There’s no doubt that recently you’ve heard about, read about, or even quoted the once-famous-and-now-infamous Charlie Sheen. From his self proclaimed tiger blood to warlock status, Sheen’s career has quickly been pushed to the back of everyone’s mind as we all wait to see what kind of crazy shenanigans he comes up with next. Goddesses, anyone?
One person who hasn’t forgotten about the status of Sheen’s career? Chuck Lorre, born Charles Michael Levine, the creator of the hit TV show, Two and a Half Men. In the past month, Lorre and Sheen have been duking it out over the future of the show, starting with the halting of production due to Sheen’s quick stint in rehab, leading to a media storm of back-and-forth “He said what?” comments aimed at each other. Ultimately this resulted in Sheen’s termination from the show altogether halfway through his contracted season and promptied Sheen to sue Lorre for $100 million.
In the midst of all this conflict between the two extremely public figures, what remains to be decided upon is the status of the show. Two and a Half Men is the story of a womanizing jingle-writer (Sheen) whose brother and nephew come to live with him after facing a divorce, and all the hilarity that follows. If you take away Sheen’s main character, what is left of the top-rated show?
Producers of Men are facing this difficult question, as the future of the show is up in the air halfway through its season. Do they continue on without Sheen, and just use the other characters? How would they explain the absence of the star in the story? Or do they replace Sheen with another actor? And if they replace him, would the character stay the same only to be portrayed by a new face, or would they introduce a new character altogether?
No matter what the producers choose as their course of action, the end result won’t change: the show won’t ever be the same again. Sure, it still might be funny and it may go on for a ton of new seasons—but it may also crash and burn. Either way, the basic chemistry of the show’s makeup has been altered. Lorre and company may as well change the name of the show itself!
While Men’s future is unforeseeable at this time, there are many other shows that faced a predicament like this in the past. And they all chose different ways to go about it with varying degrees of success and failure. Men might want to take a page out of one their books, or stay away from others:
1. Mischa Barton and The O.C.
I will never forget the day Marissa Cooper met her sudden death in a car crash on the teen soap drama The O.C. It was the first time I encountered a main character’s death on a show I watched religiously. I had never expected that it was even possible for a main character to die. And honestly, it should never have happened in this case. To be fair, I never really saw worth in Barton’s acting, or in her character on the show. But for some reason, The O.C. tanked when she left it to “further her acting career” (What did she even end up doing? A straight to DVD movie named The Assassination of a High School President, and a thinly disguised version of herself in the failed show The Beautiful Life: TBL. Great career move, Barton). When Barton expressed interest in ending her commitment to the show, writers decided to kill off her character, ensuring the audience that her leaving was a done deal. However, after the season-ending death, the following season ended the series after a brief 16-episode run. Ratings had dropped and the storyline was sinking fast. This was a show that couldn’t do without one of its main stars.
2. Chad Michael Murray and One Tree Hill
Murray’s character on Hill was the main focus of the show for the first six seasons, but after Murray left at the end of the sixth season writers wrapped up his story line very neatly. He married his longtime love, had a healthy daughter and career, and can sometimes be “seen” at the other end of a phone call wishing family members a happy birthday. Hill then went on for another two seasons, with season eight still airing/in production.
3. Michael Rosenbaum and Smallville
You would think that on a show that is a prequel to the famous story of Superman, Lex Luthor would be guaranteed to survive all 10 seasons. However, when the man behind the villainous character on the show decides to pursue other projects (after nine years, can you blame him?) the writers are put in a precarious position. They can’t kill off Luthor, because the story of Superman’s nemesis goes on for at least another two decades. But they decided on a different course of action: they killed Luthor in an explosion and a season later introduced the idea of many different clones of his DNA, so the new Luthors have a legitimate reason to have different faces. As we wind down with the last five episodes of the final season this month, we will watch as the last, most successful clone will eventually become the Luthor that is so infamous in the comic books and movies.
4. John Ritter and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter
On September 11, 2003, Ritter died suddenly as a result of complications from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect while rehearsing for 8 Simple Rules. Ritter had already finished shooting the first three episodes of the second season, and ABC aired those episodes, had the show go on a hiatus, and then continued with the show, incorporating Ritter’s death with his character’s fictional death which was just as sudden as his in real life. The show’s family continued on that season focusing on the aftermath of his death, coping in separate ways. It helped show the audience what happens to a seemingly normal family when the family members have to deal with losing a loved one. 8 Simple Rules went on for a third season before cancellation.
5. Steve Carell and The Office
Another show’s future still in question as a result of a main character leaving? The current season of The Office has been one giant buildup to Carell’s character’s permanent departure from the offices of Dunder Mifflin. Writers disguised this journey as a will-they-won’t-they romantic entanglement with his soul mate and—SPOILER ALERT—now fiancée. In the last episode, Michael Scott finally proposed to Holly and in the last 20 seconds they announced they were moving to Colorado to help take care of Holly’s parents, hence, Carell’s swan song. To replace the central character the show has revolved around for seven seasons, writers are bringing in Will Ferrell for a multi-episode arc, but whether that will become a permanent gig remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is how The Office will continue on without its iconic boss. Will it sink or swim?
As the evidence shows, taking a main character out of the equation of a famous TV show is a risky move. The show could either go on for many more seasons depending on how the writers phase out the character in question, or the character could prove too invaluable to be missing from the show, and leaving could mean the impending cancellation of that show. As the public battle between Sheen and Lorre carries on over the next month, the future of Men hangs in the balance. The writers and producers have a difficult and stressful decision to make; they could be responsible for ruining television’s most watched comedy.