LOS ANGELES » With Charlie Sheen now history, CBS and Warner Bros. have to decide whether it is worth trying to bring back "Two and a Half Men" next season.
The show, which stars Sheen as a rogue bachelor who likes to blow his money on liquor and ladies, is CBS’ top-rated comedy. CBS’ current deal with Warner Bros., which produces "Two and a Half Men," is set to expire at the end of next season.
Without "Two and a Half Men," CBS will have a big hole in its Monday night lineup while Warner Bros. could be looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue from both the network’s license fee for the show and rerun money from episodes that will go unmade.
If Sheen is replaced with another actor or the show decides to go forward with the rest of the cast, that would likely require CBS and Warner Bros. to rework their current deal for "Two and a Half Men." The deal CBS has with the studio defines Sheen as a "person of essence," according to people familiar with the contract.
CBS currently shells out about $4 million an episode for the show. Sheen’s salary for the show is a little over $1 million an episode. He also gets a cut of rerun money, which brings his total take in his most recent deal to roughly $2 million an episode.
Even if the show continues with a new cast member or with the same cast minus Sheen, CBS would probably push to lower that price tag. Should Warner Bros. and CBS continue on without Sheen, it could also have implications for the reruns of the show that Warner Bros. has already sold to FX and TV stations around the country. Reruns for next season have already been sold, but if the episodes are made without Sheen then that could potentially give the buyers a chance to revisit the deal.
Shows have lost their stars and maintained their success. Sheen himself scored big when he replaced Michael J. Fox on the ABC hit "Spin City." More recently, "American Idol" has performed much better than expected despite the absence of Simon Cowell, who left as a judge of the singing competition. NBC hopes it will find a replacement for Steve Carell when he leaves "The Office" at the end of this season.
CBS and Warner Bros. have ties that go beyond this show. Warner Bros. also produces "The Big Bang Theory" and "Mike and Molly," both from "Two and a Half Men" co-creator Chuck Lorre. The two are also partners in the CW network.
That does not mean they are above sparring though. A little over two years ago, Warner Bros. sued CBS in a dispute over money the studio felt the network owed on "Two and a Half Men." The suit was eventually settled.
Sheen’s lawyer Marty Singer said in an interview that Warner Bros. position on the actor is "without merit" and that he plans to take legal action against the studio and Lorre as early as this week.
"We believe we will ultimately prevail," he said.