Troubled thesp Charlie Sheen, whose stint in rehab forced Warner Bros. TV to halt production on "Two and a Half Men" earlier this year, is now making rumblings about leaving the show all together — according to a report in People magazine.
CBS and Warner Bros. TV aren't commenting on the news. It's understood that the reports that surfaced midday on Thursday caught the net and studio by surprise. Sheen's status is sure to be a topic of conversation at tonight's taping of "Men." We may know more on Friday.
Unfortunately for the Eye and for WBTV, Sheen would very much be free to split after this year. Although the Eye sealed a huge three-year pact with Warner Bros. last year to keep "Two and a Half Men" on the network through 2011-2012, the studio hadn't secured Sheen's services for that period.
That's surprising — but then again, there was probably little reason to believe that Sheen would want to depart a job that makes him the highest-paid actor in television. Sheen currently pulls down nearly $900,000 an episode.
Now, it's unclear whether Sheen's departure, as star of the show, would nullify (or change the terms of) that renewal — as "Two and a Half Men" suddenly becomes a different show without Sheen.
Insiders believe that Sheen's rumblings could be part of a negotiating ploy — and indeed, it's not unusual for series stars to make this kind of noise when their contracts are up. This is why long-running series become so expensive to produce over time, after all. (And Sheen is not nearly the highest-paid sitcom star of all time; the "Friends" cast was making at least $1 million a piece toward the end of their run, while Ray Romano cleared $2 million an episode by the end of "Everybody Loves Raymond.")
But there's an extenuating circumstance in this case: Sheen's personal life, which has gone through some tumult as of late.
Production on "Two and a Half Men" was put on hold Feb. 23, as Sheen checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic for what was called a "preventative measure." CBS and Warner Bros. eventually agreed to reduce this season's episodic order from 24 to 22 in order to make up for the missing weeks.
Sheen was back to work on March 16, a day after he entered a not guilty plea in an Aspen court, on a domestic violence charge. Sheen was accused of allegedly threatening his wife, Brooke Mueller, with a knife.
If Sheen opts to leave, what are CBS' and Warner Bros. TV's options? Some have gagged that Michael J. Fox should step in, much as Sheen replaced Fox on "Spin City."
Likewise, Sheen's brother, Emilio Estevez (who has guested on the show), might make for a smooth transition, trading one brother/Brat Pack star for another. Our idea: In a horrible tanning bed accident, Charlie comes out looking a lot like… Martin Sheen! DONE.