Chuck Lorre’s Had More Than His Share of Toxic Talents

Charlie Sheen

Why, Chuck Lorre, why? With Charlie Sheen’s series-ending public rant last week, Lorre has to have attained some sort of new Guinness world record for dealing with out-of-control, out-of-their-minds, self-destructive TV stars.

In case you missed it, Sheen referred to the “Two and a Half Men” creator as a “clown” whose “tin can” writing Sheen claimed to have been “effortlessly and magically converting…into pure gold” for nearly a decade.
Lorre’s used to unappreciative stars, to say the least. Consider: the esteemed writer/producer first whetted his sitcom chops working on “Roseanne” back in the early ’90s. Behind-the-scenes fights on that show became an everyday part of the job, as the star wrested more and more control out of creator Matt Williams’ hands and launched a frenzy of frequent firings. Before it was all over, tales of screaming tyrannical behavior emanated from the set regularly and Roseanne let it be known that she suffered from multiple personality disorder.

Roseanne

But that show was likely a better experience for Lorre than the first show he personally created – the 1993-1998 “Grace Under Fire,” starring Brett Butler. The comedian, once thought to be the female answer to Lenny Bruce, exhibited demonical diva ways including verbal abuse and sexual harassment, according to Lorre’s suit over profits from the sitcom. Her nastiness led staff, including writer Alan Ball, to talk about the show using terms such as “the gulag.” Lorre left.

Brett Butler

Butler confessed to painkiller addiction and the production became subject to her rehabs and relapses — but due to high ratings, the team carried on (sound familiar?) until at last ABC got fed up with Butler missing tapings and abruptly pulled the plug.

Then there was Cybill Shepherd, a decided improvement. Nevertheless, she was accused of megalomania during production of her “Cybill” show of 1995-1998. Whoever did what to whom, clearly, it wasn’t fun. Lorre was fired after five episodes despite creating the show. (A phalanx of other writers quit or were fired as well.)

First, though, Cybill had Lorre banned from the set, reportedly because she hated it when he and another producer, Jay Daniel, sat watching her performances on the monitor and critiquing them. Imagine producers doing such a thing!

Small wonder that in 2008, Lorre relished the assignment of cowriting a “CSI” episode entitled “Death of a Sitcom Diva.” As “CSI’s” Robert David Hall put it, “I think Chuck is working off his aggression in this script.”

By then, “Two and a Half Men” was already a long-standing hit, and it looked like taking a gamble on seemingly-reformed hellion Charlie Sheen was a good idea. Considering the show’s long running success, it still looks that way. But as every reader of pop psych tomes and women’s magazines knows, if you keep getting into the same kind of toxic relationships over and over again, you have to recognize that it’s your responsibility and make changes. Lorre’s apparently-harmonious “Big Bang Theory” and gratitude-infused “Mike and Molly” casts suggest he’s found the healthy truth: there are talented, funny, creative people out there who manage to do terrific work without all the pain and suffering.

Goodbye, Charlie Sheen. Ahh.