With Charlie Sheen in Rehab, What's 'Two and a Half Men' to Do?

Source close to show says executives were pushing for Sheen to go to rehab.

ByABC News
February 1, 2011, 1:08 AM

Feb. 1, 2011 — -- When most Hollywood players go to rehab, they miss a couple of paychecks. When Charlie Sheen goes to rehab, television's No. 1 comedy falls apart.

After Sheen voluntarily checked into a rehab facility last week, CBS Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television put his hit sitcom, "Two and a Half Men," on an indefinite hiatus.

It's bad for business -- both the network that airs the series and the studio that produces it could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if "Two and a Half Men" fails to return to TV -- but for those around Sheen, his latest (third) round in rehab comes as a relief. A source close to the situation told ABCNews.com that high level executives at CBS and Warner Bros. have been pushing for Sheen to go to rehab for some time.

A CBS statement released Monday underlined that point: "The most important thing right now is that Charlie is seeking help. Any immediate programming or financial implications pale in comparison to his long term health, safety and well-being."

CBS' statement added that any decline in ratings will be offset by the lower-than-expected cost for the remaining season of "Two and a Half Men." Assuming Sheen is out of commission for the rest of this season, instead of paying to air eight more episodes of the show, CBS will only pay Warner Bros. for the two un-aired "Two and a Half Men" installments that are already in the can. (They're scheduled to run Feb. 7 and 14.) In lieu of re-runs, the network plans to order more episodes of its other popular comedies to fill "Two and a Half Men's" Monday night time slot.

Short-term crisis averted; long term scenario uncertain. The future of "Two and a Half Men" depends on when Sheen ends this rehab stint. According to TMZ.com, he's undergoing treatment at home, which could allow him to get back on set sooner than if he had checked into a traditional facility. Late Monday, Sheen's publicist released a statement declining to detail the length of the actor's treatment or where it's taking place. A big question remains for "Two and a Half Men:" How will the show address its star's problems?

Warner Bros. declined ABCNews.com's requests for comment. But one television insider theorized that a lineup of guest stars and a curious disappearance of Sheen's maybe not-so-coincidentally named alter-ego, hard-drinking, woman-loving Charlie Harper, will enable producers to bang out a few new episodes this season, should Sheen remain in rehab. Could Charlie Harper check into, say, Betty Ford?

"I would be very surprised if those worlds collided," said Joe Adalian, west coast editor of New York Magazine's Vulture.com. "'Two and a Half Men' is not 'M*A*S*H.' It's not 'All in the Family.' It's not the type of show that's going to tackle serious issues. It's more likely that his character would take an around-the-world cruise for a year to party with women."

"Guest stars are always a possibility," Adalian added. "In the past, we've heard rumors about Martin Sheen coming by. It's 'Two and a Half Men,' not one man, so there are certainly possibilities that can be explored."

One man in particular wouldn't mind a shot at the job: Joe Estevez, Sheen's 60-year-old uncle and Martin Sheen's younger brother.

It might be better for Sheen to return to work sooner rather than later. With family out of his reach -- his eldest daughter recently got married, his two young daughters are in the custody of his ex-wife, Denise Richards, and his twin baby boys are in the custody of his estranged wife, Brooke Mueller -- his job seems to be the only thing keeping him on track.

In October, while "Two and a Half Men" was on a scheduled hiatus, Sheen partied with an adult film star, went on a rampage through New York City's Plaza Hotel and landed in the hospital. Last week, while the show was also on a scheduled hiatus, he again partied with an adult film star and landed in the hospital before revisiting rehab.

"When he's working, he's good at keeping it all together," said People magazine senior writer Joey Bartolomeo. "When he's not working, that's when bad things happen."