"It was a terrible time. It was awful," he goes on. "I was really heartbroken by how it all played out. And angry. He was my friend. We were all concerned about him. We thought he was going to die."
Sheen now stars in a TBS sitcom "Anger Management," while "Men" has entered its 10th season with Ashton Kutcher in his sophomore year as Sheen's replacement. Lorre insists that, despite that stormy period, the man once billed as "the angriest man in television" has found peace of mind.
"You need to get to know Chuck 2.0," he says when past reports of Combative Chuck are mentioned. "I look around sometimes and I can't believe all this has happened to a journeyman guitar player. Truly, I've been blessed."
He allows that there was a time "when anger was the fuel to fend off other voices that wanted control of the creative process. I've never been a big fan of creation by committee: a committee of other comedy writers, yes; network executives, no."
With a wiry frame, a trim beard and a head of tangled curls, Lorre is self-taught as a sitcom scribe. Now 60, the Long Island, N.Y. , native got the itch to write for TV in his mid-30s, after a decade or more spent touring the country as a less-than-wildly-successful guitarist-songwriter.
After writing a spec script for "The Golden Girls," he found his way to "Roseanne," then created the ABC sitcom "Grace Under Fire," starring comedian Brett Butler, and "Cybill," starring Cybill Shepherd. These were rocky stretches for Lorre, each marked by his premature exit.
"Dharma & Greg" proved to be a more pleasant experience. But it wasn't easy.
"Telling a story in a 22-minute sitcom is hard," Lorre says. "There was a lot of faking it while I was learning the craft. I didn't get the hang of it for 12 or 13 years."
That was around 2003, when he co-created "Two and a Half Men."
In 2007, he hit the jackpot again when he co-created "The Big Bang Theory."
Then, in 2010, he won the triple crown with "Mike & Molly."
All were huge successes and established Lorre as the biggest sitcom magnate since Norman Lear's reign in the 1970s with such blockbusters as "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son."
No wonder Lorre feels a new level of confidence.
"I have more faith," he says in his soft, unhurried tone. "The difficulty factor has ceased to cause me to panic. I may not have the answer, but I know I'm surrounded by really smart people, and somebody's gonna have the answer."
Now Lorre's horizons are expanding further. He recently signed a four-year development and production deal with Warner Bros. that covers broadcast, cable and films. (Lots more reach for his vanity cards?)
"I'm developing a drama series, believe it or not," he says. "It's terrifying but exhilarating: freed from the tyranny of jokes."
But don't think he's renouncing the sitcom genre he is currently the undisputed master of.
"To make people laugh out loud, I think that's a noble effort," Lorre declares. "It's worth doing. I'm doing the best I can. And I'll try and be better."
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