Unless you live under a rock and are cut off from modern civilization (if so, you’re probably not reading this article), you’ve probably caught wind of Hollywood’s favorite, and latest story: The saga of Charlie Sheen, Chuck Lorre and Two and a Half Men.
Whether it be Good Morning America, CNN, Nightline or even your local newscast, the world is abuzz with the happenings of one hit CBS sitcom, its star and its creator. While most of the attention has been focused on Sheen’s outrageous statements, the core issue behind this matter (as it pertains to TV fans) seems to have been missed completely.
Contained within Sheen’s numerous and bizarre interviews lies a core set of grievances that are fueling the star’s purpose for granting so many outlets interview opportunities. Of course, when those grievances are wrapped in a proverbial set of continuous one-liner revelations, they tend to be scrapped for a headline that is more sensational than intrinsically informative.
While one can’t completely vilify news outlets for shaping interviews to capitalize on Sheen's buzz-worthy (and bizarre) behavior, the responsibility to convey a subject’s earnest protests is still implied – even if they're supplemented with titillating comments.
These have been Sheen’s continuous points of contention:
- He has no "morals clause" in his contract - his personal life has nothing to do with Two and a Half Men, as long as it doesn’t directly impact the literal production of the series.
- He has always showed up to the set on time, delivered his lines impeccably and remained a consummate professional while working.
- He is ready and willing to work - it is Lorre, CBS, and Warner Bros. that decided not to continue with the production of Two and a Half Men.
Like it or not, every one of the above points is absolutely correct. Without actual documentation, many might believe that this is more of a speculative statement, but the simple fact that Two and a Half Men hasn’t been shut down up until now proves that Sheen’s criticisms on the current events are, in fact, true.
Whether or not Sheen has a substance abuse problem is not the issue (with respect to the future of Two and a Half Men). The fact is, whatever his extracurricular activities may be - no matter how illegal or immoral - Sheen's lack of inhibitions cannot (contractually) be the reason for Two and a Half Men to cease production. But that’s exactly what has happened.
This situation would almost be identical to the numerous stories of people being fired for posting inappropriate personal photos on Facebook - except for the fact that most (if not all) of those people do have some variation of a morals clause in their employment contract. Sheen does not have such a clause (although the next time he's hired for a job someone might consider adding one) - and therefore his personal life cannot be taken into account - again, contractually speaking. The only thing that would cause Sheen to infringe on his contract and give CBS and Warner Bros. the right to blame Sheen for shutting down Two and a Half Men would be if his personal choices impacted his ability to competently perform, or if he showed up to work under the influence - neither of which have ever been proven to have happened.
For all intents and purposes, Sheen is a functional addict. While friends, family members and co-workers may not like this about him, the network cannot use professional resources to impose their sensibilities or intentions on an unwilling person without some sort of legal backing. Ever since Two and a Half Men began production, Chuck Lorre has attempted to get Charlie Sheen into Alcoholics Anonymous. Whether it's the implied ideology (of an intensive rehab program like AA), or the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous only has a success rate of 5%, Sheen was not interested in Lorre’s offer.
This isn’t the first time that Chuck Lorre has had to deal with a star struggling with a substance abuse problem. In 1996, when Lorre was reveling in the success of his hit ABC series Grace Under Fire, the show’s star, Brett Butler, began showing signs of an addiction to painkillers. Following an incident in 1997 where Butler exposed herself to Jon Paul Steuer, the 12-year-old actor playing her son (Steuer subsequently left the series and was replaced by a much older actor playing the same part), ABC and Carsey-Werner Productions took a more active role in helping Butler kick her addiction. In the months that followed, Butler was forced to begin her second round of treatment.
Unfortunately, that treatment didn’t last long and Butler relapsed around Christmas that year. Two months later, ABC became tired of Butler missing call times and skipping filming days, so they abruptly canceled the series on February 17, 1998. As I’m sure you derived from this previous sentence, it was Butler’s constant absence from production that caused ABC to end the series, not her drug addiction. While Butler’s addiction and outrageous behavior most certainly gave ABC the right to terminate her contract - especially since she did have a morals clause - they waited until it directly impacted Grace Under Fire in such a way that production wasn’t possible.
