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Charlie Sheen: What CBS can do

Charlie Sheen makes a court appearance on March

Charlie Sheen makes a court appearance on March 15, 2010 in Aspen, Colorado. (March 15, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

You are, let's say, CBS, and you have a spectacular problem: Charlie Sheen, your lead on your top-rated sitcom, has beat a felony charge related to a domestic violence dispute (he ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor/3rd degree assault) in Colorado only to return to California to deal with repeated problems relating to alcohol and (reportedly) drug abuse. He has trashed a Manhattan hotel room. He has now been admitted to a Cedars-Sinai for a hernia, but a woman at a party he threw the night before says he was doing massive amounts of cocaine. 

So, CBS. What do you do? Take your pick below.

Read on!

1) Fire  him immediately, with cause. This is one obvious option, though financially unpalatable. But consider this: If you were at a party where drugs were reportedly widely used, and where you were known to have had serious abuse problems relating to alcohol, what would your employer do? Aren't you sick and tired of reading comments about "poor Charlie Sheen."  If proven -- repeat, if proven -- that he in fact was  using coke Wednesday night, and that there is evidence of said use, he could face jail time. It is an illegal substance. Then firing becomes a moot point. But keeping him around, CBS then is no longer "enabling" Sheen but aiding and abetting someone who uses illegal drugs.

2) Force Sheen off the show, and force him into rehab. Well, you can also lead a horse to water. The problem with this solution is that Sheen doesn't work for CBS but for the producer Warner Bros. CBS, of course, owns the show, and has considerable weight in such a decision. The other issue is that Sheen could simply refuse. The next immediate problem is that it would put the show, which goes back into production Tuesday, on hiatus. For how long? Who knows.

3) Force Sheen off, but keep the show in  production; bring in -- as my editor and colleague Andy Edelstein suggested -- a replacement, like the long-lost brother or whomever, played by an actor of real heft. I suspect CBS has given this very careful thought -- whether it is possible, who that actor might be, and how they might sell it to the audience are unknowns, of course. The danger for CBS is that Sheen could have legal options too -- whatever they might be in this instance. But I suspect his current problems give CBS greater weight here. They can do what they want, or get Warner Bros. to do what they want.

4) Do nothing, and pretend that nothing has happened. This is an utterly impossible option, and CBS must know this by now, but I bring it up anyway because of course the network can and likely will do nothing. It must know that the ostrich-with-his-head-in-the-sand approach is a terrible one, and makes it look inept, weak and, worst of all, greedy. This approach almost -- yes almost -- makes it seem like CBS doesn't think his behavior is wrong.

So there are your choices. I can't imagine what other ones CBS has at this point. Can you?

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