"Two and a Half Men" exec producer Chuck Lorre opened up to our old Variety compadre Michael Schneider in a lengthy story for TV Guide reflecting on the saga that led to Charlie Sheen's exit from the CBS comedy.
The piece shows Lorre more than once contemplating leaving "Men" because of the challenges that Sheen was posing, beginning well before the actor's bridge-burning outbursts early this year.
In hindsight, Lorre says he regrets not quitting the show after Sheen was accused of holding a knife to his wife, Brooke Mueller, on Christmas in 2009. "When he started attacking people with knives, that's it," Lorre says. "That should have been it. I should have walked. That's unthinkable. No more. I'm done. But for some reason I thought that because she was willing to forgive him... we could emerge from this fiasco and be stronger and healthier."
At the same time, even as Sheen slipped up, he was able to hide much of his substance abuse behind his signature laid-back façade. "He always reminded me of Dean Martin," Lorre says. "Charlie is the epitome of cool and he made it look effortless. People never gave him enough credit for how skillful he was because he made it look so easy. There's that element of Charlie that's admirable and he was the kind of guy you wanted to hang out with. He was a special guy. But special guys are not immune to drug addiction."
My takeaway from the piece, however, is that while it has only been months since Sheen departed and Ashton Kutcher arrived, this chapter of the show's history already feels like something very much in the past. In the spring, people hung on every development between Sheen and Lorre; now folks are back to worrying only whether "Two and a Half Men" is funny.