LOS ANGELES >> There are 2½ weeks left for Warner Bros. Television and CBS to decide the fate of "Two and a Half Men."
With CBS unveiling its fall schedule for advertisers in New York on May 18, deadline pressure is on the network, Warner and "Men" executive producer Chuck Lorre to develop a post-Charlie Sheen version of the sitcom or kill what’s been a highly lucrative property for all.
Whether the show is returning, who’s in the cast and whether a revamped format would be ready for a fall debut or be delayed until midseason will be resolved before the "upfront" sales presentation to Madison Avenue, according to an executive close to the situation.
The executive spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because Warner and CBS would not authorize public comment on the show’s status.
Speculation has swirled about who might fill the void left by Sheen, joining Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones in the cast that also features Holland Taylor. Some actors seen as potential candidates, including John Stamos and Rob Lowe, have indicated their interests are elsewhere.
Jay Mohr says he’d jump at the chance. The actor-comedian, whose credits include the sitcoms "Action!" and "Gary Unmarried," is playing what was described to him as a "Charlie Sheen-esque" type in Sunday’s season debut of USA’s "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
Stepping in to the sitcom for Sheen is far different than trying to fill the shoes of a "beloved man" like John Ritter, who died while starring in "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter," he said.
"This is a guy who lit a match, lit the fuse, and it took off," Mohr said of the former "Two and a Half Men" star.
It’s been nearly two months since Warner fired Sheen in the show’s eighth season, a move that followed the hard-living actor’s bouts of wild partying, repeated hospitalizations and a bitter media campaign against his studio bosses who shut down production.
When Warner announced its decision to can him on March 7, it took pains to note that the show itself had not been canceled and its future was undecided.
Since then, Sheen’s offbeat stage tour has consumed attention. So has the actor’s $100 million lawsuit against Warner and Lorre, and Sheen’s custody fight with Brooke Mueller over their twin sons.
Despite the turmoil Sheen has suggested that he might return to the show, a prospect the studio has flatly rejected. The actor had been among TV’s highest-paid at a reported $1.8 million per episode for "Men."
The show itself is not easily dismissed, consistently ranked as TV’s No. 1 sitcom and the sitcom leader in syndication.
Neither is Lorre, an increasingly powerful force with CBS as the creative mind behind "The Big Bang Theory" and "Mike & Molly." CBS and Warner have reason to keep Lorre happy, whether that means keeping "Men" alive or not.