By Kim Masters and Lacey Rose
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – The relaunch of “Two and a Half Men” without Charlie Sheen is beginning to take shape.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that series co-creator Chuck Lorre has presented close associates and “Men” co-star Jon Cryer with his plan to take the top-rated CBS sitcom in a new creative direction. According to an insider, Lorre has told Cryer this reboot would involve a significant role for him and the introduction of a new, yet-to-be-cast character.
Sheen, who was fired from the show in March and is suing Lorre and producer Warner Bros. for $100 million, has frequently expressed his desire to get his job back as he has crisscrossed the country on his comedy tour.
A source said Sheen is still actively working behind the scenes to be reinstated, attempting as late as this week to set up meetings with “Men” cast members, hoping to clear the air and win their support. But Lorre is said to remain uninterested in meeting with Sheen, and Warners sources are adamant that Sheen will not be invited back.
Neither CBS nor Warner Bros. has said whether “Men” will return for a ninth season. But industry speculation is that the show will almost certainly return. And talent representatives say that Warners has quietly begun pursuing an actor to appear in the series next season. Who that actor will be has become Topic A in Hollywood. Speculation has ranged from the plausible to the peculiar, with names from Woody Harrelson to Jeremy Piven to Bob Saget being bandied about. A Warners spokesperson says none of these actors is in contention.
While a new cast member wouldn’t make “Sheen money” — in the $1.2 million realm, per episode — slipping into a top sitcom would earn an actor a rate well above the usual freshman series fee, says one observer. But the role would come with intense pressure, as blame could be placed on the newcomer if the revamped show flops.
Others have suggested that “Men” might consider a “roommate” scenario, with multiple stars appearing on one or a few episodes to fill the Sheen void.
When exactly “Men” would return is another open question. Two sources say a mid-season relaunch is more likely than a fall return. While delaying “Men’s” start would leave a significant revenue and ratings generator off the CBS fall schedule, the network and studio would have more time to retool the series.