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October 7, 2015

How Will Charlie Sheen's Firing Affect the Other CBS Sitcoms?

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 8th 2011 4:00PM
'The Big Bang Theory'Even before CBS and Warner Brothers lowered the boom on Charlie Sheen yesterday, firing him from 'Two and a Half Men,' the Eye network was already showing evidence that they were planning Life After Sheen.

The two-season renewal of 'How I Met Your Mother,' announced hours before the Sheen firing, was the first sign that CBS might be scrambling to ensure its comedy lineup can go on without 'Men' -- or at least 'Men' as we've known it for eight seasons -- on the schedule. According to Deadline, the per-episode licensing fee CBS is paying to Fox is $3.3 million, a healthy raise from their last deal and quite a price to pay for a show that's already passed its 100th episode.

But with the future of 'Men' uncertain, this may not be the first CBS sitcom that benefits from this whole Sheen mess. A look at who stands to gain and why after the jump.

'How I Met Your Mother''How I Met Your Mother'
Beyond the new deal, HIMYM is positioned to become CBS' Monday comedy centerpiece, even if a modified 'Men' comes back for a ninth season. An indication on how important they think the show is to them in general is the early pickup; in the past, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas had to sweat it out until the spring upfronts season before they heard anything. Now that they have a two season pickup, with the entire cast in the fold, Bays and Thomas will have more room to write towards the conclusion everyone's expecting from them: the identity of the mother in the show's title.

CBS has picked up the promotional pace for the show ever since its 2008 Britney Spears–inspired ratings surge, and between its appealing stars -- Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris have become close to A-listers since the show started -- and many high-profile guest appearances, HIMYM has picked up buzz beyond the online obsessives (like me) who were initially talking up the show. The effort will only increase now.

'Mad Love''Mad Love'
The more I watch this show, the more it feels like a HIMYM clone. They live in New York, they hang out in a bar, they're in their thirties. There's even a voice over at the beginning and end of each episode (Tyler Labine instead of Bob Saget). But the stars have made it very watchable, and the ratings have held relatively steady; the show attracts about 7 million viewers per episode.

But here's the key: While Fox owns HIMYM, CBS owns 'Mad Love.' This means any licensing fee the network may pay their production arm is for the accountants' sake; the money stays in-house. And if the show can reach 100 episodes, CBS will reap all the syndication benefits. It's imperative to CBS to keep this show going as long as it can.

'The Big Bang Theory'
Whenever possible, CBS likes to groom a successor to seamlessly take over for one of their big comedies when it leaves the air. When 'Murphy Brown' petered out on Mondays -- and another Chuck Lorre property, 'Cybill,' flamed out -- CBS had 'Everybody Loves Raymond' ready to go. When 'Raymond' departed, 'Men' slid into its timeslot without much of a fuss.

And, while it seems that CBS might want to leave 'The Big Bang Theory' in its very lucrative Thursday timeslot, the network's history indicates that they'll put 'Big Bang' back on Mondays, where it often tied or outperformed 'Men,' in order to shore up their signature comedy night.

Either way, as my colleague Mo Ryan mentioned yesterday, CBS wants to continue to be in the Chuck Lorre business, as he is the network's biggest moneymaker not named Bruckheimer. After the Sheen disaster, the network will likely bend over backwards to keep 'Big Bang' and Lorre's third show, 'Mike & Molly,' going. They've already renewed 'Big Bang' for three more seasons, another sign that they knew that firing Sheen was a definite possibility.

'Mike & Molly''Mike & Molly'
If 'Mike & Molly' were a little further along, CBS might consider sliding it up a half-hour into the 9PM Monday slot now occupied by 'Men.' It's happened before; the network gambled with 'Raymond' by putting its struggling Friday show on Mondays, and it took off, making it ready to step into the 9PM slot by its third season.

'M&M's' ratings are solid but not spectacular. CBS could take a chance by moving it up, but it would more likely bring over 'Big Bang' and keep 'M&M' where it is. Either way, it's not going anywhere.

'Rules of Engagement''Rules of Engagement'
Its hard to believe that this relentlessly mediocre series is in its fifth season, but that's what happens when it gets wedged into the schedule when it fits. This is the first time it's been given a full-season, 22-episode order, and it's done a solid-enough job to be shifted to the post 'Big Bang' slot, where it's improved on the ratings '$#*! My Dad Says' had in that slot. Even though the show never generates any buzz, it'll just do well enough to keep going for a few more years, probably in its current hole-plugging utility infielder role.

'$#*! My Dad Says' / New Comedies
If 'Men' doesn't continue, there will be a prime slot open, either on Mondays or Thursdays, for CBS to develop a new sitcom. There's even a chance that 'Dad,' which was pulled for 'Rules' last month, could gain a second-season reprieve, with William Shatner's star power being what saves it. There's also a chance that CBS will want to develop a new night of comedy like they did with 'Big Bang' on Thursdays this season.

Either way, CBS will always try to position themselves to make any major transition as smooth as possible. And, while a 'Men' starring Sheen would have been the best scenario, that's not going to happen. So, whether 'Men' comes back or not, the Eye network is in good shape with comedy, even if it has to scramble a bit.

Tell us: Which CBS sitcom will benefit the most from the Sheen mess?

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March 08 2011 at 4:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ChuckLorre's comment

I doubt you're Chuck, but the video's funny, anyway.

March 08 2011 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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