If you haven't heard of Charlie Sheen's troubles and travails by now, you must live off the grid and under a rock. Just like the subject of last month's piece (Anna Nicole Smith), it's all Charlie all the time. But unlike Smith, Charlie is still very much with us…at least for now. There doesn't seem to be any television or radio interview request that Sheen will turn down. Put a microphone in front of him and he will rant, he will speak in non- sequiturs, he will entertain, he will expose us to the drug that he himself calls "Charlie Sheen". The unfolding meltdown is the show that never ends.
Long before his run on TV sitcom Two and A Half Men, and before that two seasons on Spin City, Charlie Sheen was a respectable film actor. Celebrated roles in the Oliver Stone directed films Platoon, and Wall Street gave Sheen a certain gravitas that few film actors ever achieve. One such actor to reach such heights is Sheen's legendary acting father, Martin Sheen. But for whatever reason, Sheen turned toward comedic roles such as Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughnin the film Major League. After that, it was largely forgettable roles in forgettable films. The lure of a steady paycheck that a television show has to offer has turned many a talented actor and actress into seemingly lesser talented and less respected thespians. Actors have bills to pay like everyone else. It doesn't matter if you are Charlie Sheen or Charlie Smith – the same rules apply. There are houses and cars to maintain, alimony, child support, publicists, agents, yards that need manicuring…well you get it. Why wait for just the right film role to come along when sitcom producers are waving millions in front of your face. Some may call it selling out, but if one is prone to sell out, sell out while someone is buying. So Charlie Sheen found his niche essentially playing himself on a bad television show.
Making headlines is nothing new for Charlie. His personal life is not so personal. There are the drug addictions, there are endless parties, there are the ex-wives, there are the trashed hotel suites, there are the transactions and interactions with Hollywood madams and porn stars. But the public didn't seem to mind, and the producers of Sheen's hit show didn't want to mess with a cash cow. After all it was just Charlie being Charlie. But on March 7th, CBS and Warner Brothers had had enough – Sheen was dismissed after too many absences, too much vitriol (including what was widely perceived as an anti-Semitic swipe at the show's creator Chuck Lorre), and too many bad headlines. So it was strange that Sheen would embrace the same media as a venting medium that was so instrumental in his undoing. But he has also used it to his advantage, keeping fans updated through twitter and various social media platforms.
While it would be easy to disregard Charlie's babblings as just misdirected anger, he does make some salient points if you're able to sift through the bullshit. The chief assertion is that in regard to Lorre and Two and a Half Men he was "converting your tin cans into pure gold". I would have to agree. I have seen the show a few times over the years and found it barely watchable. Without Sheen's presence, the show wouldn't be watchable at all. And it's not that the supporting cast is bad. John Cryer (Sheen's brother on the show) is as talented an actor as any. It's just that they don't have a lot to work with. It comes down to the writing. Compare it to The Office, where the writing is witty, biting, and the thing you desire most in a comedy – humorous, everything Two And A Half Men is not. Part of what seems to drive the animus directed at Mr. Lorre was Sheen's desire that Lorrie take on more of the writing duties. And I know people will point to the show's popularity and it's ratings as proof of its greatness. But ten years from now, will critics be talking about Two and a Half Men in the same vein as truly great comedies such as MASH, Cheers, Seinfeld, All In The Family, and The Office? I think not. ALF was funnier. And nobody remembers ALF. I'm not here to psychoanalyze Mr. Sheen or offer myself up as an expert on addictions. ABC in one of their interviewshired somebody for that job. But I do offer myself up as an expert on boredom. I surmise that Sheen grew bored with the show, grew bored with his part in it, and grew bored with bad television in general. You can only phone it in for so long. If idleness is the devil's workshop, boredom is not far behind. It leads to all sorts of excesses.
For now, Sheen is hell bent on making dysfunction "function" as a career strategy
In the short term it seems to be going extremely well. There is merchandise to sell, webcasts, and now a tour. This month, Charlie will unveil his My Violent Torpedo Of Truth/Defeat Is Not An Option tour. He will rant, rave, perform? across the U.S. and even plans some dates in Canada. It is rapidly selling out. Ticket prices range form $100 to a $700 meet and greet VIP package. In the long run? It's hard to believe Sheen can sustain this heightened awareness for much longer. But in the long run we're all dead anyway as one wise sage once said. I wish him well, but something else troubles me about this circus. In some of the recent interviews, the subject of one of the greatest films of our time has come up – Apocalypse Now. It was a film that Sheen's father so brilliantly acted in. It remains near and dear to the younger Sheen as one can detect the passion in his voice and the intensity of his fascination with this iconic film. Apocalypse Now achieved true greatness, the kind unachievable on the set of a bad sitcom. That realization has got to gnaw at the man. Keep posted. As Charlie likes to say, "We'll meet on the battlefield".