With Charlie Sheen in rehab, the focus is shifting to the aftermath of his departure from the hit CBS show. Luckily (and sadly), CBS and the series producers from Warner Bros TV have been down that road before with Sheen’s month-long stint in rehab last year, so they are dusting off the contingency plan they implemented a year ago with a few wrinkles. Last year, the month-long shutdown resulted in the loss of only 2 episodes from Two and a Half Men‘s 24-episode order, so the impact on CBS’ schedule was minimal. This time around, his absence could be longer. (Sheen’s team has not notified WBTV or CBS about how long he intends to stay in rehab and the actor’s publicist was unaware of any specific time frame, but gossip site TMZ pegs it on 3 months.) Even in the case of such a lengthy stint in rehab, the show could resume production and bang out a couple of fresh episodes to close out the season. CBS has 2 unaired episodes of Men (Ep. 15 Three Hookers and a Philly Cheesesteak, oh the irony, and Ep. 16 That Darn Priest) which it will run as planned on Feb. 7 and Feb. 14. Beyond that, CBS is planning to do more Men repeats than previously scheduled mixed with extra originals of some of the other Monday comedies. Freshman Mike & Molly, which airs behind Men and hails from the same studio, WBTV, and the same executive producer, Chuck Lorre, as Men, has been approached about producing 2 additional episodes beyond its 24-episode order. Also pitching in with 2 more episodes is Sony TV-produced veteran Rules of Engagement, which airs on Monday and is scheduled to relocate to Thursdays next month. Things are trickier with Monday 8 PM anchor How I Met Your Mother, whose storylines are more serialized. As of little while ago, the producers of the 20th TV-produced comedy had not been approached about doing extra episodes. Meanwhile, Men repeats outperform first-run episodes of all non-CBS comedies besides ABC’s Modern Family, so the network is not too worried.
One thing that doesn’t appear to be under consideration is producing episodes of Men while Sheen he is gone. There had been speculation about a contingency plan involving a guest stint of some sort, but word is, like last year, the show’s mastermind Chuck Lorre won’t agree for the sitcom’s Two-and-a-Half-Men setup to be altered.
However, Men going on unplanned hiatus puts its cast and crew in limbo. WBTV executives are now grappling with the issue, with a resolution similar to the partial compensation that the crew received during last year’s shutdown likely.
How much if anything the show’s cast will receive is also uncertain at the moment. The regulars on the show have a 13-episode guarantee that has already been met, so, by evoking the force majeure clause in their contracts, the studio is not obligated to pay them for the off time. Some compromise with the actors is likely as well.
As for the economic impact on CBS and WBTV, there will be some, much larger on WBTV, which makes millions of dollars on each episode of the show and smaller on CBS, whose potential ad revenue losses from lower ratings will be offset by savings on license fees on new episodes it won’t have to pay. But, considering that the studio came close to losing Sheen after the end of his contract last spring, every extra episode of Men beyond that is gravy. Bringing Back Men for an eighth season has also allowed CBS to move The Big Bang Theory to Thursday and establish a comedy toehold on the night, something the network wouldn’t have been able to do without Men as a Monday tentpole. So, even with the headache and the economic impact from Sheen’s rehab stint, the studio and the network are probably counting their blessings.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.