THE BLOG
02/26/2011 05:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Two and a Half Egos

CBS and Warner Brothers have basically fired Charlie Sheen from Two and a Half Men. In fact, I'd be surprised if the show ever produces a new episode again. The entire situation is a mess for all concerned and the best remedy would be to close down production for good.

I've created network shows and I've taken over hit network shows from Executive Producers who've lost control of the situation. In the best of times when one creates a hit television series, the Creator/Executive Producer has two years tops as the undisputed creative head of the show. By the third year the newness has worn off for the actors and they start to believe their press clippings, which usually say they are responsible for the show's high ratings. Sometimes it's true. Sometimes not.

I took over a long running sitcom in the eighties that was on its last legs. The Executive Producers hated the actors and the actors hated them back. Costs were out of control as far as the studio was concerned. Ratings were down and the network had already announced the cancellation of the show after it's two-year extension (Which they were entering the second year of) had expired.

The first thing my writing partner and I decided to do was to have a series of one-on-one lunches with all the principal actors and hear their grievances. The story was mostly the same. Same old story lines, nobody on the writing staff was listening to them and careers that were ready for something else after seven years of doing a series.

Not having any real power, we were put in a position of giving in to most of the actor's requests. All we asked in return was that they be on time, come to us with any problems and most of all have fun since it was the last season for the show and jobs, paychecks and minimal network interference would never be this easy to obtain again.

It worked. Everybody had a great time. So good in fact that the ratings rose and to all of our astonishment, the network reneged on it's promise and renewed it for a ninth season. The biggest sacrifice on my part was to keep my ego in check. People weren't watching the show because me (Except my family). It was a pleasure to go to work every morning. The crew was fantastic and we'd usually be done with the taping (Which normally goes on till all hours of the following morning) by ten pm. That's the way it's supposed to work. Only it doesn't.

I also created a show for the network that was a disaster. The problem was the network told us that if we didn't cast a known pain-in-the-ass actor in the lead, there would be no show. We had no choice. The network had already handed all the power to this passive/aggressive maniac. We never got the time to set the tone or creative direction of the show. We were fired after ten episodes. After we left, Mr. Know-It-All had the studio hire his friend to be the new show runner. The new guy was a disaster of titanic proportions. Despite having ratings in the top ten for the year, the show itself was cancelled after fifteen episodes. I've been on both sides of the success/failure equation so I know of what I talk of.

Now onto Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre. The problem here seems to be one of battling egos. (I don't know either of them personally.) Lorre creates the show. He is the undisputed ruler for two years. After two years, power starts to shift to the actors. As the face of the show, their participation becomes much more important to its continuation which is why you see the mega salaries for the actors grow the longer the show remains on the air. Sheen was the face of the show and he's right when he says that the network, studio and Lorre made hundreds of millions on his back.

However with this power comes responsibility. As the power shifts, the actors become responsible for the attitude on the stage. Showing up late or not at all is abdicating his duties to the other actors and the crew. In this regard, Sheen did not hold up his end of the bargain.

As for the show's creator, he usually starts to back off once he sees his power ebb. The network and studio usually ask him to create another hit show. The creator still oversees the major aspects of the original show, but because he's busy on his new project, he usually begins delegating real power to others. Now you have the new powers (the actors) dealing with a new set of writer/producers, all of which have their own set of egos. Sometimes this system works out, sometimes not.

In this case Lorre went on to create not one, but two other hit shows, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly. My guess is that Lorre assumed that Two and a Half Men was on autopilot and spent his time elsewhere. Unless there is another producer who can fill the void left by the creator, the actors feel that their father figure would rather spend more time with his new "children" and feel abandoned. Now add drugs, prostitution and whatever else to the mix. You end up with a train wreck.

The network and the studio want the show to continue because it's a cash cow. Although the creator is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the show it's in his best interest to keep the show on the air because he still draws Executive Producer sized paychecks as long as new episodes are finished. The actors are also making NBA-like money. Everybody should be happy. In this case, it became a festering wound.

From what I've heard, Lorre has a healthy ego himself. It takes a lot of cajones to write a new vanity card (the slide displaying the producer's production company in the end credits) with comments, observations, jokes, philosophies, and outlooks on life for public consumption three times a week. Producers are a strange lot. Some who go off to create other shows simply ignore their original creation. Others can't seem to break away and meddle with the authority of the new show runners. In my case, although the creator of the long running hit claimed that all he wanted to do was to lie on a beach somewhere and collect checks while we did all the work for him, he became jealous of our success with his show and tried to undermine us. That was my problem. I dealt with it and made sure it never spilled onto the set.

So what we've got here are two very healthy and stubborn egos and a lot of money. At this point, I can't see Lorre giving in to Sheen and coming back to the show. Lorre doesn't need the headache. Plus, as the creator of CBS's Monday night lineup, he has more power than ever and the network has to keep him happy. After his recent comments, Sheen has too much pride on the line and will never give in and return to the show. Money? Both have way too much so it's not an issue for either of them. The only people who really get hurt in a situation like this are the crewmembers who will lose their jobs and security.

The network and studio have been backed into a corner and unfortunately for the crew, the only way to deal with situation is to take the old show out behind the barn and put it out of its misery.

And people still ask if I miss the television business.