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IMAGE: Steve Carell
JUSTIN LUBIN  /  AP
Steve Carell's departure from "The Office" has been a lot tamer and friendlier than Charlie Sheen's from "Two and a Half Men," but both actors will likely be replaced.
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updated 4/6/2011 11:25:29 AM ET 2011-04-06T15:25:29
COMMENTARY

Instability, even unrest. Major changes at the top. Uncertainty for the future.

No, I'm not talking about the tumultuous Mideast. I'm talking about a pair of popular comedies whose longtime stars have exited with no clear sign of who will replace them.

If you hadn't heard, Charlie Sheen was fired last month from CBS' "Two and a Half Men." There will be no more new episodes of "Men" this season. Meanwhile, the show's producers ponder whether to bring back the show minus Sheen for its ninth season (which seems a no-brainer) and, if they do, which actor to sign who can best fill Sheen's shoes.

Slideshow: Talent and troubles follow Charlie Sheen (on this page)
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Steve Carell, a different sort of fellow who has never once claimed to be a warlock or headlined a "Torpedo of Truth" concert tour, is departing "The Office" under much more cordial terms.

As long ago as last spring, Carell was broadly hinting at plans to leave the NBC comedy after this, its seventh season, to concentrate on movies. Recently he shot his last episode, which will air late this month. And then ... who will take over for Carell's character, dippy Michael Scott, at Dunder Mifflin's Scranton office?

Slideshow: Steve Carell (on this page)

These sort of personnel matters aren't usually what occupy a viewer's mind this time of year.

Any other TV season, attention would be showered on which series will be back next fall and which shows might fall by the wayside.

Meanwhile, fans are usually preparing to bid farewell to a favorite show reaching the end of a momentous run. Last year, for example, the impending finales of "24" and "Lost" had the audience on tenterhooks, eager to see how those sagas would conclude. The year before, it was "ER" bowing out after 15 seasons.

By contrast, there are no must-see finales this year. (Sure, "Smallville" will wrap up after 10 seasons. But who knew it was still on anyway?)

Nor are any truly beloved shows whose fate hangs in the balance while their supporters feverishly lobby for their survival.

No, the big suspense of Spring 2011 dwells on two veteran yet (presumably) full-of-life sitcoms and burning questions like, Who will be the new star? And, Will that new star sustain or even build on the show's past success — or mess things up?

On "The Office," it's known that Will Ferrell will step in for this season's last few episodes playing Michael Scott's provisional replacement.

A theory came and went recently proposing that Ferrell would stick around as a permanent cast member. But he's a busy and highly successful movie star. He seems a long shot to be tied down to a series.

An alternate theory: "The Office" might promote from within, filling the void with a member of the show's large existing cast.

Needless to say, the show's network and studio are mum on their long-term plans, which might not reveal themselves until next season is under way.

"Two and a Half Men" is a whole other kettle of fish.

The hijinks and misbehavior of its former star brought the glare of unsought publicity to the show and led to production shutdowns while Sheen got rehab for substance abuse. But however high-maintenance he might have been, Sheen, with his portrayal of freewheeling, womanizing Charlie Harper, was the keystone of a series that attracted a weekly audience of nearly 15 million viewers this season.

There's always the chance that Sheen and the producers could kiss and make up and he could come back. Stranger things have happened (although, in this case, it's hard to think of one).

But what newcomer can measure up to Sheen's legacy? Who can comfortably connect with the show's time-tested premise (the ups and downs of bachelor life) and with the show's remaining cast (particularly the high-strung divorced father, Alan, played by Jon Cryer)?

That guessing game has been in full swing for weeks, with rumored candidates including John Stamos, James Spader and Jay Mohr (representatives for whom say no deal is pending), as well as David Arquette (whose spokeswoman declined to comment).

Or what about James Franco, who seems to be up for anything (though, with any luck, not another dreary year hosting the Oscars)?

Or what about Will Arnett, even though he's also been mentioned as a good fit for "The Office," and, by the way, has a pilot deal for his own new series?

But all of these names assume Charlie Harper will be replaced by a similar character. What if the producers choose to go in a fresh, new direction?

For instance, the name of Jenny McCarthy has come up. Who knows how she would be written into the show (she's guest-starred before as a sexy con artist). But who cares? With her sharing the bachelor pad with Alan and his teenage son, she could turn the show into a "Two and a Half's Company."

Or, for a real departure, how about Larry King (a seasoned pro who's surely available right now) as an oft-divorced septuagenarian ladies' man?

Or what about the most obvious choice of all, Betty White? Just go ahead and let her run with it. She's funny, everybody loves her, and she's already doing nearly everything else.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Charlie Sheen

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  1. Family affair

    Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen's real-life father plays Martin, on Charlie's show "Anger Management." (FX) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Smoking man

    Sheen, left, holds a necrotic lung affected by tobacco use and a healthy lung as he talks to Dr. Oz during a taping of "The Dr. Oz Show," in New York. Sheen, who is a heavy smoker, also discussed his manic behavior and anger issues in the January 2013 episode. (Barbara Nitke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Star power

    Sheen, left, speaks as former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on July 10, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif. (Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Play ball!

