Will we have the first American sitcom with openly HIV-positive star? Charlie Sheen, who yesterday publicly acknowledged his condition following a National Enquirer report, had been looking to topline another primetime comedy series. In the weeks leading to the admission, Sheen had been actively meeting with producers about developing a new half-hour starring vehicle for him. I hear among those Sheen reached out to and had meetings with were CBS TV Studios-based Eric Tannenbaum, who executive produced Sheen’s hugely successful CBS sitcom Two And A Half Men as well as executives from Sony Pictures TV. I hear nothing came out of the sit-downs, and there is no Sheen series set up at the moment.
During the Today interview yesterday, Sheen indicated that he has major projects in the hopper, including several features, and was confident that his HIV-positive status will not have an impact on his career. He pointed to his talks at Sony TV, noting that chairman Steve Mosko was “excited about doing a show again” with him. “Thus far, there’s been no resistance,” Sheen said. It is yet to be seen whether any potential lawsuits by sexual partners from the four years he had kept his condition a secret would change that.
Sheen had been HIV-positive during the entire run of his previous sitcom, Anger Management. According to his own account, he was diagnosed in 2011, around the time he was pitching the project. It is unclear whether the actor revealed his condition to Lionsgate TV/Debmar-Mercury, which signed on to produce the show, and FX, which picked it up to series. Sources indicate that many if not all cast and crew members on the show were not aware Sheen was HIV-positive, at least not in the beginning. According to tabloid reports, Sheen’s colleagues became suspicious when production was shut down multiple times over the star’s health problems. A leaked email from the Sony hack indicates that top Sony TV executives and likely other industry types outside the studio were aware of the actor’s condition by early 2014.
Still, despite his 2011 public meltdown that led to his firing from 2.5 Men and heavy drug and alcohol abuse to which Sheen has confessed, most recently in the Today interview, he was able to complete 100 episodes of Anger Management in 2.5 years and is looking for a follow-up series. That would be his fourth sitcom, following Spin City, 2.5 Men and Anger Management.