Partying with porn stars. Stints in rehab (and not for a drug called Charlie Sheen, but the real kind). It’s official. Charlie Sheen is once again America’s bad boy — except he’s 45, which makes him more like America’s bad middle-aged man, which is kind of sad. Actually, it’s really sad.
In the past few weeks, the former “Two and a Half Men” star lashed out against the show’s co-creator Chuck Lorre, openly discussed his unorthodox route to sobriety and gave countless interviews espousing his twisted views on drugs, relationships and just about everything in between. This was all in addition to the inaugural episode of a live webcast streamed directly from his own home entitled “Sheen’s Korner.”
I am not a psychiatrist and I do not know the reason for Sheen’s outlandish behavior. What I do know is that Twitter feeds and tabloids alike have had a field day with his endless rants and tirades. It seems to take only a few hours between a new Sheen saying appearing on the Internet and a magazine cover story exploiting it for all it’s worth (Tiger Blood and Adonis DNA anyone?). I suppose this is to be expected; celebrity self-destruction fascinates and awes.
My question is, what exactly attracts us to Charlie Sheen in the first place? For the past eight years he’s been television’s highest paid actor, garnering over $1 million for each episode of “Men.” On the series he plays Charlie Harper, a hedonistic, womanizing resident of Malibu, Calif. who drinks all the time, sleeps in and visibly flaunts his money. In reality, Sheen was raised in Malibu, drinks, does drugs and sleeps with lots of women. Is watching Charlie Sheen play himself really worth $1 million an episode?
I’ll admit that “Two and a Half Men” was funny for the first couple years. Loosely summarized, the show depicts what happens to Harper when his luxurious bachelor lifestyle gets upended once his brother Alan (Jon Cryer) and nephew Jake (Angus T. Jones) come stay with him after Alan’s divorce. The writing was sharp and the dichotomy between Sheen, Cryer and Jones was humorous in a sardonic sort of way. This led to consistent rankings as the number one sitcom on television. It was even hailed by The New York Times as “the biggest hit comedy of the past decade.”
However the success of “Men” owes more to Cryer’s performance and Lorre’s supervision than anything Sheen ever brought to the table. Lorre also gave us hits such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike and Molly.” Cryer won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2009. Yes, Sheen was a pull for many viewers over the years. Yet by the same token he has now single-handedly derailed the series and unveiled that he has tattooed the catchphrase “Winning” on his wrist. Unfortunately, the ruination of an entire TV franchise is anything but “winning.”
Now that CBS has canceled the remaining episodes for the current season, fans of the series are left only with the real-life Sheen shouting his absurdities to anyone who will listen — call it what you will, but saying your brain is not “from this terrestrial realm” is crazy.
For how much longer can Sheen control the media in this fashion? For better or worse, the fictionalized Sheen has already dominated network ratings for the past eight years. Can it really be that this drug-addled, irresponsible actor is so appealing that every inane word he spouts must be turned into a new pop culture reference? Sheen’s exploits as a young and out-of-control member of the Brat Pack back in the late ’80s and early ’90s may have been entertaining. His parody of himself on TV may have been amusing for a time. But now that he seems to be going the way of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan before him (made all the worse by the fact that, unlike the aforementioned two, he is actually a family man of sorts), I recommend that we let this midlife crisis play out in private and, for the time being, turn our attention to some good old-fashioned television. After all, “The Big Bang Theory” is still going strong.