It’s not all that uncommon to see sitcoms and procedurals crossover over with other shows in their particular arenas. When it comes to the former, one can look to the occasional mashups between Everybody Loves Raymond and the King of Queens or Family Matters character Steve Urkel’s appearances in fellow TGIF sitcoms. As for the latter genre, characters from various Law & Order shows have crossed paths, and the One Chicago franchise sees its key characters have frequent run-ins. Despite all that though, it’s not so typical that a multi-cam comedy and single-camera drama cross the aisle and mix it up. Yet that’s what happened with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Two and a Half Men.
Yes, you read that correctly. Those two shows did indeed have a crossover – but not one that was as straightforward as you’re probably thinking. (No, Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Harper did not try to wine and dine Marg Helgenberger’s Catherine Willows.) Nevertheless, it was still quite a feat, as it required keen collaboration amongst the writers and producers of both CBS shows. So when and how did all of this unfold? Well, let’s talk that out.
Who Got The Ball Rolling On The Crossover Between Two And A Half Men And CSI?
So apparently, this unconventional mashup was initiated by Two and a Half Men co-creator (and all-around super producer) Chuck Lorre in 2007. He reportedly reached out to CSI executive producer Carol Mendelsohn about a crossover that would see their respective writing staffs pen episodes of each other’s shows. Mendelsohn (via CBS News) was interested in the idea but wasn’t sure if she, Lorre and co. would actually be allowed to proceed with it:
When Chuck pitched the idea to me … I thought it was an intriguing idea and walked into Naran's [Naran Shaknar, co-executive producer of ‘CSI’] office and he said 'what a nut.' Nobody really took us seriously.
But ultimately, both Carol Mendelsohn and Chuck Lorre held onto the idea and pitched it while at the World Television Festival in Canada. Funny enough, Mendelsohn nearly found herself leaking the news to the press during a talk she was giving, which led Variety to subsequently ask about the episodes. The production ultimately moved forward, though, and it wasn’t all that easy for the two seemingly willing parties to pull off.
What Were The Biggest Challenges With Crafting This TV Event?
The notion of two vastly different productions crossing over was a bit surprising. Even stars of the two shows, like Charlie Sheen (who was one of TV’s highest paid actors at that time) and William Petersen, were initially scratching their heads over the decision. But all involved decided to take a chance on the project, even with the challenges it presented. Carol Mendelsohn spoke about the creative aspect of it all, noting that all of the creatives had to “deal with issues of control” when it came to others working on their beloved series:
I think we all had to deal with issues of control. We're all used to being in control and in charge of our own shows and even though this was a freelance-type situation … there was an expectation and also a desire on all of our parts to really have a true collaboration. You have to give a little. It was sort of a life lesson, I think.
Longtime Warner Bros. TV signee Chuck Lorre had seen his share of rodeos as well up to that point, as he’d created and written for a number of different shows and had some big creative fights in the process. However, just about all of them were sitcoms and required that he aim for laughs. By crafting a dramatic story – one involving a murder – he was entering uncharted territory. He was also concerned about how a crime-centric episode of his hit sitcom would be received by longtime viewers:
The biggest challenge for us was doing a comedy with a murder in it. Generally our stories are a little lighter. That was the big leap ... would our audience go with a dead body in it? There was a moment where it could have gone either way. I think the results were spectacular. It's a really funny episode.
That episode of Men was truly one for the books, and the same is true of the episode of the long-running procedural. So what exactly transpired during both? Let’s get into that, shall we?
How Did The Two-Episode Crossover Ultimately Play Out?
The first part of the event was the Two and a Half Men Season 5 episode, “Fish in a Drawer,” which was penned by Carol Mendelsohn and fellow CSI writers Sarah Goldfinger, Evan Dunsky and Naren Shankar. This episode, which premiered in May 2008, takes place right after the wedding of Evelyn Harper, whose new groom mysteriously dies shortly after the ceremony. That development leads to an investigation and, with this story, Men takes several visual cues from the crime drama, such as the use of flashbacks and even somewhat dimmed lighting. In a sweet nod, Crime Scene Investigation alum George Eads cameos as a guest at the wedding reception.
More on Two and a Half Men
This mashup continued three nights later in one of CSI’s Season 8 installments, “Two and a Half Deaths,”and it was scripted by Men co-creators Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn. In it, the team investigates the murder of a divisive sitcom star played by Katey Sagal. Interestingly, the fictional actress, Anabelle, is based on Roseanne Barr and her eponymous late ‘80s/early ‘90s sitcom. (Lorre wrote on that show early in his career and allegedly took issue with Barr’s on-set behavior.) The Crime Scene Investigation episode mostly notably featured uncredited cameos from Two and a Half Men stars Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones as themselves. All three were also wearing their same costumes from “Fish in a Drawer.”
In the end, the sitcom portion of the event reportedly garnered 13 million viewers, and it was the third most-watched program of that particular night. The drama series’ half, meanwhile, received over 18 million viewers. So I’d say that’s not too shabby, considering this crossover idea initially seemed nutty. At this point, no other two shows have accomplished a similar feat and, honestly, it’s hard to say if it’ll ever actually happen again.
Those who’d like to check out both the Two and a Half Men and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episodes involved in this event can stream them using a Paramount+ subscription.