Why Charlie Sheen's latest outburst is being greeted with shrugs at CBS and Warner Bros.
Now that Charlie Sheen has landed in hot water again, he'll certainly face the wrath of his employers on the CBS sitcom hit "Two and a Half Men," right?
Don't bet on it.
Sheen, who allegedly trashed his suite and berated a female companion in a drunken tantrum at the Plaza Hotel in New York on Tuesday, was nonchalant when the gossip site Radaronline contacted him after he returned to Los Angeles on a private jet. The star said he was "fine" and added: "The story is totally overblown and overplayed as far as the reality of the scenario."
Some industry analysts suggest that advertisers could begin shunning "Two and a Half Men" given Sheen's serial bad behavior. After all, just a few months ago he narrowly escaped jail time after a Christmas incident in which he was accused of threatening his wife with a knife. The show generated an estimated $155.1 million in ad revenue for CBS last season, according to Kantar Media.
"It definitely will affect the advertisers ... definitely it will be a negative reaction," predicted Ahmed Mekky, creative service director at ad firm Global Advertising Strategies.
But Mekky added that he knew of no advertiser who had yet pulled out, and so far no company has announced its intention to do so. CBS and Warner Bros., the studio that makes the comedy, have hunkered down in a strictly no-comment posture. (Amazingly, Sheen's benders and court stints have not seriously hampered production -- yet.) Outside of Internet comment boards, no one is calling him out on the carpet. Sure, it's a safe bet that Sheen won't be getting another underwear endorsement any time soon. But beyond that, what has he to worry?
Sheen's meal ticket is playing a jerk. Charlie Harper, the character he plays on "Two and a Half Men," is a boozy, womanizing cad with a relaxed approach to his career (supposedly, he writes jingles). In other words, he's a thinly veiled surrogate for Sheen himself. As a result, viewers aren't that surprised when Sheen behaves, well, in character. In their minds, actor and role merged long ago.
It's also worth noting that the public doesn't have particularly deep emotional ties to Sheen as a celebrity -- at least not as it does with, say, Mel Gibson or Tiger Woods, two other boldface names that have recently been embroiled in scandal. Sheen is certainly famous, but it would be a serious stretch to call him beloved, now or ever. If he were a politician, his negatives would likely be quite high, even before this most recent indiscretion. His particular luck is that he happened to get attached midcareer as one of three stars in a well-written, raunchy sitcom. And to play himself convincingly.
So if it seems like CBS and Warner Bros. aren't feeling the outrage, well, maybe their attitudes reflect those of the public at large. Which means that Sheen, sober or not, may perfectly understand the reality of the scenario.
--Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)
Photo: Charlie Sheen leaving court earlier this year. Credit: Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images