Childhood & Early Life
He was born Charles Michael Levine, on October 18, 1952, in Bethpage, New York, US, into a Jewish family. His father, Robert, ran a lunch counter but struggled with it, leading the family into financial issues. He lost his father in 1976.
Lorre enrolled at the ‘SUNY Potsdam,’ where, according to him, he “majored in rock 'n' roll and pot and minored in LSD" but dropped out after a couple of years to embark as a songwriter.
At age 26, he changed his surname to “Lorre.” Talking about this decision in 2004, he stated, “My mother, never a fan of my father's family, had an unfortunate habit of using Levine as a stinging insult. When displeased with me, she would often say/shriek, "You know what you are? You're a Levine! A no good, rotten Levine!" So, for as far back as I can remember, every time I heard my last name I would experience acute feelings of low self-esteem.”
He mentioned that it was his first wife who had proposed his new name, which he found to be cool. This is how he adopted his new name, “Chuck Lorre.”
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Lorre stepped into show business as a guitarist and songwriter and toured across the US. He wrote hundreds of pop songs, such as the hit song ‘French Kissin' in the USA’ (1986), recorded by American singer Deborah Harry. The song was featured Harry’s second solo album, ‘Rockbird.’
He concentrated on writing scripts for animated shows in the early 1980s and garnered his first work in the ‘DiC Entertainment’-produced animated TV series ‘Heathcliff,’ which premiered on September 5, 1984.
Eventually, he turned his focus to writing for TV sitcoms. His initial freelance projects included the syndicated comedy ‘Charles in Charge’ (1984). He then garnered a staff job in the Paul Reiser-starrer ‘NBC’ sitcom ‘My Two Dads’ (1987).
The theme music of the American animated TV series ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1987–1996) was composed by him, along with Dennis Challen Brown. Lorre performed the spoken parts of the theme song and recorded it too.
His real breakthrough came when he was inducted as the supervising producer of the ‘ABC’-aired popular American TV sitcom ‘Roseanne.’ He remained with the project from 1990 to 1992, contributing as a writer, co-executive producer, and supervising producer, before being fired due to irreconcilable creative differences.
The first show created by him, where he also contributed as a writer and executive producer, was the American sitcom ‘Frannie's Turn.’ The series aired on ‘CBS’ from September 13 to October 10, 1992.
He then created the Brett Butler-starrer American sitcom ‘Grace Under Fire,’ which aired on ‘ABC’ for 5 seasons, encompassing 112 episodes, from September 29, 1993, to February 17, 1998. He also remained its writer, co-executive producer, and supervising producer. The show emerged as the highest-rated new comedy during the 1993–1994 season.
The next show that he created, wrote, and produced was a critically acclaimed American TV sitcom ‘Cybill,’ which aired on ‘CBS’ for 4 seasons, encompassing 87 episodes, from January 2, 1995, to July 13, 1998. It won the ‘Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series—Musical or Comedy’ in 1996.
He furthered his fame with the popular American sitcom ‘Dharma & Greg,’ which he created in partnership with Dottie Zicklin, also known as Dottie Dartland. It was co-produced by ‘Chuck Lorre Productions,’ ‘4 to 6 Foot Productions,’ ‘More–Medavoy Productions’ and ‘20th Century Fox Television.’ The series aired on ‘ABC’ for 5 seasons, encompassing 119 episodes, from September 24, 1997, to April 30, 2002.
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He then contributed as a co-creator and writer of one of the most remarkable shows of his career, the ‘CBS’ sitcom ‘Two and a Half Men,’ which he also produced. The series aired for 12 seasons, encompassing 262 episodes, starting from September 22, 2003, to February 19, 2015.It won 9 ‘Emmy Awards’ and 4 ‘People’s Choice Awards’ and earned Lorre the ‘BMI Television Music Awards’ in 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009.
‘Two and a Half Men’ had Charlie Sheen playing the lead character of ‘Charlie Harper’ since its first season. However, the eighth season of the show ended abruptly in February 2011because of Sheen’s drug-related issues. Sheen’s contract was terminated in March 2011 after he entered drug rehabilitation and made "disparaging comments" on Lorre. Soon, Ashton Kutcher replaced Sheen and played ‘Walden Schmidt,’ a billionaire who purchases Charlie’s house after his death, from the ninth to the twelfth season.
He created the American sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ with Bill Prady and also contributed with Prady and Steven Molaro as its head writer and executive producer. The show premiered on ‘CBS’ on September 24, 2007, and is presently in its eleventh season. It has earned several awards and nominations so far, including 7 ‘Primetime Emmy’ awards and 1 ‘Golden Globe’ award and is considered to be one of the highest-rated comedy series in the history of American TV.
Meanwhile, he received a “star” on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame,’ located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard, on March 12, 2009. That year, he was also conferred with an honorary degree from the ‘SUNY Potsdam.’
He was the writer and executive producer of the ‘CBS’ sitcom ‘Mike & Molly,’ which ran for six seasons, encompassing 127 episodes, from September 20, 2010, to May 16, 2016.
Lorre also created his trademark with the unique vanity cards of ‘Chuck Lorre Productions’ that usually come up at the end of each episode of his productions. It all started with ‘Dharma & Greg.’ The cards carry a different message of a few seconds, each time they appear. He has uploaded the cards on his website too.
In March 2012, he was inducted into the ‘Television Academy Hall of Fame.’ On October 16 that year, he published a coffee-table book, titled ‘What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Bitter,’ which was a compilation of his unique vanity cards.
He co-creates, writes, and produces the ongoing American TV series ‘Mom’ (2013–present) and ‘Young Sheldon’ (2017–present). The premiere of his 2017 series ‘Disjointed’ showed a standard production logo instead of his trademark vanity card, for the first time since the premier of ‘Dharma & Greg.’
He is the creator of the forthcoming American web-comedy series ‘The Kominsky Method,’ which will premiere on ‘Netflix.’ It has renowned actor Michael Douglas in a starring role. Douglas is also the executive producer of the show, along with Lorre.