Look, I’m as happy as anyone that Sheen and his absurd activities will be disappearing from the medium in short order. And I certainly get why the show’s creator Chuck Lorre, Warner Brothers and CBS are fed up with him. But it seems to me that this firing leaves the network, the production company and the show with a large, Charlie-sized hole. A hole in the network’s line-up or a hole in the show depending on what the network decides to do. None of the options that the network has before them is particularly palatable.
What are the options?
1. End the show
Maybe the best or at least the easiest solution, but this is a potential earthquake across the CBS line-up. One problem here is that Jon Cryer, Angus Jones and the rest of the cast are signed for another season, but for the most part this could be dealt with. The network has a bigger problem though. Two And A Half Men is one of their biggest shows, the anchor of their Monday line-up. If you drop the show you need something to replace it that has the same sort of drawing power for their Monday line-up. The obvious answer would be to bring The Big Bang Theory back to Monday nights from its current time slot on Thursday, but then what do you do on Thursdays? Do you keep comedies in the first hour and if so what anchors the night? How I Met Your Mother? Mike and Molly? Rules of Engagement or $#*! My Dad Says (the two shows that have held down the second half hour on Thursday following The Big Bang Theory)? Probably not that last option since neither of those series has shown any particular strength on the night.
Or do you decide that the whole experiment was a bad idea and move Survivor back to Thursday night? Or do you keep Survivor on Wednesday night and replace the comedies with a drama? If you do go with a drama is it a new show that you might have put elsewhere or do you move an established show to the time slot?
2. Kill off the Charlie character – or otherwise take him off the show – and just not replace him
This is really a non-starter. Oh sure, NBC initially did that with Valerie Harper’s character on Valerie when NBC and Paramount fired here from that series (for reasons that were far far less disruptive than what we’ve seen from Sheen). The problem is that this totally violates the premise of the show. At its heart Two And A Half Men is The Odd Couple with Jake as the equivalent of Murray the Cop, or something like that. Take away Charlie without some sort of replacement and what you get is One And A Half Men, and the show becomes a father dealing with a teenaged son. That’s a quick death for this show.
Still I like the idea of killing Charlie off…preferably in a messy and totally absurd way, like having a boulder drop on him. A piano would be good too.
3. Kill Off Charlie – or otherwise dispose of him – and replace him
This is probably what they’re going to do if they continue on with the show. It’s what they eventually did with Valerie Harper, and what happened when John Ritter died in real life. There are a couple of options they could use in this situation.
a) Bring in an older relative
They did this when John Ritter died. James Garner became the adult male lead on Eight Simple Rules, along with David Spade. Maybe Charlie and Alan’s father didn’t die of food poisoning but rather escaped from Evelyn. Maybe some other older male relative shows up after Charlie gets turned into a bloody splat in the road. The point is that whoever this relative is he has to be as thoroughly debauched as Charlie was, and just as good looking in spite of it. Too bad they killed off Robert Wagner’s character a few years ago.
b) Alan and Charlie’s long-lost and never before mentioned half brother of roughly the same age as Charlie
This was after all the way that they finally replaced Valerie Harper on what became Valerie’s Family (and later The Hogan Family) – Valerie’s sister-in-law, played by Sandy Duncan – came to live with the family after her death. And with Evelyn’s history why wouldn’t there be a forgotten brother or half-brother or “something” vaguely unsavoury, running around. You could even bring on Charlie’s previously unsuspected bastard son – and let’s face it, there’s plenty of potential for many such unsuspected mistakes to show up and take up residence.
4. Replace Sheen, keep Harper
This is the classic soap opera solution to this sort of situation, and what they did when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York. If you need an explanation (as often as not soap operas didn’t offer an explanation; they’d just say that the role of so-and-so is no being played by a different actor; Bewitched didn’t even do that) say that after a fire – probably related to his drinking – Charlie had to go through reconstructive surgery and now looks like John Stamos instead of Charlie Sheen. Sure, it’s a hokey solution but there are some reasons why it can work. Not only does this provide a smooth transition, it lets the writers just keep writing the same character as they have been from the beginning. The face changes but the attitude and the character traits remain the same. The question is whether the public would accept that Charlie Harper as played by John Stamos? Or should they just cast Ted “Show Killer” McGinley in the part and admit defeat.
Personally I think that CBS should bite the bullet and end the show. Maybe they can get Chuck Lorre to come up with something new. After all he seems to be the current CBS “King of Comedy.” Do I think that they’ll pull the trigger though? Probably not. I think that the network will go with the “non-nuclear option” and keep the show on the air for all or part of another season to clear the actor’s contracts and give Lorre or someone else time to create something outstanding to replace it. No matter what the network decides to do, I would be very much surprised to see Two And A Half Men on the 2012-13 line-up, which is not something I would have been sure of before this whole mess with Sheen blew up.
I would be even more surprised to see Sheen acting in just about anything in the next few years. I think his recent behaviour has made him box office and TV screen poison, and if it is possible for him to recover his reputation it will take a long stretch of good behaviour to manage it. I wish him the best in all of the recovery that he needs to do, but I think I’ss stick with the smart money when it comes to his future employment prospects.