Net plots mega-renewal of WBTV sitcoms
CBS is about to lock up its Monday-night comedy tentpoles for several more years.An excited Chuck Lorre let it slip a bit prematurely, informing his staff Monday that “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” were about to get multiyear pickups from the Eye. Here’s the glitch: CBS and Warner Bros. TV are still hammering out a resolution to their legal spat over the cost of “Two and a Half Men.” That means a deal may still be a week or so away. But that’s mostly a formality at this point. Insiders at the net said talk of a mammoth renewal was indeed true, and that “Men” will get a three-season order, “Big Bang” a two-season deal. Both sitcoms are co-created and exec produced by Lorre through his pact at Warner Bros. TV. The renewal would take “Two and a Half Men” into its ninth season in 2011-12. “The Big Bang Theory” would be booked through its fourth season in 2010-11. Such an arrangement is unusual, even for hugely successful shows. But these two are currently considered the saviors of the multicam sitcom genre: “Men” ranks as primetime’s top-rated comedy and the 9 p.m. anchor of CBS’ formidable Monday comedy block, while “Big Bang” has blossomed into a bona fide hit in its sophomore season in the Monday lead-off slot. Also, it’s likely the hefty renewal is part of the settlement in regards to Warner Bros.’ $49 million suit against CBS. In that dispute, filed in December in Los Angeles Superior Court, Warner Bros. argued that CBS refused to pay sums it had agreed to hand over to the studio if “Two and a Half Men” turned into a hit. According to the suit, soon after the two sides agreed to a standard four-year license deal for the show, CBS asked Warner Bros. for options to renew the license for a fifth and sixth season, at just a “modest increase” in fee. In exchange, Warner Bros. said CBS agreed to cover a portion of the first four seasons’ worth of deficits (the standard industry practice of “deficit recoupment”) and also agreed to increase the show’s season five and six license fees. None of that happened, Warner Bros. claimed. More recently, Warner Bros.’ Bruce Rosenblum told the trade pub TV Week that a settlement was imminent. “I think it’s very reasonable to expect that we will find a lot of common ground to resolve that thing in the relatively near future,” he told the paper last week. Warner Bros. and CBS have clashed in recent years over various issues, but there’s also an almost sibling-like bond between the two sides. CBS’ top brass, from Leslie Moonves on down, are Warner Bros. alumni and once worked side by side with Warner’s key execs. The two sides operate the CW network together, and Warner Bros. also supplies the Eye with several of its top shows. Beyond “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” Warner Bros. TV also has a frosh hit drama at CBS in “The Mentalist,” which is a cinch to be renewed for a sophomore year. There’s no word yet if “Mentalist” is part of the mega-renewal talks between CBS and Warner Bros. TV. A CBS rep would not comment on the prospective deals.