In a surprise development Tuesday that casts doubt on the rest of its season, television's top-rated sitcom, "Two and a Half Men," halted production after its star Charlie Sheen announced he was checking into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic.
"We wish him nothing but the best as he deals with this personal matter," said a statement attributed to CBS, Warner Bros. and executive producer Chuck Lorre, who, according to sources familiar with the situation, were caught off-guard by the actor's move. Studio and network officials would not address the issue further on the record.
Sheen did not show up for work on Monday and his bail -- which requires that he not consume drugs or alcohol -- could be revoked in Colorado, where he is awaiting trial on domestic-violence charges. The actor's spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, described his client's decision to enter rehab as a "preventative measure" and added he would "take some time off" from the series.
Sheen's personal problems over the last two months now threaten to overwhelm the popular TV show, in its seventh season. Earlier this month, he was charged with a felony after his wife Brooke Mueller called Aspen police on Christmas Day and said the star had threatened her at knifepoint. Published reports have said that Mueller also entered rehab, apparently at a facility separate from her husband's, but that she checked herself out after her privacy had allegedly been breached.
Until now, the producers and Sheen's publicist have steadfastly downplayed the effect of the star's woes on "Two and a Half Men." Rosenfield said earlier this month that when Sheen was formally charged, he ended up missing only a table read and was quickly back at work.
Sheen's representatives have told the studio they expect the star to be out for only two weeks, according to sources familiar with the situation. But if his rehab stint stretches much beyond that, the producers may have trouble finishing the 24 episodes the network ordered for this season. The cast was due to shoot the 19th episode this week.
Sheen is due back in court next month to enter a formal plea. A prosecutor told the Associated Press he hadn't heard that Sheen had entered rehab and declined to speculate on its impact on the case.
A 2008 survey in TV Guide ranked Sheen as the highest-paid actor on TV, making $825,000 per episode or nearly $20 million per year.
It's rare but not unprecedented for a star's personal problems to threaten a successful TV series. ABC's sitcom "Grace Under Fire," created by Lorre, was initially a huge hit but suffered continuous backstage strife and serious ratings erosion due to the well-publicized drug and behavioral problems of star Brett Butler. ABC finally canceled the show in 1998.