Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen has skirted disaster as a wayward, middle-aged party boy who regularly tested the patience of the TV network and studio trying to protect their valuable TV comedy property.
It was a violence-tinged and allegedly anti-Semitic radio rant that helped push him over the edge and, finally, forced CBS and Warner Bros Television to take action.
In a one-sentence joint statement on Thursday, the companies said they were ending production on television’s No. 1 comedy series for the season, a decision based on the “totality of Charlie Sheen’s statements, conduct and condition.”
The production halt leaves CBS eight episodes shy of the 24 half-hours it had expected to air as the cornerstone of its Monday night comedy lineup. And it makes the network and Warner, which reaps hundreds of millions from the show in syndication, the potential go-betweens between Sheen and Two and a Half Men executive producer Chuck Lorre.
Lorre bore the brunt of Sheen’s attacks during the radio interview and in a subsequent “open letter” sent to the TMZ entertainment Web site after the CBS-Warner decision was announced.
In the letter, the actor called Lorre a “contaminated little maggot” and wished the producer “nothing but pain.”
“Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words — imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists,” the 45-year-old Sheen wrote in the letter.
Those remarks, along with his comments to Jones, veered from ludicrous to self-aggrandizing to threatening. For a man who has battled addiction and faced allegations of domestic violence, the outbursts raised troubling questions about his state of mind and his most recent effort at rehabilitation.
CBS and Warner had tolerated Sheen’s recent misadventures, including wild partying and three hospitalizations in three months.
The incidents are part of a checkered life that has included Sheen’s US$50,000-plus tab as a client of so-called “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss’ prostitution ring, a near-fatal overdose on cocaine in 1998, and conflict-filled marriages.
The TV season was interrupted for Two and a Half Men after Sheen was briefly hospitalized last month following an emergency call in which he was described as “very, very intoxicated” and in pain. Production was put on hold while Sheen tried rehab, reportedly at home, but also railed against the hiatus as unneeded.
He signed a new two-year contract at the end of last season that reportedly pays him about US$1.8 million per episode.
Plans were set for taping to resume next week. Then came the Alex Jones radio interview and the attack on Lorre that reeked of anti-Semitism.
“There’s something this side of deplorable that a certain Chaim Levine — yeah, that’s Chuck’s real name — mistook this rock star for his own selfish exit strategy, bro. Check it, Alex: I embarrassed him in front of his children and the world by healing at a pace that his unevolved mind cannot process,” Sheen told Jones. “Last I checked, Chaim, I spent close to the last decade effortlessly and magically converting your tin cans into pure gold.
And the gratitude I get is this charlatan chose not to do his job, which is to write.”
Lorre, was born Charles Levine, had no comment on Sheen’s remarks or the production shut down, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a single lock of Justin Bieber’s newly shorn hair is being auctioned off for charity and bids had reached US$12,000 on eBay as of press time.