Charlie Sheen has earnt a lot of money for himself, CBS and Warner Brothers Television during the long-running sitcom Two and a Half Men. He’s now paid a whopping 1.7 million dollars per episode of the show which is syndicated to dozens of countries. That means he’s raking in plenty for his TV masters. Rumour has it, however, that after his off-screen performance at the New York Plaza Hotel in October 2010, Warner Brothers executives and CBS are growing impatient with Sheen’s drug, booze, cops and hookers scandals.
They are reportedly meeting to discuss the problem which must vex Sheen’s family too: What can we do about Charlie? The difference is of course that while Sheen’s loyal family support him through every scandal – even ex-wife Denise Richards stood by him, literally, while he was getting friendly with porn actress ‘Capri Anderson’ – the TV moguls can ditch him if they decide to.
Sheen must find his TV role easy to play, starring as feckless Charlie Harper whose interests run to booze and prostitutes and not much more. And yet, even though the sitcom has been a runaway success, with millions of viewers, I would hazard a guess that it forms part and parcel of Charlie Sheen’s many off-screen problems.
Charlie Sheen has been a mess off-screen for a long time. From shooting ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston to battering one ex-wife and threatening another, he’s turned from handsome young acting prodigy into a 45-year-old going through a full-blown male midlife crisis.
If the people at Warner Brothers TV are hoping he’ll come out the other side of his crisis any time soon, they may be disappointed. One of the characteristics of male midlife crisis is that the man experiencing it is convinced there’s nothing wrong with him. Maybe he likes a drink or nine, maybe he uses a bit too much cocaine and maybe he’s had a divorce or two and has hurt his wives and children because he’s prone to fooling around with other women. But by and large, he believes he deserves as much of everything as he can get and is lost in his own wants and desires. More than that, men like Charlie Sheen are often struck in midlife by a feeling that they haven’t achieved what they hoped to and that whatever they have achieved isn’t worth much.
It’s easy to see how Sheen could be feeling like that when he compares himself to his father Martin. Martin Sheen’s acting career took him from Badlands, Apocalypse Now and JFK to The West Wing. Although he wasn’t a huge Hollywood star and made a number of forgettable films in his time, his screen work – like his off-screen work – was serious and substantial. Martin Sheen, unlike his wayward son Charlie, is someone to be taken seriously. He’s been arrested many times in the past but always on matters of principle – protesting against apartheid, homelessness, nuclear testing and other issues. Charlie Sheen, on the other hand, wouldn’t know a principle if it poked him in the eye.
Charlie Sheen’s career started with plenty of artistic promise. He had good roles in Oliver Stone’s films Wall Street and Platoon. After that, until Two and a Half Men, he attracted relatively little attention. And despite it’s financial success, Two and a Half Men is not a show Sheen can be artistically proud of.
When he considers his father – married to the same women for decades, respected for the sincerity of his religious, social and political work, nominated many times for show business awards and also a man who fought alcoholism in his youth and won – Charlie Sheen in all probability feels pretty shallow. Even on the showbiz awards front, Martin Sheen won a Golden Globe for ‘Best Performance by an Actor’ in the TV-Drama The West Wing while Charlie failed to win a Golden Globe for sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Since Sheen is unwilling to put a brake on his behaviour, CBS tried to apply one in the shape of a showbiz “morality clause” when he signed up for two more series of the show in May 2010. Now that he has – predictably breached it – will they pull the plug on him?
The answer is that they’ll probably give him a final chance as long as no further consequences arise from the Plaza Hotel events. While Sheen was trashing his room in New York, he was still on probation for assaulting his third wife, actress Brooke Mueller, who is divorcing him. Technically he could be sent back to jail for the Plaza incident.
Sheen’s unfortunate spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, has tried to tell the world’s media that Sheen was not drunk or drugged in New York – he simply had an ‘allergic reaction to medication’ he was taking. Sheen’s manager, Mark Burg, has said Sheen will check into rehab. Again.
CBS executives will be acutely aware of Sheen’s audience and ratings but they also have to consider their advertisers and sponsors. There comes a point at which a misbehaving ‘star’ simply has to be dropped. (Ask Mel Gibson, a bigger star than Charlie Sheen has ever been.)
It remains to be seen whether Sheen has already handed CBS a last straw. If he hasn’t, it’s probably just a matter of time before he generates yet more bad publicity. After the Plaza events, he told RadarOnline that he was fine and nothing really happened at the hotel. The first step in solving a problem is to realise that you have one. Charlie Sheen firmly believes that the rest of the world, not he, is out of step.