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Channel Surfing: Sheen Could Leave "Men," "Modern Family" iPad Love, S. Epatha Merkerson to Leave "Law & Order," Sidibe to Host "SNL," and More

Welcome to your Friday morning television briefing.

Charlie Sheen might just walk away from his role on CBS' Two and a Half Men. Citing a People report, The Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd is reporting that Sheen has rejected a contract renewal offer and is looking to leave the CBS comedy series, which is produced by Warner Bros. Television. "This report came as news to CBS and studio Warner Bros., with some insiders thinking the news might simply be a negotiation tactic," writes Hibberd. "Yet sources tell THR that the People report is no April Fools joke and that Sheen is indeed serious about currently wanting to leave." (Hollywood Reporter)

Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed has the scoop from Modern Family co-creator Christopher Lloyd about why the ABC comedy series' use of the iPad this week wasn't product placement but was in fact just a story-driven plotline. "In fact, there was no product placement," Lloyd explained. "This was widely assumed, and everybody was wrong. We wanted to do a show about Phil getting very excited about a new product and it seemed the perfect one to use, since it was debuting [April 1]. We approached Apple about getting their cooperation (using the product, for example, and they are notoriously secretive about their products prior to their being launched) and they agreed and gave us a few other small concessions. But there were no stipulations as with normal product placement, i.e. we give you X dollars and you have to feature our product such-and-such a way and say such-and-such nice things about it. We are not angels -- we have made those agreements with other companies. But that was not the deal with Apple. It was all story-driven." (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

Meanwhile, The Wrap's Josef Adalian calls for an end to the Modern Family "non-troversy" over the iPad inclusion, following several attacks on the series by CNET and the Hollywood Reporter, among others. "Dudes: Chill!" writes Adalian. "It's one thing to find a plotline unfunny or subpar. There's also nothing wrong with making note of the timing of the episode, or of raising the question of whether a company paid to have its product integrated into a show. Hot TV shows generate buzz, both positive and negative. We get it -- and we're not trying to condemn anyone for identifying something interesting about a show. But until somebody uncovers evidence to the contrary, this was simply a case of writers trying to make a 2010 half-hour comedy relevant to a sophisticated audience." [Editor: amen.] (The Wrap's TVMoJoe)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello is reporting that S. Epatha Merkerson will depart Law & Order after a staggering 16 years and talks to the actress about her decision to leave the Dick Wolf-executive produced procedural at the end of the current season. "It’s a graceful way to go," Merkerson told Ausiello. "It’s the end of my contract this year, and the storyline has been so perfect. I’ve given it my best for 16 years. It’s time to move on. I’m doing other things and this will be a great way to leave what has been an extraordinary gig." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

Precious star Gabourey Sidibe is among the hosts on tap for Saturday Night Live this month. Also taking to the historic stage during the month of April: Tina Fey, who will be joined by musical guest Justin Bieber, Ryan Phillippe (with Ke$ha), and Sidibe, who will host with musical guest MGMT on April 24th. (Variety)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello has gotten a hold of some of the casting notices for Season Four of AMC's Mad Men, including three potentially recurring roles. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

E! Online's Megan Masters has an exclusive look at Showtime's upcoming reality series The Real L Word and breaks down the real-life lesbians who have been assembled in Showtime's "rare, fly-on-the-wall look into the lives of attractive and successful L.A. lesbians." The series is set to launch on Sunday, June 20th at 10 pm on Showtime. (E! Online's Watch with Kristin)

Casting update: Chad Lowe (24) has been cast in ABC Family's upcoming drama series Pretty Little Liars, where he will replace Alexis Denisof, who played the role in the pilot; Gina Torres has signed on to play Dr. Dorothy Rand in ABC Family's other upcoming series, Huge; Riki Lindhome (Gilmore Girls) will star opposite Jack Carpenter and Kristin Kreuk in Josh Schwartz and Matt Miller's CBS comedy pilot Hitched; Greg Germann (Ally McBeal) and Damon Gupton (Deadline) have come on board FOX comedy pilot Strange Brew; and Robbie Jones (One Tree Hill) and Heather Hemmens (The Candy Shop) have joined the cast of the CW's Hellcats. (Hollywood Reporter)

SPOILER! TV Guide Magazine's Will Keck is reporting that Season Six of FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia will feature a storyline involving Dennis (Glenn Howerton) getting married... and divorced. (TV Guide Magazine)

Julie Gonzalo has been cast as a guest star in a May sweep episode of ABC's Castle, where she will play "a beautiful and dynamic restaurateur who finds herself mixed up in [a] murder investigation" that takes revolves around the contestants of a Top Chef-esque culinary competition series. (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

CONFIRMED: Syfy has announced that Robert Knepper (Heroes) and Julie McNiven (Mad Men) have joined the cast of the cabler's Stargate Universe for its second season. Knepper will appear in six episodes as Simeon, described as a "member of the Lucian Alliance," while McNiven has joined the cast in a five-episode story arc where she will play Ginn, also a member of the Lucian Alliance. The second half of SGU's freshman season premieres tonight on Syfy. (via press release)

ABC shows are heading to the iPad. Disney has signed a deal with Apple to create an application that will stream--for free--full-length episodes of series from ABC, ESPN, and Disney. (Variety)

NBC series, meanwhile, will NOT be heading to the iPad as NBC executives have opted to "prohibit iPad viewing of full episodes at this time," according to The New York Times' Brian Stelter. (New York Times' Media Decoder)

USA has announced return dates for two of its original series, with Burn Notice and Royal Pains returning to the schedule on Thursday, June 3rd, when they will air back-to-back beginning at 9 pm ET/PT. July, meanwhile, will bring the return of White Collar and Psych and the launch of Covert Affairs. (Broadcasting & Cable)

E1 Entertainment and Tijuana Entertainment have teamed up to develop reality series They Call Me Crazy, featuring NBA player Ron Artest that will enable him to "make amends for past transgressions," and help struggling musicians through his music label. Series will be executive produced by Artest, along with John Moryaniss, Tara Long, Troy Searer, and John Foy. (Hollywood Reporter)

Stay tuned.


Unknown said…
I must be naive. I watched "Modern Family" and product placement didn't even occur to me. All I thought is that Phil is just like the other Geeks I know! :o)

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