After all but singlehandedly stocking CBS’ comedy larder, Chuck Lorre is looking to branch out into drama.
Lorre, the creator of the CBS hits Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike and Molly, has re-upped with Warner Bros. Television through 2016. Per terms of his new deal, the 59-year-old Lorre will continue to write and produce comedies while trying his hand at developing one-hour scripted dramas.
He also has the option to explore the theatrical side of the business.
Since coming into the Warner Bros. fold in 2000, Lorre has become one of the most successful comedy writers/producers in history. In its fifth season on CBS, The Big Bang Theory last year was the No. 1 scripted series on TV, averaging 13.5 million viewers and a 4.4 in the adults 18-to-49 demo. Two and a Half Men finished just behind its sibling, drawing 12.7 million viewers and a 4.2 rating.
Both series command some of the highest ad rates on the tube. Buyers estimate that Two and a Half Men last season boasted an average unit cost of around $250,000, whileTBBT fetched as much as $200,000 a pop.
Lorre’s comedies also deliver massive syndication bucks. TBS invested $1.5 million per episode of TBBT, while Men’s first licensing cycle has raked in nearly $1 billion.
“I’m proud to say that at twelve years and counting, my relationship with Warner Bros. is now officially longer than either of my marriages,” Lorre cracked. “With that in mind, it seemed appropriate to extend our little corporate love affair and try for ‘until death do us part.’”
Lorre added that he was excited to have an opportunity to venture into drama. “After writing and producing sitcoms for twenty years, it’ll be a welcome relief to take all the violence, insanity and human suffering from behind the cameras and put it out front,” he said. “And finally, the feature component of this new deal allows me to fulfill a lifelong ambition—to have a project in ‘turnaround.’”
Given the additional projects Lorre is prepared to add to his plate, he is expected to bring on some reinforcements.
Prior to coming to Warner Bros., Lorre created and executive produced Dharma & Greg (ABC), Grace Under Fire (ABC) and Cybill (CBS). Before that, he served as a co-executive producer/writer on ABC’s Roseanne.
Lorre first began working with Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth back in the mid-90s, when Roth ran Twentieth Century TV and Lorre worked on Dharma & Greg. (It was during the D&G years that Lorre began inserting messages to viewers in his vanity cards. This, perhaps, remains his most remarked-upon effort.)
“Chuck Lorre is the quintessential comedy writer/producer of our time and the most successful creator/showrunner of the last 25 years,” Roth said, by way of announcing the deal. “We are so incredibly excited—and honored—to be continuing our partnership with him.”