    Sheen acknowledges the fans before throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on July 7, 2012 in San Diego. (Denis Poroy / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. In the hot seat

    Comedy Central roasted Sheen in one of their infamous specials on Sept. 10, 2011. (Christopher Polk / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Enter the Warlock

    Sheen shows off his Detroit Tigers jersey during his performance at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on Saturday, April 2, 2011. Promising "the real story," the 45-year-old former "Two and a Half Men" star hit the road for a month-long, 20-city variety show tour, with the first stop a sold-out show in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Thumbs down

    A Sheen fan offers her review while leaving the Fox Theatre in Detroit on April 2, 2011. (Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The gang's all here

    Sheen, second from left, is joined by Joey Scoleri of Live Nation, left, and "goddesses" Bree Olson and Natalie Kenly, right, at the after party for his Chicago tour stop at Enclave on April 3, 2011. (Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Blood thirst

    Charlie Sheen is seen on the rooftop of the Live Nation building drinking "Tiger Blood" in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 7, 2011. The "Two and a Half" men star was fired from the show earlier in the day by Warner Bros. (Jean Baptiste Lacroix / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Two for one

    Sheen poses with the two women he refers to as his "goddesses" in the kitchen of his Los Angeles home during the first week of March 2011. Natalie "Natty" Kenly, left, a model, and Rachel Oberlin, aka porn star Bree Olsen, gained fame during the actor's media blitz over his fight with CBS and Warner Bros. television. (Michael Austin / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Plenty to say

    Adult film star Capri Anderson, the woman who was in Charlie Sheen's hotel room the night he allegedly trashed his suite, talks with ABC about the incident. Claiming to have feared for her life upon being locked in the bathroom, Capri said, "I'm not going to stand down and be completely be walked over." Anderson filed a harassment lawsuit, Sheen then countersued for extortion, and the case was dropped. (ABC via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Before the storm

    Sheen joins his ex wife Denise Richards and their daughters Sam and Lola in a trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Oct. 25, 2010. Their museum visit ended a weekend together in which the four of them went shopping at an American Girl store, dined at Serafina Broadway and took in the Broadway show Mary Poppins.

    Sheen was later hospitalized after he was found drunk and naked with an alleged escort in his trashed room at The Plaza hotel. Damages to the room reportedly totaled $7,000. The actor's rep later said Sheen had had an allergic reaction to medication. (INFphoto.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Back to rehab

    Sheen, second from right, arrives with his attorney Richard Cummins, second from left, for a sentencing hearing at the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen, Colo., on Aug. 2, 2010. Sheen was sentenced under a plea deal to get a 30-day sentence to be "administered and executed" at Promises rehab facility in Malibu, Calif., for assaulting his wife Brooke Mueller during an alcohol-fueled Christmas Day quarrel in Aspen. (Rick Wilking / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. See you in a month

    Sheen, right, leaves the Pitkin County Courthouse with his attorney Richard Cummins in Aspen, Colo., on Monday, June 7, 2010. A sentencing hearing for the actor in his domestic assault case against wife Brooke Mueller was continued until July 12. (Ed Andrieski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. More troubles

    Sheen's Mercedes was apparently stolen from his Shermon Oaks, Calif., home in early 2010. It was found overturned hundreds of feet down a nearby cliff. On June 15, 2010, police reported a second Mercedes suffered the same fate. (Gus Ruelas / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Not-so-merry Christmas

    Brooke Mueller Sheen called police on Christmas Day, 2009, reporting that Sheen attacked and threatened her. (Riccardo S. Savi / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Got my designs on you

    Sheen has collaborated with the owner of the Rock & Roll Religion clothing line to create a line of shirts called the DaVinci Collection by Charlie Sheen. Sheen's "Two and a Half Men" character wears similar shirts. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Viva ALMA!

    Sheen, born Carlos Estevez, captured the outstanding male performance in a comedy TV series award at the 2008 ALMA Awards. The honors are given to Latino performers who promote positive portrayals of Latinos in the entertainment field. Sheen's paternal grandparents were Spanish, his maternal grandparents Irish. (Frank Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Trying marriage again

    In 2008, Sheen married real-estate investor Brooke Mueller, seen here with Sheen and his daughters, Sam and Lola. The couple's twins, Bob and Max, were born on March 14, 2009. A Christmas Day fight that same year has sent Sheen's latest round of marital woes back into the tabloids. (Donato Sardella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Play clothes for the posh

    Fashion executive Michael Berens, Sheen and clothing designer Suzanne Ciulla pose with children wearing clothes from Sheen Kidz, a couture children’s sportswear inspired by Sheen’s daughters, Sam and Lola. (Donato Sardella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A 'Platoon' reunited

    Actor Willem Dafoe, director Oliver Stone, an unidentified guest, Sheen and Tom Berenger reunited for a screening of their classic film "Platoon" at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in France. (Francois Durand / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. 'Bounce' back

