Fired from 'Two and a Half Men,' is Charlie Sheen winning or losing?
NEW YORK (AP) -- "Two and a Half Men" is down one man.
But Charlie Sheen's firing doesn't mean that the hit sitcom, or its unruly star, is going anywhere soon.
Production of this CBS series -- TV's No. 1 sitcom -- had already been shut down for the rest of the season following the erratic actor's wild partying, repeated hospitalizations and verbal salvos against his studio bosses.
In making the announcement on Monday, Warner Bros. Television said no decision has been made about continuing the show without Sheen, who earned a reported $1.8 million per episode under a contract that extended for another year.
But even with the axing of the "Men" leading man, Sheen leaves behind eight seasons of hit-show episodes.
CBS has been airing "Men" repeats for several weeks in its regular time slot, Mondays at 9 p.m. EST. Reruns of the show are also seen in daily syndication and on cable's FX.
Come to think of it, Sheen's latest round of misbehavior feels like a rerun everyone had seen repeatedly from the actor, whose substance abuse and messy love life claimed the public's attention long before "Men" came along.
Sheen's hard-living image was a major inspiration for the series.
Charlie Harper, its central character, is a composer of jingles and a freewheeling bachelor who was swiftly certified as the sitcom doppelganger of Charlie Sheen with the series' premiere in September 2003.
"I make a lot of money for doing very little work," Charlie Harper said. "I sleep with beautiful women who don't ask about my feelings. I drive a Jag. I live at the beach."
Charlie was boasting to his dweebish, high-strung chiropractor brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), whose wife had just thrown him out of the house. Alan and his then 10-year-old son, Jake (Angus T. Jones), were seeking refuge with the none-too-welcoming Charlie.
Voila! Two and a half men! The show was an immediate hit and remains a smash, this season averaging 14.7 million viewers.
As a homage to Charlie Sheen's wild life, the show is necessarily sanitized for broadcast TV. Even so, it has grown raunchier through the years.
On the premiere, Charlie Harper's newest conquest said to him appreciatively, "You are a bad, bad boy."
Charlie replied, "And yet you're always the one getting spanked."
But on an episode from earlier this season that was retelecast last week, we witnessed the spanking.
Granted, it was Alan, not Charlie, who was doing the paddling. And he was spanking himself, alone on Charlie's bed, clad in T-shirt and tighty-whities in a fantasy moment, going, "Who's your daddy? Who's your daddy?"
"Unfortunately, YOU are," says Jake, now a sullen teen, who had walked in on his father's indiscretion.
Charlie Harper is meant to embody the ideal male existence, and no one longs to be Charlie more than his brother.
"My life is pathetic," Alan moaned on last week's episode. "On the other hand, Charlie's life is great."
Conveniently, Charlie was away for the weekend. Alan donned Charlie's clothes, assumed his identity and, just like that, hooked up with a sexy girl. Then he brought her back to the bachelor pad he said he owned.
Message: All of us men should aspire to be Charlie (whether Harper or Sheen -- it's just a matter of degree). In Charlie World, a warped sense of entitlement and a lack of moderation equal bitchin' awesomeness.
On this week's episode, Charlie faced a dilemma with his beautiful new girlfriend, Michelle. She looked to be in her mid-30s. But then he was shocked to learn her real age was 47. That's four years older than Charlie!
Worse, she was mom to a 20-year-old blond siren.
What else could Charlie do but cut and run?
"If I continue a relationship with Michelle," he said to Alan, "at some point, I'm going to try to nail her daughter."
But Alan had his own problem, which was addressed by the episode's title, "Twanging Your Magic Clanger": He kept getting caught while masturbating.
First, Charlie barged into Alan's room and discovered him nude with a laptop computer beside him on his bed.
The next time, he got busted on the living room sofa.
"I get it," Charlie told him. "You're bored, you're lonely, you can't afford a hooker."
None of these conditions apply to Charlie, of course. Not Charlie Harper, and certainly not Charlie Sheen, who, in his interviews, dismissed the world's less fortunate with awesomer-than-thou contempt.
"I don't want their lives and they want mine, but they want to criticize the hell out of it," he said last week on "Piers Morgan Tonight," lashing out at the losers who challenge him.
Bottom line: No one else is as awesome in Charlie World. The foolish, fumbling Alan is a comic surrogate for the rest of us and, watching "Men," we laugh at him, but it's in painful recognition. Meanwhile, we are meant to envy Sheen -- self-aggrandized for his "tiger blood" and "bi-winner" status -- as he selectively flaunts himself as Charlie Harper.
All that's over, in a sense, with his sacking. No new episodes of "Men" will star the man who triggered it. Maybe the series can't survive in his absence.
But "Two and a Half Men" reruns will live on. And odds are, Sheen will press on with his real-life sideshow of craziness no sitcom could ever hope to rival.
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EDITOR'S NOTE -- Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org