Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Everyone's a winner, baby

Charlie Sheen has always been the poster boy for debauched living. Unlike Robert Downey Jr, who had to curb his excesses in order to resurrect his career, Charlie has managed to make an over-sexed, over-coked, take-no-prisoners existence his Hollywood USP.

Whereas other stars have sleepless nights over neglecting to mention their dog-walker in their Oscar speech, Charlie has sleepless nights because he's usually too off his tits to bother going to bed in the first place. His insatiable appetite for whores, porn stars and nasally ingested recreational items is legendary, and yet, he somehow managed to train his pupils to dilate on command so he could read the scripts for Two and a Half Men.

In the process, he managed to turn himself into one of American TV's biggest stars, in terms of audience and salary. Maybe it helped that his character in the long-running show also lives a life of unapologetic excess - anyone who disapproved could simply tell themselves that Charlie was going 'method'. After all, the role of a hedonistic, womanising substance abuser can't be that much of a stretch for him.

The show's producers were willing to turn a blind eye to Charlie's foibles, until his recent meltdown suggested that darker forces were at work. They did the right thing and suspended the show so that their multi-million dollar asset could get his life in order, only for him to turn around and bite the hand that cut his lines for him.

In the last few weeks Charlie's star has imploded, creating a black hole of insanity which the rest of the world could only sit back and watch. Anywhere with a microphone and a two-camera set-up bore witness to Charlie's vengeful ranting as he took his breakdown on the road. Only last week, 20/20 host Andrea Canning had to keep a straight face as her lugubrious guest told her "I am on a drug, it's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body." I'll take a gram.

Now that Charlie has been sacked from Two and a Half Men by Warner Television, he's officially on the warpath. As well as threatening to sue everyone involved in the show for breach of contract, he even appeared on the roof of the LiveNation building waving a machete and drinking from a bottle labelled 'Tiger Blood', declaring that he was "free at last". And let's face it, who hasn't done that after a falling out with the boss?

But if you need your regular fix of Charlie's antics, don't worry, plans are already afoot for a different kind of show featuring the addled actor. Cable network HDNet is rumoured to be creating a new property around the suddenly unemployed star. Although no-one knows exactly what the show will turn out to be, the cameras are already running. I imagine they're hoping for lots more content along the lines of “I’m sorry, man, but I’ve got magic. I’ve got poetry in my fingertips. Most of the time — and this includes naps — I’m an F-18, bro. And I will destroy you in the air. I will deploy my ordinance to the ground.”

Network Chairman Mark Cuban is unsure of what genre the new show would fall into - maybe it's time for someone to copyright "Unreality TV". But however it's classified, it's sure to be a hit with viewers, since Charlie's Twitter feed managed to score over two million followers in just one week.

He's even decided that he needs an assistant to handle his new social media profile, advertising for a "hardworking, self-motivated, creative, resourceful and social media savvy individual to work closely with him to leverage his social network." Unsurprisingly, the applications have come flooding in from deluded gawkers keen to step a little closer to the eye of the tornado. Honestly, didn't anyone see Twister?

One would-be employee, Yohei Nakajima, says "I'd be lying if I didn't admit that one of the reasons I applied was because I thought it was funny. But I've also noticed that he seems to be strategized very well." However, people aren't watching Charlie for his solid media strategy, they're an unruly mob gathering round a homeless guy to see if he'll piss himself on command.

The problem is, despite his pronouncements that he's "winning", Charlie is clearly on a losing streak. And yet, we just can't turn away. Schadenfreude has always played a significant role in the success of reality TV shows, but this borders on the ghoulish. 

If Sheen's life is a trainwreck, the media is setting up a hotdog and popcorn stand at the side of the tracks. We can gawp at the carnage and still toast our marshmallows on the flames. I can't see this ending well, for anyone. 

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