Charlie Sheen Charlie Sheen

Despite Charlie Sheen's recent legal woes and seemingly tense contract negotiations, he will return to work next week as Season 8 of Two and a Half Men goes into production. And if there's anyone happier than Sheen to put this awkward period behind him, it's executive producer Chuck Lorre. "I was in denial through the whole process," said Lorre at the CBS All Stars party on July 28. "I was just hoping that everything would work out. I was hoping he would come back because we have a lot more stories to tell."

Lorre says there would be no show without Sheen, and he is deeply relieved that everything worked out. "I love the show and I love the cast and we have a great group of writers who have been a family for seven years. I certainly didn't want it to end," he tells TV Guide Magazine. "But if it did end, we had a great run."

For Season 8, Lorre teases a big watercooler moment right out of the gate: "Jake's getting older and I think there's going to be a big surprise in the first episode. It will be really interesting to see how people respond."

There may be surprises in store for Sheen's character, too. "Charlie's emotionally off the rails, following the break-up of his engagement with Chelsea and he's going to make a series of terrible life choices," says Lorre. Who says art doesn't imitate life?

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