Fates and Fortunes

Is Sheen replaceable?

3/07/2011 05:47:00 PM

Should we be surprised that this whole rant about Vatican Assassin Warlocks and tiger blood and Winning! (duh) has ended with Charlie Sheen’s termination from television’s highest-rated comedy?

Of course not. The bigger surprise is that Warner Bros. waited this long to fire its insult-spewing, media-addicted star, but considering the amount of money at stake and the fact that Sheen managed to make it through nearly eight seasons before melting down convinced the studio to wait it out a bit.

Like B&C’s Editor Ben Grossman, I personally do not believe that it’s Warner Bros.’ responsibility to tend to Sheen’s mental health, but I hope he has someone in his life who has yet to step forward but who is willing to intervene. The man may be entertaining all of us, but anyone observing Sheen can see that things are seriously misfiring in that bastard brain of his.

Taking my eyes off the train wreck that is Charlie Sheen for a moment, what would now really surprise me is if the show goes on with a new actor and remains equally successful. It seems wildly unlikely but it’s possible – look at American Idol (as B&C’s Andrea Morabito did this week). Contrary to all expectations, the show lost no ground by losing Simon Cowell.

If any of the rumors or true, possible Sheen replacements include John Stamos or Rob Lowe. I have no idea if these rumors are real, but those actors are both good choices. Stamos has had a long and productive television career, most recently on ER and Glee, and he’s hyper-talented: he can play funny or serious, he can sing and dance, and he’s gorgeous. The never-aging Lowe is a similar option and his comic chops are currently on display on NBC’s Parks and Rec. And if Warner Bros.’ is indeed casting new actors, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Hader and Jerry O’Connell all also have recently made cases for themselves.

There are plenty of cases in which a sitcom has made a major switch and gone on to see another day, but in most of those cases the show was almost a pure ensemble. Cheers thrived without Coach and without Shelley Long – replaced by the possibly better Woody Harrelson and Kirstie Alley in both cases – but still had Ted Danson (who is just getting more hilarious with age – see HBO’s Bored to Death for proof) at the show’s center. The same was true for M*A*S*H – cast members came and went but Alan Alda remained the show’s wise-cracking heart.

Sheen’s antics have completely dominated TV news lately, so we’ve all forgotten that Steve Carell has left The Office, leaving that show in a similar dilemma. But The Office has a huge and talented cast, is a little lower profile, and could possibly benefit from some new (non-tiger) blood. Will Farrell will be guesting on the show for four episodes this season, and series creator and executive producer Ricky Gervais made the brilliant suggestion of giving the part to the super-snarky Will Arnett. Or maybe the wickedly funny Gervais himself would like to give it a shot.

There’s an argument to be made that Two and a Half Men plays more like Everybody Loves Raymond or Seinfeld. Could either of those shows continued without Ray Romano or Jerry Seinfeld? No. But the difference is that both Seinfeld and Raymond were created, developed and written around the comedy of those two men. At the end of the day, Charlie Sheen was essentially playing himself with a script in front of him. Chuck Lorre is a disciplined showrunner with a finely-tuned writing staff behind him.  Assuming those factors remain in place, perhaps the addition of a perfectly-cast new actor will allow Two and a Half Men to pick itself up, brush itself off and continue its run. Considering the money at stake, it’s probably worth a shot.

 

 

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