Director James Widdoes, a Pittsburgh native, still hopeful about 'Two and a Half Men'
James Widdoes: "It's been a particularly interesting 24 hours."
Charlie Sheen, shown here at right in 2005, had some unkind words on Thursday for Chuck Lorre, executive producer of "Two and a Half Men." Warner Bros. and CBS have since announced production of the show has been discontinued for the remainder of the season.
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After Charlie Sheen spent Thursday making a string of nasty and nastier remarks, CBS and Warner Bros. pulled the plug on this season's remaining episodes of his hit sitcom, "Two and a Half Men," which was expected to resume production Monday.
"Men" has been on hiatus for a month following concern over Mr. Sheen's health after reported drug binges and parties with porn stars. He reportedly was receiving at-home rehabilitation.
On Thursday Mr. Sheen called a fringe radio show, claiming he was ready to work and assailing the show's executive producer, Chuck Lorre, who recently wrote on an end-of-show vanity card: "If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I'm gonna be really pissed." Initially, Mr. Sheen seemed to appreciate the gallows humor, but he turned angry in Thursday's comments.
"I didn't care about that vanity card. I went straight home and dispelled that. That was actually one of the few compliments that clown has paid me in frickin' almost a decade," Mr. Sheen said, before turning the topic to his own rehabilitation. "I embarrassed him in front of his children and the world by healing at a pace that his un-evolved mind cannot process. I've spent, I think, close to the last decade, I don't know, 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."
Later in a call to TMZ.com, Mr. Sheen reportedly said, "I violently hate Chaim Levine." Mr. Lorre's real name is Charles Levine. Some, including the Anti-Defamation League, viewed Mr. Sheen's use of the Hebrew name for Charles as borderline anti-Semitic, a charge Mr. Sheen denied in a subsequent call to TMZ on Friday. "He's a stupid, stupid little man and a [expletive] punk that I'd never want to be like. ... That's me being polite."
Warner Bros. produces "Men" for CBS to broadcast, and the two companies released a joint statement late Thursday: "Based on the totality of Charlie Sheen's statements, conduct and condition, CBS and Warner Bros. Television have decided to discontinue production of 'Two and a Half Men' for the remainder of the season."
"It's been a particularly interesting 24 hours," said Squirrel Hill native James Widdoes, the director of "Two and a Half Men," in a phone interview Friday morning. "This is a game-changer."
Mr. Widdoes said he used the past month's hiatus from "Men" to work on other projects, including offering notes on scripts last weekend in Pittsburgh for the Steeltown Film Factory competition. He was planning to return to his day job on Monday, directing an additional four episodes of "Men," which would still have been four episodes fewer than CBS ordered for the season.
"Unfortunately the way things have gone these days with Charlie, I usually find these things out when someone from the production office says, 'Have you seen TMZ today?' " Mr. Widdoes said, noting there has been "enormous concern around the show for a year or so" since Mr. Sheen was charged with felony domestic violence after his soon-to-be-ex-wife said he threatened her with a knife in their Aspen, Colo., holiday home. (The felony charge was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor third-degree assault count.)
Mr. Widdoes said he's aware of an argument, which has been made by Mr. Sheen, that what Mr. Sheen does in his downtime is nobody's business but his own as long as he shows up for work and honors his contract.
"I suppose that's true, but it doesn't stop a lot of people from looking at this very public private life and saying, 'That's unhealthy,' " Mr. Widdoes said.
Some viewers have wondered why it took a personal verbal attack on his boss to get the powers-that-be to cancel production on the show when so many of Mr. Sheen's past actions in his private life were arguably worse. It could be because this meltdown was directly related to the job. In January CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler made a point of separating out the personal and professional. "This man is a father, he's got children, he has a family, so obviously there's concern on a personal level, but you can't look at it simplistically," she said. "Charlie is a professional. He comes to work. He does his job extremely well."
Mr. Widdoes said he spoke with Mr. Sheen once in the past month, and he described the conversation as "very positive," with Mr. Sheen expressing a desire to return to work without going off on any venomous tangents.
Mr. Sheen's diatribe continued on Thursday after CBS and Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the show. In an open letter he sent to TMZ, Mr. Sheen wrote of Mr. Lorre, "Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words -- imagine what I would have done with my fire-breathing fists. I urge all my beautiful and loyal fans who embraced this show for almost a decade to walk with me side-by-side as we march up the steps of justice to right this unconscionable wrong."
And in a text message to RadarOnline.com, Mr. Sheen claimed he would leave CBS to make a program for HBO called "Sheen's Corner" for which he would be paid $5 million per episode. On Friday an HBO representative told TheWrap.com, "There is no truth to this report."
Reports Thursday said Mr. Sheen will not be paid his reported $1.2 million-per-episode salary for "Men" episodes that will not be produced. Mr. Widdoes said compensation for the show's other employees "is all being worked out. I don't know how that's being resolved."
On Friday Mr. Sheen sent a text message to "Good Morning America" saying he planned to show up for work at Warner Bros. in Burbank, Calif., on Monday regardless. In a call to a Los Angeles sports radio station Friday afternoon, Mr. Sheen said CBS and Warner Bros. are in breach of contract for canceling the remainder of the show's season.
Some fans have wondered why "Men" doesn't move forward without Mr. Sheen, a choice made on other TV series including Mr. Widdoes' own "8 Simple Rules" following the death of star John Ritter. Mr. Widdoes said he had not been in those conversations regarding "Men," but he expected they occurred and executives decided for whatever reason to shut down the show rather than move forward without Mr. Sheen.
With "Men" done for at least the immediate future, Mr. Widdoes will focus his efforts on directing a CBS sitcom pilot starring former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Rob Schneider that will be taped in late March.
After that he, too, will be watching to see whether "Men" ever resumes production.
"I'm enough of a cockeyed optimist to hope that it does for its fans, for its crew," Mr. Widdoes said. "For all of the best parts of 'Two and a Half Men,' I hope it does. This morning it's not easy to see how we're going to move forward, but time passes and things change, and who knows what happens in a month or two."
First Published February 26, 2011 12:00 am