“Two and a Half Men,” which debuted in 2003, stars Sheen as womanizing bachelor Charlie Harper, who creates an ad hoc family with his neurotic brother, the divorced Alan (Jon Cryer) and Alan’s son, Jake (Angus T. Jones).
Sheen’s life has long been rocky but — either despite of that or because of it — viewers embraced him.
The show was co-created by veteran producer Chuck Lorre, who contributes two other comedies to the top-rated CBS lineup, “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike & Molly.” Like “Men,” both are produced with Warner.
Sheen focused many of his attacks on Lorre, and in the end the studio “went with the hit-maker,” said media industry analyst Shari Anne Brill.
The immediate question for Warner and CBS is whether to keep the show alive by bringing in a new cast member to join Cryer and Jones — the one-and-a-half men left.
“They didn’t say the show was canceled. They said he was canceled,” said Brill. “So the door is still open for another season.”
Shows have replaced stars before and survived. When Valerie Harper left “Valerie” after the 1986-87 season in a dispute with producers, the show was renamed “The Hogan Family,” Sandy Duncan was brought in to play a new character and the sitcom continued until 1991.
Drew Carey, who starred in and co-created “The Drew Carey Show,” was asked about the possibility before Sheen’s firing.
“All you have to do is bring in someone you can plug into a Charlie Sheen-like character and deliver those kinds of lines. There are 100 actors who could do it,” said Carey, host of “The Price Is Right.”
Carey said he wasn’t dismissing Sheen’s comedic talent and acknowledged that ratings might suffer if viewers are reluctant to accept a new actor in a new role. Holland Taylor, who plays Sheen’s mother, called him “the brand of the show” in an interview last summer.
The studio could save money by paying the substitute far less than Sheen’s salary and extend the life of the lucrative series by another season or two.
Warner and CBS had long faced a balancing act with Sheen as he underwent rehab and two ugly splits from wives No. 2 (Denise Richards) and No. 3 (Brooke Mueller Sheen). On one side was the wayward star, on the other was TV’s most successful and highly lucrative sitcom, anchoring Monday for CBS and making hundreds of millions of dollars for Warner.
In a series of interviews, including with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” show, Sheen boasted about his “epic” partying, said he’s fueled by “violent hatred” of his bosses and called his home “Sober Valley Lodge.”
There was public fascination with the gloves-off battle. When Sheen added Twitter to the arsenal, he gained 1 million followers in just 25 hours, leading Guinness World Records to establish a new category and crown him the champion. He now has well over 2 million followers.