    Sheen starred in "The Big Bounce," a critical flop, in 2004. Although the film was based on a novel by Elmore Leonard and features Owen Wilson and Morgan Freeman in addition to Sheen, it was a disaster, and cost $50 million to make. It earned back only $6 million. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Men, men, men, men, manly men

    Sheen and Jon Cryer play brothers with opposite temperaments in the CBS hit comedy "Two and a Half Men." Sheen reportedly earns $825,000 per episode on the show. (CBS via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Till divorce do us part

    Sheen married actress Denise Richards in 2002, and they had two daughters, Sam and Lola. Richards filed for divorce in 2005, and the details of their marriage, estrangement and custody battle quickly became tabloid fodder. Richards accused Sheen of abusing drugs and alcohol, and threatening her with violence. (Robert Mora / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Keep the Globe spinning

    In 2002, Sheen won the Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actor in a television comedy or musical series for his role in "Spin City." (Scott Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Putting a 'Spin' on things

    Sheen, shown with Barry Bostwick and Heather Locklear, played Charlie Crawford on "Spin City" from 2000 to 2002. As he does in "Two and a Half Men," Sheen played a character with the same first name as himself. Tony Danza Syndrome, perhaps? (ABC via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. X marks the film

    Sheen teamed again with brother Emilio Estevez to play real-life brothers Jim and Artie Mitchell in 2000's "Rated X." The Mitchells were pioneers in the pornography and strip-club industries in San Francisco in the 1970s and '80s. (Showtime via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. In court

    Drug issues have troubled Sheen for years. In 1998, he appeared in a Malibu, Calif., courtroom, where a judge ruled that the actor, who nearly died of a drug overdose five months before, could be released from his rehabilitation facility. (Nick Ut / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. He'll be there for you

    Sheen kisses Lisa Kudrow in his appearance on the hit show "Friends" in 1996. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Geronimo!

    In 1994's "Terminal Velocity," Sheen starred with Nastassja Kinski in a film about a skydiver who apparently dies on her first jump, but turns out to have faked her death. (Walt Disney Studios) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Family of stars

    Sheen, father Martin Sheen and brother Emilio Estevez unveil Charlie's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. (Jim Smeal / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. All for one, and one for all

    Sheen played Aramis, one of "The Three Musketeers," in the 1993 film version of Alexandre Dumas' classic story. Kiefer Sutherland played Athos, Oliver Platt played Porthos, and Chris O'Donnell played D'Artagnan, who longs to join the trio. (Walt Disney Studios) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Daddy and daughter

    Sheen and his daughter, Cassandra Jade Estevez, attended the 1992 premiere of "The Mighty Ducks." Sheen was just 19 when Cassandra was born. (Ron Galella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Mullet man

    In the comedy spoofs "Hot Shots" and "Hot Shots Part Deux," Sheen plays Navy pilot Topper Harley. "Part Deux" parodies the action-movie genre, particularly the Rambo films. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Brothers at work

    Sheen and brother Emilio Estevez teamed up in 1990's "Men at Work," about two garbage collectors who discover a corpse. (Triumph Releasing) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Three strikes, yer out

    Sheen, right, and Tom Berenger starred in 1989's "Major League," a comedy about a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians. Sheen played Ricky Vaughn, an out-of-control pitcher who improves once he gets glasses. (Paramount via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Bang, bang, my baby shot me down

    In 1990, before Kelly Preston wed John Travolta, she was engaged to Sheen, who gave her a 2.5 carat pink diamond engagement ring. The engagement ended shortly after he accidentally shot her in the arm, causing a wound that required stitches. (Ron Galella / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Guns blazing

    Sheen, middle right, and Emilio Estevez, front, starred with Lou Diamond Phillips, Kiefer Sutherland, Casey Siemaszko and Dermot Mulroney in 1988's Western, "Young Guns." (20th Cenury Fox via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Greed is good

    Sheen starred in 1987's "Wall Street," where he plays Bud Fox, a young, ambitious trader who falls under the spell of ruthless millionaire Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. Reportedly Sheen and director Oliver Stone parted ways after Stone approached Sheen to star in "Born on the Fourth of July," but then cast Tom Cruise without telling Sheen. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Fighting the war outside and the war inside

    In 1986's "Platoon," Sheen, center, starred with Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger in Stone's critically lauded Vietnam War movie. The film was based on Stone's own war experiences, and is regularly listed by critics as one of the best war films ever made. (Orion Pictures via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Putting the moves on Ferris Bueller's sister

    Sheen and Jennifer Grey starred in 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," with Grey playing Ferris Bueller's snotty sister Jeanie and Sheen a rebel she meets at the police station. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. WOLVERINES!

    Sheen got his movie start in 1984's "Red Dawn." His fellow young stars included Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey. (MGM) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (42) Talent and troubles follow Charlie Sheen
  2. Image: "Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World"
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    Slideshow (23) Steve Carell

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