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TV Column
Posted at 06:20 PM ET, 07/19/2011

Hollywood TV execs discuss a Very Important Topic: Charlie Sheen


Charlie Sheen was the main topic of conversation. (MARK RALSTON - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Hollywood TV execs got together Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hilton to eat some chicken and watch a panel of industry notables wring their hands some more about the difficulty of monetizing content on various platforms, at what they like to call a State of the Industry lunch.

But, the panel moderator, said she would be “remiss” if she did not begin with a discussion of the day’s “very important topic.” Just a couple hours earlier, Rupert Murdoch, CEO of Fox broadcast network and Fox News Channel parent NewsCorp, had gotten hit in the kisser with a shaving cream pie when he appeared in London before a Parliamentary committee to take questions about the hacking shenanigans of one of his British newspapers – a scandal which some speculate may wind up impacting his various operations here in the U.S.

But that was not the Very Important Topic she was referencing. No, her Very Important Topic was: Charlie Sheen.

“Two of you are both in the Charlie Sheen business,” the moderator said breathlessly to the panelists. One of them was Kevin Beggs, president of Lionsgate, which on Monday put out the “For Sale” sign on a new sitcom starring sacked “Two and a Half Men” star Sheen, and based on the hit ’03 flick “Anger Management.”

The other panelists, was Doug Herzog, president of MTV Networks Entertainment Group which includes Comedy Central, which will telecast a Charlie Sheen roast the same night CBS debuts the first Sheen-less season of “Men” -- the country’s most popular comedy series, off of which Sheen, the highest paid actor working in TV at the time, managed to get himself sacked last season, when producer Warner Bros. TV decided it would rather take a chance on the show without him than be stuck with him.

“What does it feel like to be Winning?” the moderator, The Hollywood Reporter’s Lacey Rose, asked Beggs.

After dutifully repeating the carefully crafted comment attributed to him in yesterday’s announcement, Beggs decided to risk it, and added, “If Charlie Sheen’s not a good fit with ‘Anger Management’ we don’t know what we’re doing.”

Moderator Rose: “Blah, blah, unpredictability, blah, blah, huge risk.”

Beggs: “He’s not as big a risk as you might think. He’s been on a show for eight years, and the [production] model we’re employing compresses the time period way down. There’s risk in everything you do, but, with the team we have in place… we think we’re going to insulate ourselves as much as we can,” Beggs said, optimistically.

“Unlike Kevin we’re in the Sheen business only one night and we think it’s going to be great,” Herzog chimed in. “By the way, I think what Kevin and those guys are doing is really exciting,” Herzog said. Then, addressing Beggs, Herzog said that if Beggs can make a go of it with Sheen, he’d love to have Lionsgate come pitch him a Dave Chappelle show.

KaPOW!

Some of you may remember that, back in April of 2005, about eight months after signing a $50 million deal with Comedy Central to keep his series “Chappelle’s Show” going for a third and fourth season, making him one of the most highly paid people in the TV industry, Chappelle abruptly bolted from production, aborting the debut of the third season, which network had already spent millions promoting. Chappelle fled to Africa, setting off a torrent of press reports that Chappelle was a) missing, b) on drugs, c) spinning out of control and/or d) checking into a mental health facility.

“I’m curious…what’s keeping each of you up at night,” Rose said, quickly moving on, lest Beggs come back with some searing response.

By  |  06:20 PM ET, 07/19/2011

 
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