FX announced late Thursday that Charlie Sheen, sacked star of “Two and a Half Men,” will return to sitcom TV next summer.
The basic cable network — and the home of “Two and a Half Men” reruns — has ordered 10 episodes of “Anger Management,” which is loosely based on the 2003 flick of the same name. Sheen will play the film’s Jack Nicholson role.
Also looking to make a comeback on this project: Bruce Helford, the once super-hot show-runner who is maybe best known for “The Drew Carey Show.”
Also with a hand in this hot project: Joe Roth, whose Revolution Studios made the film.
FX acknowledged that in striking the deal, it has agreed to the producers’ so-called Debmar-Mercury model. It goes like this:
1. FX buys 10 episodes.
2. If episodes achieve an agreed-upon ratings threshold, then . . .
3. FX is on the hook for an additional 90 episodes. Period.
It’s the same model that Debmar-Mercury, the company behind Sheen’s new show, employed when it sold those Tyler Perry comedies to TBS. This way, Debmar-Mercury piles up 100 episodes a whole lot faster than if the show were sold using the traditional broadcast or cable model. Which, practically speaking, means Debmar-Mercury only has to make sure that Sheen stays at Sober Valley Lodge for a whole lot less time than the years Warner Bros. TV faced when he was starring in “Men.”
And 100 is the magic number of episodes you need to make a TV series a really viable product to sell hither and thither in syndication, etc.
Broadcast networks, in contrast, like to order a batch of 13 episodes of a new show, which may or may not make it to the schedule. If the first few episodes do well, the network might give the series a “full-season order,” which usually means 24 or so episodes.
Then everyone waits to find out whether the show will live to see another 24 episodes ordered. And so, the long TV season wears on.
Anyway, the model is why a broadcast TV home was considered a long shot — although word got out this month that everyone except CBS (duh) and TBS (corporate sibling of “Men” production company Warner Bros. TV — duh again) had taken meetings with Sheen, Debmar-Mercury and D-M’s parent, Lionsgate, about the new series.
“We think that Bruce Helford, Joe Roth and Charlie Sheen have come up with a wonderful, hilarious vehicle for Charlie’s acting talents — and a character we are very much looking forward to seeing him play,” FX Network’s president, John Landgraf, said in Thursday’s announcement.
“ ‘Two and a Half Men’ has been an outstanding component of FX’s schedule for the past 14 months,” Landgraf said, “and we have every confidence that ‘Anger Management’ will soon be as well.”
NBC’s new newsmagazine, “Rock Center With Brian Williams,” premieres Monday at 10 p.m., broadcast live from what has been described as Brian’s new “man cave” at Rockefeller Center.
“Rock Center” features an all-star cast of correspondents and contributors, including Ted Koppel, Meredith Vieira, Richard Engel, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry.
NBC News held a news conference via phone this week with The Reporters Who Cover Television to take questions about the show.
But first, a network foursome — the head of NBC News, the show’s senior exec producer, the show’s exec producer and Brian — wanted the reporters to know:
●This is the first time in nearly two decades that a news division has tried to launch a new newsmag.
●The timing is right, what with everything that’s happening around the world.
●NBC News is “uniquely situated” to take on such an ambitious project. (By that, they meant NBC News has MSNBC and CNBC, in addition to the No. 1-rated evening newscast, and the No. 1 morning infotainment behemoth, a.k.a. “Today.”
The execs did not mention that NBC is mired in fourth place in prime-time ratings among broadcast networks — thanks mostly to the failure of its entertainment programming and a now-departed management that believed in programming to margins.
They also did not mention that “Rock Center” is part of new owner Comcast’s campaign to stanch the bleeding, but there was talk about Comcast suits having come to them when they took over and asking them: “What car is missing in your garage that you’d like to have?”
NBC News President Steve Capus also wanted — in a big way — to manage expectations.
“We’re not going to sit here and predict for you that we’re going to be a smash hit right out of the starting blocks,” Capus said by way of opening the phoner.
“In fact, I actually think it’s going to be the opposite: We’re not doing this as a ratings play. We’re doing this as an attempt to give NBC News . . . an important news outlet in prime time.”
(What about “Dateline,” you ask? Glad you did! “Dateline,” the execs on the call explained, is a very successful vehicle for reporting about crime stories. And with that, they thought the subject was closed.)
Capus wanted to make it perfectly clear that the show would be moving from its Monday-at-10 berth — a.k.a. NBC’s former “Playboy Club” time slot — in the first quarter.
But, unlike reporting on the fate of “The Playboy Club,” he did not want to see any reports that “Rock Center” was being yanked because of lousy ratings. It was preordained that Brian would be yanked from the slot to make way for Marilyn Monroe.
NBC announced ages ago that, in the first quarter, it would return “The Voice,” its successful singing-competition series, to Mondays (from 8 to 10 p.m.) and that “The Voice” would be the perfect lead-in for a new scripted show called “Smash,” which is being described as “ ‘Glee’ for adults.”
“Smash” is about the mounting of a new Broadway musical on the life of Monroe. Katharine McPhee stars as one of the Marilyn hopefuls; Debra Messing plays one of the musical’s producers; and Steven Spielberg is, in real life, one of “Smash’s” exec producers.
“I want that to be put out there now,” Capus instructed the reporters, “because, as I said earlier, I don’t have high expectations for the ratings performance of this [newsmagazine].
“Regardless of what happens on the ratings side, we’re going to move, and that’s already been set in motion. So I just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that going in.”