Chuck Lorre Hatches 'Two and a Half Men' Reboot Without Charlie Sheen (Exclusive)

Charlie Sheen - Two and a Half Men - TV Still: w Jon Cryer -  2006
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Amid Sheen's last-ditch pleas to cast, Lorre has told Jon Cryer this reboot would involve a significant role for him and the introduction of a new, yet-to-be-cast character.

With time running out before the CBS upfront presentation in May, the plan to relaunch Two and a Half Men without Charlie Sheen is beginning to take shape.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that series co-creator Chuck Lorre has hatched an idea to reboot the Warner Bros.-produced sitcom with a new creative direction that does not involve Sheen, who was fired from the series in March. Lorre is said to have presented close associates and Men co-star Jon Cryer with the plan, and the studio and network are aware of his intentions. According to an insider, Lorre has told Cryer this reboot would involve a significant role for him and the introduction of a new, yet-to-be-cast character.

Sheen, who is suing Lorre and Warner Bros. for $100 million, has frequently expressed his desire to return to the show as he crisscrosses the country on his "Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option" comedy tour. A source tells THR that Sheen is still working behind the scenes to be reinstated, attempting as late as this week to set up meetings with Men cast members, hoping to clear the air and win their support. But Lorre is said to remain uninterested in meeting with Sheen, and Warners sources are adamant that Sheen will not be invited back.

Neither CBS nor Warner Bros. has said whether Men will return for a ninth season, but industry speculation is that the show will almost certainly return. And talent representatives say Warners has quietly begun pursuing an actor to appear on the series next season. Who that actor will be has become Topic A in Hollywood. Speculation has ranged from the plausible to the peculiar, with names from Woody Harrelson to Jeremy Piven to Bob Saget being bandied about. A Warners spokesperson says none of those actors is in contention.

While a new cast member wouldn’t make “Sheen money” -- in the $1.2 million realm per episode -- slipping into television's No. 1 sitcom would earn an actor a rate well above the usual freshman series fee, one observer says. But the role would come with intense pressure as blame could be placed on the newcomer if the revamped show flops.

Others have suggested Men might consider a "roommate" scenario, with multiple stars appearing in one or a few episodes to fill the Sheen void.

When exactly Men would return is another open question. Two sources say a midseason relaunch is more likely than a fall return. While delaying Men’s start would leave a significant revenue and ratings generator off the CBS fall schedule, the network and studio would have more time to retool the series. But unanswered questions about TV's most-watched comedy could upset ad buyers and upstage CBS' splashy upfront presentation next month.

Matthew Belloni contributed to this report.