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Charlie Sheen's contract talks appear to be following the script

May 3, 2010 |  1:26 pm

Over the next few weeks, there will be breathless updates about the talks between Charlie Sheen's camp and Warner Bros., producers of his hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men" and CBS, which carries the show on its Monday night lineup.

SHEEN Already we've gone from Sheen saying through people close to him that he's done with the show to talks between the two sides are making progress. In other words, this is not about persuading Sheen to come back as much as it is deciding on his price tag.

It's an old script and here is how it usually plays out. First, there is the tough talk that the star is ready to walk away. That is followed by the stories that negotiations are dragging on, but some progress is being made. A few days before CBS is due to unveil its fall schedule at New York's Carnegie Hall, word will leak that talks have hit a standstill. Finally, at the last minute, the two sides will strike a deal and CBS chief Leslie Moonves and entertainment head Nina Tassler will be all smiles on stage as will Sheen's publicity and legal teams backstage.

Since CBS already has a multi-year deal for "Two and a Half Men," in theory it does not have to have a final contract with Sheen done before May 19. If the network is fairly confident that an accord will be reached with Sheen it can put the show on its schedule. It's not ideal, but it is a possibility. However, having that uncertainty hovering over the network as it prepares to sell commercial inventory for the fall season is something CBS wants to avoid and gives Sheen a tiny bit of leverage.

Conversely, not having a big pay check while in the midst of big personal and legal issues is probably something Sheen would like to avoid. The money side of all this will also likely follow the script. He'll get a nice bump that will probably take him north of $1 million. It won't be what he wanted but it'll be more than what Warner Bros. wanted to pay.

Of course, unlike other stars in similar situations (the cast of "Friends" and "Everybody Loves Raymond") there is a wild card factor here which is Sheen himself. However, stability in the work place is a logical selling point for the troubled star who is facing some serious legal problems. People familiar with Sheen say he is anything but predictable and could decide to walk just for the heck of it. One might argue the opposite is true and that he is very predictable. Just as his recent personal problems don't seem out of character for Sheen, quitting would also be out of character. Whatever else you want to say about him, Sheen has managed his professional life quite nicely as opposed to how he manages his life with professionals.

--  Joe Flint

Photo: Charlie Sheen on "Two and a Half Men." Credit: Grey Gayne / Associated Press