Brian Lowry

Charlie Sheen

With the recent airing of "Two and a Half Men" marking the last original episode in the can, there's growing acrimony between Charlie Sheen's camp and CBS and Warner Bros. TV over when production will resume.

Sheen raised eyebrows recently with comments made in a rambling interview on Dan Patrick's syndicated sports talk radio show in which the actor asserted that he's "ready" to return. Sheen's reps have said they're hoping to resume production at the end of this month.

CBS and WBTV shut down production on Jan. 28 as Sheen's behavior went into a headline-generating downward spiral. "I'm ready. We're in forced hiatus. I went back and nobody's there," Sheen told Patrick. "I'm here. I'm ready. They're not. ... I heal really quickly, but I also unravel pretty quickly. Get me right now."

Sheen's comments were not-so-veiled references to the fact that the actor has long demonstrated his ability to perform his duties to the sitcom, no matter what may be going on in his private life. Indeed, he tends to go off the rails during times when the show isn't in production. That's part of the motivation for Sheen's team to get the show back into production quickly, as his reps privately insist that the actor is ready. Still, Sheen set off more alarm bells with his comments to Patrick that seemed to endorse recreational drug use.

"Stay away from the crack, which I think is pretty good advice, unless you can manage it socially," Sheen told Patrick. "If you can manage it socially, then go for it. But not a lot of people can."

Those and other recent statements from Sheen have continued to fuel concerns at the network and studio about the actor's health despite assertions that Sheen is undergoing rehab treatment at his home and has been clean for two weeks. Warner Bros. would face major costs if it had to shut down production yet again due to Sheen's behavior. Also complicating the sticky situation is the possibility that Sheen may sue the studio in an effort to force the show back into production per the terms of his rich contract, which pays him $1.25 million per episode. That threat has added to the unease between the actor's camp and WBTV and CBS.

There's little doubt that "Men" will deliver fewer than the 24 episodes ordered for this season, but the exact number will hinge on when the show can resume production. Sheen's camp is arguing privately that the show could be able to knock out the eight remaining episodes on the 24-episode order if "Men" fires up sooner rather than later.

After last month's shutdown, actors who had been lined up for guest shots were released, and some "Men" writers were shifted to other shows, so numerous logistical steps must be taken before the cameras can roll again. Thus the Feb. 28 date targeted by Sheen's camp may not be feasible, even if CBS, WBTV and "Men" exec producer Chuck Lorre were inclined to return at that time.

Members of the "Men" production crew are facing a substantial loss of income from however many episodes may be lost to the unplanned hiatus, though Sheen's camp insists the blame lies with CBS and WBTV for shuttering production, not the star. At one point, Sheen reportedly offered to pay for a portion of the crew's salary loss if CBS and WBTV also kicked in, but that trial balloon never went anywhere with the network and studio.

Reps for Warner Bros., CBS and Sheen declined comment. However, for the end of the latest episode of "Men," Lorre created a vanity card that bluntly offered his feelings about Sheen: "I exercise regularly. I eat moderate amounts of healthy food. I make sure to get plenty of rest. I see my doctor once a year and my dentist twice a year. I floss every night. I've had chest X-rays, cardio stress tests, EKG's and colonoscopies. I see a psychologist and have a variety of hobbies to reduce stress. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't do drugs. I don't have crazy, reckless sex with strangers. If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I'm gonna be really pissed."

WBTV and CBS took the upper hand in shutting down the show in a bid to force Sheen into rehab out of concern for his health and, according to sources, as a precaution against liability in the event Sheen were to cause harm to himself or someone else while working. For now, CBS can console itself with the fact that "Men" performs well in repeats, averaging 10.8 million viewers for its encore segs.

The Eye has also ordered extra segs of laffer "Rules of Engagement," possibly to help fill the "Men" gap. And it has high hopes for the new sitcom "Mad Love," which bowed recently in the 8:30 p.m. slot behind "How I Met Your Mother."






TV - 'Two and a Half' Headaches: Sheen Camp Wants to Return Early