined to say whether the show’s other cast and crew members — roughly 200 people — would continue to be paid while Sheen recovers, but one agent contacted for this article said the studio was trying to keep the staff employed during the downtime.
It’s all-too-familiar territory for Sheen — who reportedly earns almost $2 million an episode — and his TV bosses. Last season, Sheen’s three-week stint in rehab — “as a preventative measure” — forced production to rearrange the work schedule and deliver two fewer episodes than planned.
For the most part, however, Sheen’s behavior has had little effect on the show, mostly because his escapades have occurred during hiatus weeks (production on all multi-camera comedies is halted one week out of the month).
He displayed erratic behavior at a TV taping of a Drew Carey improv performance Jan. 16 in Las Vegas. And he made headlines in December after allegedly trashing a New York hotel suite and berating a female companion in a drunken stupor.
“In his mind, [Sheen] thinks he’s irreplaceable, but CBS needs to show some backbone,” said C. Kerry Fields, a professor of business law at the USC Marshall School of Business. “Sometimes you have to do the right thing at the expense of losing a profitable show.”
In its eighth season, “Two and a Half Men” averages 14.7 million viewers and is the most-watched comedy on broadcast TV. Among the advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-olds, the sitcom is No. 2 behind “Modern Family” and consistently wins its Monday night time slot.
Warner Bros. has a deal with CBS to produce the series through 2012.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Maria Elena Fernandez and Rick Rojas contributed to this report.