There’s been no shortage of speculation about how Warner Bros., Chuck Lorre and CBS may remodel “Two and a Half Men” in the wake of Charlie Sheen’s messy departure. But just as pressing as the casting and creative decisions that loom is the renegotiation of the series’ deal between Warner Bros. and CBS.
Industry insiders say it’s an intriguing situation because in some respects the sides will be starting from scratch should “Men” go forward with a ninth season this fall. Nobody at Warner or CBS is talking, but bizzers who’ve had experience with renegotiations after a series undergoes a material change say a few key points will be addressed.
First and foremost, with Sheen’s $1.25 million an episode salary out of the picture, CBS is likely to insist on shaving at least $1 million-$1.5 million off of “Men’s” existing license fee of about $4 million. Warners will still surely command a premium, by half-hour standards, because the show is established and because of hitmaker Lorre’s ongoing stewardship.
Then there’s the question of the length of CBS’ commitment to the post-Sheen series. Lorre’s clout may be enough to command a full 22-episode order right off the bat, as opposed to the “we’ll see” order of 13 that’s standard for new skeins. CBS will undoubtedly demand options on future seasons — you never know, ratings for the new version could go through the roof. Biz vets noted that if the dynamic were different, CBS would surely demand an ownership piece of the show from season nine on, but the Lorre factor is probably strong enough to fend off opportunistic equity incursions by the Eye.
One aspect of the “Men” dealmaking that’s crystal clear: The value of co-stars Jon Cryer, Angus T. Jones and Conchata Ferrell shot up when Sheen was canned by the studio. The thesps may be in for a renegotiation if Warner wants to bring their contracts in line with possible option years. More likely, however, is that the trio will be paid under the terms of their existing deals — and everybody holds their breath for a renegotiation down the road, in success.