Charlie Sheen, here shown in an episode of ‘Two and a Half Men,' blamed producer Chuck Lorre for closing down the show. CBS EnlargeTwo and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen regularly tested the patience of the TV network and studio trying to protect their valuable sitcom property.
But a violence-tinged and anti-Semitic radio rant Thursday finally forced CBS and Warner Bros. Television to take action.
In a one-sentence joint statement later that day, the companies said they were ending production on television's No. 1 sitcom for the season, a decision based on the "totality of Charlie Sheen's statements, conduct, and condition."
Whether he's gone far enough to sink the series and, possibly, his career as one of TV's highest-paid actors remained unclear. Sheen's rambling interview Thursday with Los Angeles radio host Alex Jones was reminiscent of Mel Gibson's tirade during a 2006 traffic stop — but Sheen knew his remarks were public.
The production halt leaves CBS eight episodes shy of the 24 half-hours it had expected to air as the cornerstone of its Monday-night comedy lineup. And it makes the network and Warner, which reaps hundreds of millions from the show in syndication, the potential go-betweens between Sheen and Two and a Half Men executive producer Chuck Lorre.
Lorre bore the brunt of Sheen's attacks during the radio interview.
"There's something this side of deplorable that a certain Chaim Levine — yeah, that's Chuck's real name — mistook this rock star for his own selfish exit strategy, bro. Check it, Alex: I embarrassed him in front of his children and the world by healing at a pace that his unevolved mind cannot process," Sheen told Jones.
"Last I checked, Chaim, I spent close to the last decade effortlessly and magically converting your tin cans into pure gold. And the gratitude I get is this charlatan chose not to do his job, which is to write," he said.
In a subsequent "open letter" sent to TMZ after the CBS-Warner decision and posted on the entertainment Web site, Sheen called Lorre a "contaminated little maggot" and wished the producer "nothing but pain."
"Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words — imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists," the 45-year-old Sheen wrote.
Lorre, who was born Charles Levine, is a veteran producer whose hits include The Big Bang Theory, Dharma & Greg, and Cybill. He had no comment on Sheen's remarks or the production shut down, a spokesman said Thursday.