Thursday, March 3, 2011

Charlie Sheen is Winning

Adonis DNA. Blood of a tiger.
Charlie Sheen is the guy everyone is talking about lately.  Apparently, he's gone completely nuts, aided by unfathomable quantities of drugs. He's cavorting with multiple women simultaneously, some of whom are prostitutes and porn-stars.  He's made bizarre proclamations of his greatness and specialness on television and radio.

And Sheen's long-time publicist just quit as the star made the rounds on radio and TV talk shows to boast his unusual theories about addiction, and to spout his inspirational quotes about WINNING.

Porn-Star Capri Anderson, who Charlie Sheen had sex with
Everyone enjoys watching a celebrity meltdown, and Sheen's bizarre behavior has eclipsed even the continuing collapse of the once-promising Lindsay Lohan, who is about to go to prison for stealing jewelry.

But is Sheen really collapsing?  I'm not so sure.

For the past eight years, Charlie Sheen has been primarily occupied with a CBS television show called "Two and-a-Half Men."  This is a show about a womanizing bachelor, played by and based on Sheen, who has to change his life when his brother moves into his house and brings his kid.

 Denise Richards, an ex-wife Sheen had sex with.
"Two and-a-Half Men" is awful.  It's not funny.  It's not interesting.  It doesn't explore anything pressing.  It doesn't delve into the souls of its characters.  It just pitches shabby, uninspired one-liners at an indulgent studio audience, and manages to sanitize Sheen's persona enough that the audience can enjoy something a little transgressive without any risk that they might see anything inappropriate for children or offensive to mainstream sensibilities. 

This is the most popular show on network television, for reasons I can't understand.  This is a show that is so far from the interests of my desirable young educated white-male demographic I don't even know anyone who watches it. Critics hate the show.  If you ask me, the main difference between Charlie Sheen on TMZ or 20/20 and Charlie Sheen on "Two and-a-Half Men" is that the Sheen on TMZ says things that are funny.  

The show's creator, Chuck Lorre, is the mastermind behind a number of hit television shows that have been detested by critics and people like me.  He's responsible for "Dharma and Greg," "Mike and Molly," and "Big Bang Theory," or, as you might know them, "A Corporate Guy Marries a Hippie," "A Couple Falls In Love, But They're Fat," and "A Hot Chick Lives Near Some Science Nerds."   

Ex-wife Brooke Mueller. Guess why he's smiling
All these shows are awful, and all of them are hits.  I don't understand what strange alchemy allows Lorre to connect with audiences.  I don't understand why audiences watch Lorre's programs while disdaining shows like "Community," and "30 Rock" which are superior by any conceivable measure. Whatever people like, it certainly isn't the writing.  Lorre's shows are relentlessly unfunny.  His "vanity cards," which are "uncensored" personal screeds he flashes up briefly at the end of each episode, tend to be rambling and incoherent.  These brief glimpses are a window into the mind of a shitty writer.

Sheen's partnership with Lorre has been very remunerative for eight years; Sheen was the highest-paid actor on television.  But any TV show begins to wear out after a hundred and fifty episodes, and the end was in sight.  Sheen must have been considering his post "Men" future.

Historically, stars of hit sitcoms have struggled to reach those peaks again; that teary May-sweeps finale is like a gold watch at the end of a career, after which audiences move onto something new and relevant.  Maybe Charlie Sheen doesn't want to dodder off to be a TV elder-statesman.  I mean, not even Matt LeBlanc wants to be Matt LeBlanc anymore.

Better than a clip-show retrospective.
Maybe Charlie Sheen wants to be a movie star again.  He's been in films made by Clint Eastwood, Oliver Stone and Spike Jonze, so maybe he doesn't want Chuck Lorre to be in the lead paragraph of his obituary. But hot film-directors aren't into multicamera sitcoms, and the CBS audience isn't driving the theater box-office.  The biggest risk to Charlie Sheen's future career isn't cocaine; it's Chuck Lorre.  And Sheen just quit that habit, cold-turkey.  

Sure, he's walking away from an enormous paycheck, but the casts of "Seinfeld" and "Friends" did the same thing.  All Sheen has done here is improve upon Seinfeld's "leave on a high-note" mantra.  He's walking out with a goddamn explosion behind him instead of a smattering of polite applause.
Yeah, this dude clearly needs to get his shit together.
Let's look at the real consequences of Sheen's meltdown:  he hasn't gotten himself arrested.  He hasn't caused himself any serious health problems.  He hasn't been photographed passed out in a car, or staggering around confused.

Instead, Sheen's process of unraveling has mostly been a parade of glamorous, enviable hedonism: suitcases full of cocaine, trashed suites at luxury hotels, private jets, beach houses, $3,000 call girls.  A man who spent the last eight years on CBS is suddenly edgy and dangerous again.  The star of a show people were getting sick of is suddenly the guy everyone wants to look at and talk about.  Charlie Sheen may not be blowing smoke when he says he's got a plan

Now, he's making the TV rounds, taking drug tests to prove that he's cleaned himself up with the power of his mind.  The stuff he's saying is a little bit kooky, but it's also endlessly quotable and kind of awesome.  Which is why, when Charlie Sheen signed up for Twitter, he picked up a million followers in less than 24 hours.  In the last week, Charlie Sheen has said more things I would laugh at, retweet or forward to my friends than Chuck Lorre has come up with in his entire unfunny, lowest-common-denominator career.  

Movie stars can be weird.  Movie stars can be crazy.  Movie stars survive stories about sex and drugs and debauchery.  What Hollywood can't handle is lameness, dullness and blandness.  Chuck Lorre and CBS have been sanitized Charlie Sheen into something that's palatable for sitcom viewers who find NBC too offensive.

The money has been good, and Sheen's spent almost a decade dining at that trough, but, if he wants to salvage his badass credentials, now is a good time for him to insult the chef and ditch the check.

I think that's what they call "Winning."  


  1. Terrific overview of what's been happening with Sheen. I admit, I am fascinated by the Sheenisms.

  2. Charlie Sheen is an amazingly hilarious actor. My family&friends all watch his old movies, Two&Half Men and just cry with laughter. The guy is a natural comedian and most of all he has a genuine kind heart. Whatever his personal life really non of our business. I wish the media would stop analyzing or criticizing it.

  3. Seriously? Charlie Sheen has been arrested HOW many times for abusing, hurting and threatening women but he has an "enviable" lifestyle? He's a violent offender who is above the law because he's a rich, famous, white violent offender.

    I find it nauseating how he's being celebrated. I don't care if he snorts an entire boatload of cocaine or if he's the most brilliant self-marketing genius to ever walk the earth, HE is the lowest common denominator. Chuck Lorre's shows may be stupid, but as far as I know, he's never held a wife to a woman's throat and threatened to mail her head to her mother.

    He and Polanski belong in the same prison, the one they manage to stay out of by being famous and wealthy.

  4. chuck lorre just posted the above comment. also, it'd be quite hard to hold a wife to a woman's throat, unless your wife was thumbelina.