Bozell Column: Too Much Tolerance for Charlie Sheen
The 911 call went out on January 27. Charlie Sheen was unconscious after another wild 36-hour bout with alcohol and drugs. People magazine reported paramedics found him unresponsive, drooling blood. He looked like death. He was rushed to the hospital, and there the family gathered, expecting the worst. Again, he survived.
Nobody seems able to stop this train. No one can force him to change. And CBS will stop at nothing in its willingness to dote on its superstar, offering no “judgmental” analysis of his behavior. In this business, profitability comes before respectability. Sheen, star of the filthy sitcom "Two and a Half Men," is the highest-paid actor in television (at $1.2 million an episode), and he can apparently do and say anything and be welcomed back to work. It’s why Entertainment Weekly calls Sheen “TV’s Most Valuable Disaster.”
This latest health scare required a suspension of his top-rated show. Sheen agreed to rehab – at home, where it meant nothing. Within two weeks, Sheen was calling into a radio show to insist he had to get back to work, before he binged again: "It's like, I heal really quickly. But I unravel pretty quickly. So get me right now, guys,” the obvious cocaine junkie said to CBS.
But that wasn't the scariest thing Sheen said. He also proclaimed if you can manage crack cocaine “socially,” go for it: "I said stay off the crack, and I still think that's pretty good advice, unless you can manage it socially. If you can manage it socially, then go for it, but not a lot of people can, you know?"
That’s some effective rehab, don’t you think? Hours after the go-for-crack interview, CBS announced “Two And A Half Men” would be going back into production at the end of the month. To CBS and Warner Brothers, which produces the show, Sheen is merely a cash cow to be milked.
James Hibberd at the Hollywood Reporter noticed that CBS has no record of expressing disapproval for Sheen's flood of excesses.
In the spring of 2006, Sheen's ex-wife, Denise Richards, filed court documents accusing Sheen of being an abusive, unstable porn and gambling addict. CBS offered no comment for two weeks, and then gushed “Charlie Sheen has been a true professional and a valued friend to CBS. We offer him our continued support during this very difficult time."
On Christmas Day 2009, Sheen was arrested for assault in Colorado on charges related to domestic violence. Then-wife Brooke Mueller told a 911 operator that Sheen threatened her with a switchblade. CBS had no comment for two weeks, and then at a TV critics press tour, CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler insisted “We’re being very sensitive to the fact that it’s a very personal and very private matter for Charlie. It has no impact on the network. His show is proceeding along with its regular production schedule and has had no impact. Right now, it’s business as usual.”
That says it all. CBS is in complete denial that Sheen's “very private matters” are all over the national media, and it's “business as usual” for CBS executives to plead “no impact” and ignore it all.
Last February, when Sheen entered rehab as part of a plea bargain, they played the patsy again: “We wish him nothing but the best as he deals with this personal matter.” Then in May, after gossip that Sheen would quit CBS, they renewed his contract at the new millionaire-every-week level.
Asked why CBS made the deal, Tassler responded:“Because the show is called Two and a Half Men. It’s not called One and a Half. Because it is the show, his point of view. He’s a big star. We’re so thrilled to have him back. I think we value our stars and our actors.” They may value Sheen as an actor – but they don’t really value him as a human being.
In November, Sheen trashed a New York hotel and partied with porn star Capri Anderson, who later told ABC she felt threatened when he put his hands around her neck. But Entertainment Weekly notes these stories have “never damaged his public persona.”
In the last original show before production stopped, show creator and producer Chuck Lorre's trademark “vanity card” comment that flashes for seconds at the end of the show joked that he'd be upset if Sheen outlived him. Sheen wasn't upset. He said he loved it: “I took it as a huge compliment. He basically wrote a brilliant little piece of literature and called me Superman.”
Charlie Sheen is “Superman” to CBS – which tells you everything you need to know about how this network wouldn't know immorality if...it threatened them with a switchblade.