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Producer Lorre Should Avoid Toxic Celebs

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 Barr let it be known that she suffered from multiple personality disorder.

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. 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, Shepherd 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 co-writing 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.

IT'S ALL IN THE DEMOGRAPHIC: Disney XD's "Zeke and Luther," which is now launching its third season, has made stars out of 18-year-olds Hutch Dano and Adam Hicks. At least, it has with a certain segment of the population. The affable Dano tells us that getting recognized "depends on where I go. I have a little sister. I went to her science fair at school last week, and I got recognized there a lot. But if I go to see an R-rated movie, adults don't look twice."

His and Hicks' skateboarder characters continue to mature this season, he notes — beginning with their season opener, in which Zeke takes a fall that threatens his future.

"One of the coolest things about the show is that every season, you see the main characters step up more and more and become better and better friends as the season progresses," believes Dano. "Every season, you want to bring something new to your character. For me, Zeke is a little more serious, he's a leader, he's older — but you also want to be able to let him let loose a little more. We do that. We have spit takes, we have those moments when we're jumping all over the place ... It's a tough balance to find, even working with the writers."

Dano, who had his own "Den Brother" Disney Channel movie last year, and co-starred as Henry Huggins in the big-screen "Ramona and Beezus," wouldn't mind "Zeke and Luther" going on into a fourth season, or more.

"I love the show. I love the cast and crew. I'd definitely be open to continuing on whatever happens with the show."

CASTING ABOUT: Kevin James has been keeping the storyline of his "Here Comes the Boom" feature under wraps, but casting notices provide a few scintillating hints. They include an Ethiopian lady and a Dutchman — the actor who plays him must speak Dutch.

ABC is planning an hour-long drama about a new FBI unit specializing in identity theft, titled "Identity." It might not seem like much action would be in store with a bunch of agents staring at computer screens, but, wouldn't you know it? One of the characters is a guy who not only knows his way around the web, but has yet to give up his old-fashioned investigative methods — or his big secret. That is, that he's never given up his undercover identity. An identity within an identity story, see? Another character is a funny, witty, odd young woman who's a computer wizard. Sounds like another in the Mary Lynn Rajskub "24" and Pauley Perrette "NCIS" mold.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH

1 Responses »

  1. Charlie is a nut, the way he talks and looks these days. His way of looking at things. Clearly he is living in a dream world. Drugs will do that to you. I would bet a lot of money most of his family don't even recognize the dude that they have seen all over these tabloid sites lately. He also looks real thin, as in sick thin if you know what I mean.