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TV Review: Charlie Sheen on 20/20

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Despite the Good Morning America and Today clips I caught, and radio plays of recent quotes, I tried to keep an open mind going into last night’s 20/20 special interview with Charlie Sheen. Oh, who am I kidding? Like most viewers, I tuned in to watch a bright star’s career crashing down in flames, and I am not disappointed.

Andrea Canning is tough, but fair. She pushes him when he avoids answering her questions, or gives her pat responses that reveal nothing. She keeps a straight face, and stays cool, never offending him. She asks the questions that the public want to know, but in a very news-y way, professional and straightforward.  Clearly a good journalist, despite the job being more TV junk than actual news stories. Kudos to her work.

Sheen may not be on drugs, as he keeps flashing around that negative drug test, but I don’t believe the effects of illegal substances are done with him. On the contrary, he is talking like a crazy person. He doesn’t look healthy, and he is chain smoking in sections. Among the things he says that don’t make sense: When asked about rumors that he is bi-polar, he replies that he is ‘bi-winning’. Because he is winning on all fronts. He is just one big ball of winner.

Modesty is not in evidence at all. Sheen claims to be tired of pretending he isn’t special. He keeps calling himself awesome. He takes credit for all the success of his hit series, Two and a Half Men, seemingly thinking that no one else is responsible for any of the money it has made. He is even suing CBS because they ‘hurt him’. I’d like to know how they hurt him. If it wasn’t for Sheen’s antics, they would have made eight more episodes of the show this year, which would have brought the studio lots of money.

Sheen also worries about supporting his family. Apparently, he hasn’t been saving the nearly $2 million he makes for every episode of Men. He says he pays out over $100K of child support a month, which given his earnings, doesn’t seem excessive. Even if taxes are 35-50%, as I don’t know his personal situation, he still gets to keep the vast majority of his income. But illegal substances to tend to cost a pretty penny. As do supporting two live-in girlfriends.

Why do his ‘goddesses’ stand by him? I don’t dispute that he cares for them, in some way. He even raises the subject to Andrea of marriage with them, before admitting with a chuckle that it would be polygamy. But he has a history of abuse. And while he claims he has an open ear, and they can say whatever they want, he also states that his elder age means that he is wiser than them. Funny, he doesn’t apply the same principal to his father, who is reaching out to help him. Charlie wants no part of that.

My conclusion? Sheen has lost his grip on reality. His publicist recently quit, not knowing how to spin the things Sheen is saying. Sheen himself is clueless about how the public views him, which is not highly. He is in denial that he could possibly be the problem, or has done anything wrong. Which makes for fantastic television, but is leading him down the path to ruin and quite probably early death. Unless he really has kicked the habit for good, as he claims to have done.

What is our fascination for watching such a downward spiral with intense interest and fascination? In the past, I’ve usually rolled my eyes and tuned out to such spectacle. I think this time, due to my loathing of the series, and confusion as to how anyone can watch something I have tried to get into on numerous occasions, but found utter drivel, is a driving factor. As a reviewer and lover of great television, I want to see bad (but popular) television off the air to make way for better fare. If only Sheen could take all the reality junk and CSI / NCIS / Law and Order clones out while he is ruining Men.

What is everyone else’s excuse? It could just be good old fashioned Schadenfreude, the German word for taking pleasure in the misery of others. People who are jealous of Charlie’s wealth would like to see him lowered to more normal standards, or even below, paying penance for doing better than them. Or maybe it’s the old urge to watch destruction. The ancient Romans satisfied it with lion battles in an arena. Lacking similar outlets, we’ll get it anywhere we can.

Whatever the reason, it’ll keep getting attention and high ratings until it ends one way or the other, as people wonder, What will Sheen say or do next?

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    You make a good point about the Schadenfreude factor. I think many people enjoy watching what they consider to be pampered, overpaid celebrities taken down several pegs. The sad thing is that there are children involved, and considering Sheen’s rapid downward spiral, they may soon no longer have a father.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    Very true, Kit. They are the real victims in all of this. I honestly didn’t even stop to think of them.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I cover everything TV. Charlie Sheen was a double act because he is a popular TV star and there was a TV special about him. You may have your own opinions, of course, but I was covering the area of entertainment – television – that I always cover, and have been writing about for awhile.