Sorry Charlie: 'Two And A Half Men' May Go On

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the cast of 'Two and a half Men' i

Man down? It won't be a death sentence if Charlie Sheen leaves Two and a Half Men, our commentator argues. In fact plenty of TV shows have carried on for years after losing their initial stars. Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for PC hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for PC
the cast of 'Two and a half Men'

Man down? It won't be a death sentence if Charlie Sheen leaves Two and a Half Men, our commentator argues. In fact plenty of TV shows have carried on for years after losing their initial stars.

Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for PC

Andrew Wallenstein is an editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

Sorry, Charlie: Two and a Half Men has a future without you, unthinkable as it might sound. But if you make good on your threat to go, we'll miss your sardonic wit.

If Sheen thinks he has CBS over a barrel, he should brush up on his TV history. It's been proven time and time again that a sitcom can go on even when the main attraction takes off.

In fact one of the best examples of this trend involves Sheen himself. After years of battling Parkinson's disease privately, Michael J. Fox went public about his advancing condition and gave up the lead role on the ABC comedy Spin City. ABC replaced Fox's Mike Flaherty with a new character played by Charlie Sheen — and the ratings actually went up.

Comedies have been proving their durability as far back as 1969. On the sitcom Bewitched, Dick York vacated the role of the husband after five years. But Dick Sargent assumed his character for another three. And who can forget when Shelley Long shocked Hollywood by dropping out of Cheers? Most of America, apparently: They adjusted pretty quickly once Kirstie Alley came in.

Andrew Wallenstein

Andrew Wallenstein hide caption

itoggle caption

Now you could argue, would Cheers have survived if Ted Danson walked away, or if Elizabeth Montgomery left Bewitched? I'd still say yes, because one of the hallmarks of a great comedy is the way humor is distributed throughout the cast. Often enough, the star is really just a straight man for more colorful supporting players to bounce off of.

It's a little surprising when you think about it. Of all types of TV, sitcoms are arguably most dependent on their stars because of the delicate chemistry of comedy. The same can't be said of dramas, which almost seem to thrive on these defections. Just think of how Law & Order has made key cast changes an annual tradition. And you don't hear talk of Grey's Anatomy going off the air with the recent news that Katherine Heigl is moving on.

I'm not suggesting every comedy ever was immune. Seinfeld might have seemed to be missing something if it had lost, you know, Seinfeld.

And yet even self-titled sitcoms have survived cast changes. Comedy veteran Valerie Harper left her own show, Valerie, after one season in 1987. It was recast, renamed and ran five more seasons.

My bet is the writers and producers of Two and a Half Men are engaged in a pretty interesting creative exercise right now. What brand-name actor can they bring in, and what kind of character could he play? I'd say it could be a she as well, but the show is called Two and a Half Men.

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