In a move that eliminates one of the sturdiest building blocks of its prime-time lineup, CBS said it would produce no more original episodes of "Two and a Half Men" this season after star Charlie Sheen made a series of rambling statements on a nationally syndicated radio program.
In doing so, CBS not only removes the most expensive program for advertisers from its schedule -- a 30-second spot during the show costs an average of $206,722, according to Ad Age's annual survey of prime-time ad prices -- but also takes out a show that has been the linchpin of its Monday-night lineup. "Two and a Half Men" brings audiences for emerging sitcom "Mike & Molly" as well as its freshman drama " Hawaii Five-0," one of the best-performing new shows of the 2010-2011 TV season.
CBS and Warner Brothers said the raunchy sitcom could no longer continue production after Mr. Sheen made a series of non-sequiturs that expressed disgust with Chuck Lorre, the program's head producer. Mr. Sheen later trashed Mr. Lorre in an open letter to Hollywood gossip site TMZ. "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," the TV companies said in a statement.
Mr. Sheen's behavior has stopped production on "Two and a Half Men" in the past, and the two media companies have more or less ignored his antics while he did stints in rehab. The decision to halt production on a program that has proved lucrative both in terms of ad dollars and syndication suggests the TV firms believe his behavior has begun to distract the program's core viewership and could affect the economics of producing the show.
CBS and Warner Brothers last year signed a pact to run "Two and a Half Men" for two more seasons. In the past, CBS brushed off any production troubles with "Men" by noting that a reduction in the number of episodes shot would help the network offset any loss of ad revenue, as CBS would end up paying for fewer originals. Even so, the math has been tricky. After all, Warner Brothers, which produces the show, makes money off putting as many episodes of "Men" as possible into syndication. Repeats of the program have held up over time, both on CBS and on local stations and cable's FX.
Ad buyers faced with a hiatus of "Men" in the past have suggested they would try to use the development to renegotiate clients' ad schedules with CBS. Indeed, a network's decision to pull a program that advertisers have approved as part of a prime-time outlay can prompt requests from clients to pull ad dollars or to create new plans that reach an already-agreed upon level of audience. CBS has some options; it can continue to run already-aired episodes of "Men," some of which may not have rerun this season. Or it could make deals to increase episode production on other shows in its lineup.