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TV STUFF: Charlie Sheen Gets Key to 'City'

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

For better or for worse, Charlie Sheen will be stepping into Michael J. Fox's office on the set of ABC's "Spin City."

Charlie Sheen At least that's what today's trade papers say. According to the reports, the 34-year-old former bad-boy actor has signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal to replace Fox, who last month announced he was leaving at the end of the season to spend more time on his battle with Parkinson's disease. An ABC publicist could not be reached for confirmation of the deal.

Sheen reportedly will receive around $125,000 per episode, which is healthy but not extravagant by television-star standards. Production also will shift from New York to Los Angeles per Sheen's request, industry insiders familiar with the terms of Sheen's pact tell Daily Variety.

Thus ends a courting dance that had the Sheen camp as late as a couple of weeks ago saying the actor wasn't sure he wanted to do "Spin City" -- apparently afraid he'd get pinned with the blame if the show tanks next season. It's amazing what a little money and promised primetime exposure can do for one's comfort zone.

The political-minded "Spin City," which debuted in 1996, currently stars Fox as the deputy mayor of New York City. The actor doubles as executive producer and is considered its anchor. For the season to date, the show -- ranked No. 38 -- is ABC's third-highest-rated comedy after "Dharma & Greg" and "The Drew Carey Show."

Despite the show's stability, Fox's stunning departure announcement threw the future of the show in doubt. (But only briefly. TV networks have a long history of never canceling anything, for any reason, if the thing gets decent ratings. Witness the final, Shirley-free season of "Laverne & Shirley.")

For Sheen, the "Spin City" gig could cement his return from the dark side. After a promising debut in the mid-1980s, Sheen's personal demons began overshadowing his career. Along with his infamous link to Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, Sheen's greatest hits include a six-month marriage and repeated arrests for battery and drug use. While a 1996 guest appearance on NBC's "Friends" was well-received, he continued to appear in a string of box-office bombs like "The Arrival" and "The Shadow Conspiracy." Finally, a drug overdose landed him in the hospital, then jail in 1998.

Sheen re-emerged at this year's Sundance Film Festival with "Rated X," which is not about his escapades with Fleiss' call girls but a Showtime biopic about the porn industry. (Brother Emilio Estevez directed and serves as Sheen's co-star).

While the "Spin City" thing looks like a good career move for Sheen, it also sets up an interesting family dynamic for the actor. The sitcom currently airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. -- opposite NBC's "The West Wing," which stars Sheen's father, Martin Sheen.

Let the fireworks begin.

REGIS' MILLIONS? Seeing all that cash around must make "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" host Regis Philbin a little antsy. He's letting it slip that he'd like a slice of the profitable pie.

On Monday's "Late Show With David Letterman" (Dave's first since heart surgery), Philbin was asked by the host: "How's your little quiz show doing? Are you making a lot of dough?"

Philbin replied, "No, I'm not." Undeterred, Letterman asked, "Those pantywaists at ABC are not paying you what you're worth?"

"I don't think so," Philbin said, then reportedly changed the subject back to Letterman's recent bypass operation.

Before "Millionaire" became a regular series and bulldozed everything but NBC's "ER" to top the Nielsen ratings, Philbin said he had signed a five-year contract to be host. He said he had not sought to renegotiate with ABC. Obviously, that's not his final answer.

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