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Long before Chuck Lorre had Charlie Sheen problems with Two and a Half Men, he had them with Roseanne Barr, Brett Butler and Cybill Shepherd.
Lorre’s big break came in 1990, when he landed a supervising producer position on ABC’s top-rated Roseanne.
It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
“One of the benefits of working 70 hours a week in hell is that the mind covers itself so you can’t remember it,” he said in a 2007 interview.
The network wanted a comedy, and Barr wanted that too — but one that also dealt with sensitive social issues. She got her way in the time-honored diva tradition: refusing dialogue, walking off the set and threatening to quit. She also became a controversial figure when she sang the national anthem and grabbed her crotch.
Lorre’s two years with a difficult stand-up comedian-turned-actress was just an apprenticeship.
He went on to develop Grace Under Fire, whose star, Butler, was having problems with painkiller addiction, which led to alleged verbal abuse and sexual harassment (this from a lawsuit Lorre filed over profits).
Then, on Cybill, it was said Shepherd was jealous of all the attention co-stars like Christine Baranski received.
The atmosphere became so tense that Alan Ball, who wrote for both sitcoms, began referring to them as “the gulag.”
Although these experiences could turn any sane man into, in Sheen’s words, “a high-priest Vatican assassin warlock,” the undaunted Lorre went on to create Two and a Half Men.
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