Charlie Sheen is being replaced on the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” — again.
This time by a 63-year-old woman.
The increasingly tedious nose-thumbing that’s been going on between Warner Bros. and Sheen, its former “Two and a Half Men” star, suddenly got interesting again when CBS announced that an upcoming episode of “Men” will feature the return of Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper. Except Harper will be played by Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates.
It’s nothing new to bring back departed series stars as characters they made famous, for a sort of homecoming. Remember when Shelley Long visited “Cheers” in ’93 for that series’s finale? Or when George Clooney returned to “ER” for Julianna Margulies’s final episode as a show regular? Or when Chad Michael Murray came back to “One Tree Hill” a couple of weeks ago?
Usually, the way this works is this:
●Star returns to bask in the standing O of the studio audience.
●Star’s return reaps huge ratings for the show in a “sweep” ratings derby.
●Ratings demonstrate to star’s next employer that he/she has still got what it takes.
●Everybody goes home happy.
But of course, Sheen has a very challenged relationship with the show and with Warner Bros., which sacked him off his starring vehicle last spring. That despite Sheen’s delivering his famous “From the bottom of my heart I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season” speech to the producers and cast of “Men” at the Emmy Awards last fall.
Just this past February, Warner Bros. sent Sheen and the producers of his new sitcom, “Anger Management,” a letter demanding that they stop using one of Warner Bros.’s Sheen promo photos to promote the show at a trade confab.
Sheen responded that he was tired of pretending “Men” and the star who replaced him, Ashton Kutcher, didn’t stink.
Sheen eventually apologized to Kutcher — but not to Warner Bros. or show creator/exec producer Chuck Lorre.
Now Lorre and Warner Bros. have thumbed their noses, again.
The episode in question will air April 30 — that’s the first Monday of the May sweep ratings race — and just two months before Sheen’s “Anger Management” is set to premiere on the FX network.
Sheen’s dead Charlie Harper character will return as a ghost to visit his brother, Alan, played by Jon Cryer, who is hospitalized after a heart attack.
Only instead of helping Sheen warm up the marketing machine for his new comedy, “Men” has cast Bates in the ghostly role, which will probably help with ratings on her NBC series, “Harrry’s Law.”
The network crossover guest visit by the NBC star is not so problematic as you might expect: “Harry’s Law” also is produced by Warner Bros.