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'Two and a Half Men:' What now?

"Two and a Half Men:" Remember that show? CBS's biggest sitcom? The "Seinfeld" of our day (although comparisons between both series begin and end there)? Linchpin of CBS's Monday? A massive profit generator? One of the most reliable performers of any TV series on television? Little more than 15 million tune in week after week, year after year. It's as if CBS has paid each and every one of them to tune in Monday nights, Charlie Sheen is the star. Remember  him?

Here are some fundamental knowns: The next original episode airs next Monday. It has the wonderfully unfortunate ironic title, "Three Hookers and a Philly Cheesesteak."  Another scheduled episode ("That Darn Priest") airs Feb. 14. After that, the great guessing game begins.

CBS has aired a total of 14 originals this season, which means 10 originals are left. Cast and crew were scheduled to return to work tomorrow; now, they are not. Sheen is now in rehab, and TMZ says he'll be there for three months. Can he leave early? Of course. It's almost impossible to believe he'll stay the duration, but keep in mind: CBS and Warner Brothers actually appear to be serious this time.

They put the show on "production hiatus" -- a very quasi-legally specific term that means it truly is being shut down as opposed to merely being put on ice a couple of weeks. This means hundreds (probably about 250 people are not getting paid). This means Sheen will not be collecting his $2 million per episode paycheck either. "Hiatus" means that the lights are out, and may not come back on. Often it's a euphemism for outright cancellation.

"Men" has 10 episodes left, and my guess is that CBS has enough originals to get it through February sweeps, or -- perhaps not. If producers are working four weeks out [typical] then they probably were getting ready to shoot the last episode for February.

CBS now must find filler for three important months -- part of February, March, April and May. Certainly with only 10 originals left there were plans to use 9 for other ventures -- specials, new shows, the usual. But May would have had at least two originals, and March a pair as well. Those are now gone. 

CBS will  likely announce its next move today or this week. You will be the second to hear -- after me.

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