Of course, while Lorre’s intent to help Sheen is admirable, he hasn’t exactly acted as professional as a black and white view of the situation might lead people to believe. On the February 28 episode of Mike & Molly, Lorre decided to replace his typical anecdotal message at the end of the episode with a long, rambling statement directed at Sheen:
"I understand that I'm under a lot of pressure to respond to certain statements made about me recently. The following are my uncensored thoughts. I hope this will put an end to any further speculation."
"I believe that consciousness creates the illusion of individuation, the false feeling of being separate. In other words, I am aware, ergo I am alone. I further believe that this existential misunderstanding is the prime motivating force for the neurotic compulsion to blot out consciousness. This explains the paradox of our culture, which celebrates the ego while simultaneously promoting its evisceration with drugs and alcohol. It also clarifies our deep-seated fear of monolithic, one-minded systems like communism, religious fundamentalism, zombies and invaders from Mars. Each one is a dark echo of an oceanic state of unifying transcendence from which consciousness must, by nature, flee. The Fall from Grace is, in fact, a Sprint from Grace. Or perhaps more accurately, 'Screw Grace, I am so outta here!'"
One can’t deny Lorre’s annoyance with Sheen continuously insulting him in interviews, but rebutting someone with an odd message at the end of a television show isn’t the most appropriate way to respond to someone you believe has a substance abuse problem. With Monday’s Mike & Molly message, CBS and Warner Bros. have allowed Lorre to convolute everyone’s implied intentions and concerns even more, by allowing the Two and a Half Men creator to attack Charlie Sheen directly on primetime television.
To help you better understand why Sheen is upset with Lorre, CBS and Warner Bros., I’ve created a handy list:
- Chuck Lorre – For focusing on his personal life, continuously trying to get him to join Alcoholics Anonymous and for convincing CBS and Warner Bros. to suspend Two and a Half Men.
- CBS and Warner Bros. – For focusing on his personal life, allowing Lorre to convince them to shut down Two and a Half Men when the actual production of the series was never impacted by his personal life and for not paying the crew when the show is shut down.
(After CBS and Warner Bros. decided to pay the crew, Sheen then became upset with the fact that the network and studio wouldn’t acknowledge that he was behind their decision to pay the crew – after seeing how Conan O'Brien had to fight for his crew to be paid, Sheen might be correct once again.)
Despite Chuck Lorre, CBS and Warner Bros.' concern for Charlie Sheen’s well-being (even going so far as setting up a pseudo intervention at his house), they should have never used professional resources to force resolutions to these concerns on someone who’s fulfilling their contractual employment requirements (even if that person is spiraling downward personally). On top of that, the moment that the network cited Charlie Sheen’s personal life as the reason for Two and a Half Men getting shut down, they opened themselves up to litigation based on contracts that they not only created, but also agreed to.
The notion that Chuck Lorre, CBS and Warner Bros. would simply be enabling Charlie Sheen’s behavior (or possible addiction) if they were to continue Two and a Half Men may have some merit, but addiction doesn’t happen overnight and from Sheen’s own admittance, he has been doing this for many years prior to coming onboard the TV series. Considering Lorre has been attempting to get Sheen into Alcoholics Anonymous for quite a long time (and Hollywood loves its gossip), everyone on Two and a Half Men – including CBS and Warner Bros. – knew what was going on.
Trying to help your fellow man overcome an addiction is an admirable endeavor, and as any episode of Intervention has shown, the tough-love approach can be effective when it comes to those unwilling to accept help. However, that all said, the personal and professional lives of Charlie Sheen are mutually exclusive when it comes to Chuck Lorre, CBS and Warner Bros - they are his employers, not his family.
Even if Charlie Sheen does need help, and even if Chuck Lorre, CBS and Warner Bros. believe that they’re doing what’s best for him and Two and a Half Men, the moment they crossed that line of acceptable professionalism, one statement became absolutely correct…
When it comes to Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen is right, Chuck Lorre is wrong and CBS & Warner Bros. had no legal grounding to shut down production of the series and cite Sheen's erratic personal life as the cause.