Charlie Sheen leaves sitcom for rehab

Production shuts down on 'Two and a Half Men'

Charlie Sheen is taking a leave of absence from CBS' sitcom "Two and a Half Men," putting the remainder of the hit series' seventh-season order in limbo.

Sheen's publicist said Tuesday that the actor is entering rehab for unspecified treatment and "will take some time off" from the show.

That led to an immediate production shutdown on the Warner Bros. TV-produced comedy, which was to film Episode 19 this week and is six episodes short of its 24-episode season order.

Sheen's decision to take a leave from "Men" came as a surprise to CBS and WBTV.

In a joint statement, CBS' entertainment president Nina Tassler, WBTV's president Peter Roth and "Men" co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre confirmed that production on the show will be "temporarily suspended" and said they "support Charlie Sheen in his decision today to begin voluntary in-patient care at a treatment center."

The news comes at a tumultuous time in Sheen's personal life, which has been in a downward spiral since his Christmas Day arrest for domestic violence against his wife, Brooke Mueller. He faces charges of felony menacing along with misdemeanor third-degree assault and criminal mischief.

Mueller checked into rehab last month.

Despite Sheen's personal problems, the hit sitcom had continued production as scheduled since the beginning of the year until this week, when he didn't show up for work Monday -- when his presence was optional -- and then again Tuesday.

There was speculation Tuesday that Sheen could be sidelined for only a couple of weeks. If that is the case, the impact on "Men's" production schedule will be minimal because the show already has a planned weeklong hiatus in March.

If he is away for a longer period, though, CBS will start seeing effects from the work stoppage in mid-April. The network is just getting into contingency scheduling plans, with double-pumping red-hot sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" (an original and a rerun) in the 9 p.m. hour considered a possibility as well as pairing originals of "Bang" and repeats of "Men."

But the bigger question surrounds the long-term future of "Men" if Sheen's abuse problems persist.

What's more, the actor -- who is the highest-paid TV star at close to $900,000 an episode -- faces possible jail time if convicted.

Sheen is the heart of "Men," which originally was picked up contingent on him starring in it, making his replacement extremely difficult. CBS already has renewed the comedy through the 2011-12 season, and WBTV has deals for those extra episodes in syndication.

After a decade of drug problems during the 1990s, Sheen seemed to have cleaned up his image and reinvented himself as a sitcom star -- first with ABC's "Spin City," on which he replaced Michael J. Fox for Season 5, and then "Men," which premiered in 2003.

Lorre has been in a similar situation before. His first series, ABC's "Grace Under Fire," was canceled despite great ratings because of star Brett Butler's struggle with painkiller addiction.