Chuck Lorre may be the busiest reigning sitcom creator on TV, with two hit shows in “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” and a third comedy coming this fall in “Mike & Molly.”
But Lorre, who was also behind “Dharma & Greg,” Roseanne” and “Grace Under Fire,” lives in fear that despite the success he’s achieved it could all fall apart with one bad episodes.
“The relationship with the audience, I have always believed, is so fragile,” Lorre told the first of two consecutive sessions at the TV Critics Press Tour Wednesday, “You have to think in terms of every episode being everything you can bring to it to make it.”
There’s too much competition with TV in general, Lorre says. “There’s too many things for people to do. There’s too many choices.”
Though “Big Bang Theory” became a bona fide hit in its third season, it’s worrisome for him that it’s being moved from Monday’s to the more competitive Thursdays at 8 p.m.
“It’s almost like a relaunch of the show, establishing it,” he says. “It feels entirely like a do-over in a way. So we are really doing everything we can to make it everything we believe it should be.”
Lorre says he can’t think in terms of future seasons because every one of his sitcoms is “one episode at a time. It’s impossible to think long-term because the pressing concerns is the script that you are shooting now or the script that you are writing now, the scene that’s not working, the jokes that aren’t funny, fix that, make that better, we are running out of time, the audience isn’t laughing, do something. There’s no way to think down the road. And I guess that’s a blessing because the focus is on what’s right in front of you, and that’s the show we are shooting right now, which we are working on the show we are going to shoot next week.”
Even on the hit “Two and a Half Men” which seems like it was unaffected by star Charlie Sheen’s domestic violence conviction, as it enters its eighth season, is a big hit. But even it doesn’t run itself, Lorre says.
“Everybody on that show works their asses off to make it a great show. And it doesn’t matter that it’s the eighth season. It’s still — we’re one show away from losing the audience, really, every week…
“It’s a very fragile relationship. Every episode has to be one worth watching.”
“Mike & Molly” is the third sitcom he’s throwing into the mix, about two large people who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. But all of his shows share a common theme, Lorre says.
“I’ve felt for a long time that all shows really, especially comedies,” he says, are “fundamentally family shows. “Even people in an office create a surrogate family. You know, the characters in ‘Taxi,’ they were a family, the characters in ‘Cheers.’ They operated as a family. They supported each other. They knocked each other down.
They were inseparable in some ways. They made each other miserable. They functioned in all those ways that we experience as family.
“And I think hopefully if we get it right, this is a new family to be part of and to watch,” he says of “Mike & Molly.” “If we get it right, these shows are about the family.”