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Chuck Lorre Gets All-Star, All-Show Hollywood Salute
January 16, 2015  | By David Bianculli

HOLLYWOOD, CA – Chuck Lorre is about to lose one sitcom on CBS, with the imminent departure of Two and a Half Men. But that still leaves him with three – and Thursday, the prolific comedy creator was honored with an all-star, all-shows salute…

Not since the Nineties, when multi-series, multi-network writer-producer David E. Kelley was saluted for Ally McBeal and other concurrent works, has a TV series creator been the guest of honor at an event combining the casts of more than one series. But Warner Bros., the studio producing all of Lorre’s sitcoms for CBS, made room during the Television Critics Association press tour for the stars and producers of all four of them: Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly, and Mom.

Sound stages for the four Lorre shows on the Warners lot are adjacent, like stacked houses on a Monopoly board: In one row are Mike & Molly (Stage 24), The Big Bang Theory (Stage 25) and Two and a Half Men (Stage 26), with Mom directly west of them on Stage 20. It’s a family neighborhood – and on one of the Warners theaters on the lot, the four families were united, occupying three rows, and a total of 24 chairs, for a talk-about-Lorre lovefest. Which everyone did, before screening an upcoming episode of Mom, relocating for food and drinks on the Two and a Half Men sound stage, then touring the other Lorre sitcom sets.

For the press conference, Lorre sat in the center of the top row, flanked by fellow producers and show runners. The second row was filled by Jim Parsons and his fellow Big Bang Theory cast members, and the front row was a three-sitcom power play: Holland Taylor, Conchata Ferrell, Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer from Men on the left, with the right side split between Anna Faris and Allison Janney of Mom and Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy of Mike & Molly.

Despite the deeply populated panel, actual news from the two dozen actors and producers was scarce. Lorre, though declining to say whether Charlie Sheen would return for the one-four Two and a Half Men finale Feb. 19, did promise it would include “an awful lot of folks.”

Lorre did, however, return to the question by offering an olive branch of sorts, after the famously disruptive exit of Sheen from the show, which since has been running for several years with Ashton Kutcher as Jon Cryer’s replacement co-star.

“It would be inappropriate,” Lorre said, “to not acknowledge the extraordinary success we had with Charlie and how grateful I am, we all are, to his contributions. And there’s nothing but great feelings for the eight-and-a-half years we worked together.

“But how to wrap the show up?... Because in a way, the show morphed into something else entirely for the last four years—and it’s something we love—and we want to honor both. How to honor both is the challenge of this finale.”

Afterwards, at the dedication of Stage 26 for posterity as the Two and a Half Men stage, Lorre (at right, with Kaley Cuoco) stood next to series co-creator Lee Aronsohn, thanking him, basically, for planting the seed from which the entire Lorre sitcom empire grew.

“Lee called,” Lorre explained with a smile, “and said, ‘I’m losing my Writers Guild insurance. I need to write something in a hurry.’” They collaborated on the script for the Two and a Half Men pilot, and, said Lorre, 12 years later, here they are.

“So thank you,” Lorre said to Aronsohn. “You changed my life because you needed health insurance.”

Earlier, at the press conference, others under the Lorre umbrella had their own things to say, including:

Jon Cryer, asked about the secret of Lorre’s success as a sitcom creator: “If I knew what that was, I’d have four shows running at the same time.”

Ashton Kutcher: “These shows work because they’re all based on family… beat-up families, just like yours.”

Melissa Rauch, Bernadette on ‘The Big Bang Theory’: “It could have been a disaster, adding this character to a show that worked so well… I thought I was in for one or two episodes, but the cast was so welcoming from day one…and Chuck being ‘the comedy whisperer.’”

Mayim Bialik, Amy Farrah Fowler on ‘The Big Bang Theory’: “I had actually never seen the show.” To play her character, she said, she opted to “do my best impression of this actor called Jim Parsons."

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