What can we learn from Charlie Sheen’s missteps?
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Maybe we can make Charlie Sheen’s latest scandal a teachable moment for the rest of us.
But first, a joke: A window washer high outside a Manhattan tower was suddenly plunging to the street after his rigging failed. He faced certain death as the ground rushed to meet him. But at the last moment he bounced off an awning that had broken his fall. He landed on the sidewalk without a scratch.
“Look at that,” a passer-by said to a friend. “That guy is really lucky.”
“Oh, he’s not so lucky,” the friend replied. “I’ll tell you who’s lucky: Charlie Sheen is lucky!”
Who could argue otherwise?
Until now, anyway. Then on Thursday, Sheen’s great good luck may have slipped a few more notches. On his latest radio blab-off (phoning “The Alex Jones Show”) Sheen managed to sound bonkers or drug-addled (despite his stint in home rehab), not to mention self-aggrandizing and hateful.
Throughout the run of CBS’ huge hit “Two and a Half Men,” Sheen has been a high-stakes handful for the network and the studio, Warner Bros. Television, and presumably for the crew and cast members who surround him.
Now, after several weeks of a production break while Sheen, reportedly in rehab, was meant to be getting himself well and ready to return to the show next week, Thursday’s radio outbursts triggered a statement from CBS and the studio pulling the plug on the season’s scheduled four remaining episodes.
The future beyond that of the sitcom, for which Sheen is contracted to continue next season, is unclear — as is Sheen’s willingness and wherewithal to straighten out his life.
But as we pause to shake our heads at Sheen’s latest shenanigans, maybe we can glean some lessons to apply to our own lives.
• Good advice: Don’t insult the boss. And, as Sheen did, don’t insult your boss on radio, with the rest of the media world in wait to report whatever you say. And especially don’t do it if he’s a guy like Chuck Lorre, creator of “Two and a Half Men” (as well as other hit sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike & Molly”). And for sure, don’t lob anti-Semitic slurs in the direction of that boss who has bailed you out of embarrassing scrapes over and over, while publicly defending you. That’s just lousy office politics.
• Don’t continue to brag about your work ethic and your sterling on-time record for getting to the job — that is, when you’re not in rehab, shutting down your show — no matter how hard you’ve partied the night before. Showing up for work is what the boss pays you for, and what the customers (in Sheen’s case, viewers) deserve. It’s the least you can do. Don’t expect a bonus for not being tardy.
• And when the boss pays you a lot (Sheen gets a reported $1.8 million an episode, the richest payday of any TV star), maybe you should remember that, at some point, your public might start resenting you for being so rich while behaving so badly. Ordinary Americans make do on an annual salary — or less — that Sheen might spend in one night of partying.
• Don’t mistake your own personal machismo (as Sheen did on the radio) for a macho role you played in a war film, “Platoon,” a quarter-century ago. It makes you sound delusional. Besides, it’s best to not mouth off about being a tough guy when you’ve already been in hot water for domestic violence.
• If you can’t kick the drugs and the prostitutes, do yourself a favor and at least get someone to keep you away from your phone and Internet connection.
When you play a character on a TV series, you should always keep in mind that your breadand-butter depends on viewers relating to, and liking, that character. Up to now, Sheen’s real-life mischief as a womanizer, substance abuser and overall hedonist seems to have enhanced the appeal of the character he plays on “Two and a Half Men,” a lovable ladies’ man conveniently named Charlie.
But real-life Charlie and TV Charlie seem to be parting company. It’s not a pleasant sight. TV Charlie isn’t mean-spirited, hostile or anti-Semitic. Could growing revelations about reallife Charlie have finally begun to threaten TV Charlie’s likeability?
Maybe viewers, enlightened by Sheen’s continuing misbehavior, will decide that a boozy Lothario isn’t so funny after all, and instead maybe pathetic. Since it seems unclear that Sheen is ready to move on, wised-up “Two and a Half Men” viewers may be ready.