Regrettably, the studio behind Two and a Half Men had no comment about a report suggesting that Charlie Harper — a.k.a. the hedonistic character played by Charlie Sheen — will be killed off in the premiere episode of the CBS comedy this fall to make way for the introduction of Ashton Kutcher. (Specifically, Charlie may drive his car off of a cliff.)
Though TMZ hedges that the “first script isn’t locked” and that creator Chuck Lorre “often makes changes until close to taping,” it’s entirely possible that Men will want to wipe the slate clean. Nothing says good riddance to an ugly chapter in a show’s life than offing a character for good.
Those who know Lorre wouldn’t put it past him. After all, the uber-producer demonstrated his macabre sense of humor in 2008 when he wrote an episode for CSI. His victim in the episode? A high-maintenance sitcom star played by Katey Sagal. Given his history working with some of Hollywood’s most difficult women, everyone assumed his script was based on his relationship with Roseanne Barr. (Or maybe it was Cybill Shepherd. Then again, it could have been Brett Butler.)
In a behind-the-scenes clip pasted below that chronicles the making of the CSI episode, Lorre goes out of his way to say “I need to say this, we are making this character up.” But the episode features a frustrated writer muttering, “Can you take my pencil and drive it through my eye into my brain” — which definitely reflects Lorre’s often complicated relationship with talent. (Hey, we didn’t call him the angriest man in television for nothing!)
In the same behind-the-scenes video, CSI exec producer Carol Mendelsohn has this to say about Lorre and the episode: “He really had this itch to write an autopsy scene.”
Should Charlie Harper die in a car crash, it wouldn’t be the first time a sitcom character met his Maker while sitting behind the wheel. A fatal car accident was used to explain the sudden departure of Valerie Harper in the comedy Valerie’s Family in 1987. Harper disagreed with the direction the producers wanted to take the comedy, so they killed her off in a car crash. She was replaced by Sandy Duncan.
Other comedies have dealt with high-profile departures in a kinder, gentler fashion. Cheers addressed the loss of Shelley Long — who wanted to leave TV to pursue a movie career in 1987 — by explaining how Diane Chambers got a huge advance to write a book. She promised to return to Boston to marry Sam (Ted Danson), but he knew she didn’t mean it. “Have a good life” were Sam’s last words.
Cheers, however, featured plenty of memorable, sentimental moments. Men hasn’t, so it doesn’t seem likely that Lorre would show a bereft Jon Cryer (who plays Charlie’s brother Alan) and Holland Taylor (Charlie’s mom Evelyn) weeping over Charlie’s casket at a beachside funeral home. That’s just not Lorre — and frankly, it wouldn’t be a satisfying outcome for TV’s most-watched comedy. Keeping him alive might make better sense anyway. One longtime sitcom writer has this suggestion for Men: “They should keep the character alive and off screen, like Vera on Cheers or Maris on Frasier. I’m sure the writers would have a field day writing hilarious reports from his antics abroad. Plus, if Ashton tanks, a humbled Sheen could return in a year or two.”
Another, more cynical writer offers this alternative: “Alan: `Where’s Charlie?’ Jake: `You mean Uncle Charlie? He’s been dead 10 years. Dad, are you off your meds again?’ Alan takes his pill. That way you can start over, saying all the previous episodes were only in his imagination. You can then enter Ashton Kutcher like he’s been there all along.”
How do you think Men should deal with Sheen’s departure?