Charlie Sheen wants to get back to work this month on “Two and a Half Men,” a spokesman said Thursday.
The 45-year-old actor remains in rehab but hopes to return to TV’s top-rated comedy by the end of February, publicist Stan Rosenfield said.
The series halted production with 16 of the season’s planned 24 episodes completed after Sheen sought treatment for undisclosed reasons following a brief hospitalization last week.
Only two of the Monday night show’s finished episodes are unaired, and they’re scheduled to be broadcast next Monday and Feb. 14.
To cover after that, CBS has ordered two extra episodes of “Rules of Engagement” and may increase its order for another sitcom as well as rely on “Two and a Half Men” repeats.
Producers intend to evaluate the situation before deciding whether to resume filming for the season, a person familiar with their plans said Thursday.
No other comedy has the drawing power of “Men,” which even in reruns averages bigger audiences (10.6 million, according to the Nielsen Co.) than first-run episodes of other network comedies, except for ABC’s “Modern Family” (14.6 million).
Original episodes top 15 million viewers and the show has increased its audience by 2 percent over last season, according to Nielsen.
Sheen signed a new two-year contract at the end of last season that makes him one of the highest-paid actors on prime-time TV.
But the 45-year-old has been living on the edge, with a wild night in October that left a New York hotel room in shambles and sent him to a hospital, and a guilty plea last summer to assaulting his wife on Christmas Day.
“I’m checking TMZ, as I do every day, to know if I have to go to work at all,” co-star Jon Cryer quipped on TBS’ “Conan” last week.
“Two and a Half Men,” which debuted in 2003, stars Sheen as womanizing bachelor Charlie Harper, who lives with his neurotic brother, the divorced Alan (Cryer) and Alan’s son, Jake (Angus T. Jones).
Warner and CBS would not address whether they would try to keep the show going if Sheen didn’t return. But there is historical precedent for trying – and even succeeding.
“Cheers” star Shelley Long exited in 1987 after five years; the comedy went out in 1993 as a hit.
“Recasting principals in a show can help, actually, taking a show that’s getting a little tired around the edges and renewing it,” said Tim Brooks, a former network executive and co-author of “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows.”
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