This is news that doesn't sound like anyone's winning: Production studio Warner Bros. officially fired star Charlie Sheen from the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men on Monday.
And while it may seem like a foregone conclusion, given the way Sheen has publicly ripped the show's producers and executives since they stopped work on his show in late February, Sheen's ouster signals a few things.
CBS and Warner Bros. are officially done waiting for Sheen to behave less erratically, making a move likely to draw litigation from TV's highest-paid star, scheduled to earn $1.8 million per episode until the end of next TV season. And the two entities can now decide in public whether they will replace Sheen or cancel TV's highest-rated comedy in its prime. Both companies had no comment Monday.
Sheen was typically defiant in a statement to the gossip website TMZ.com, saying: "This is very good news. … Now I can take all of their bazillions. … and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension."
TMZ also posted an 11-page letter it says Warner Bros. sent to Sheen's representatives, referencing his recent history of alcohol and substance abuse and executives' attempts to get him help, providing a jet for transport to a rehab facility in January that he never entered. According to the letter, Sheen was fired for making it impossible to produce the show and committing "felony offenses involving moral turpitude" — essentially admitting to massive illegal drug use during notoriously long benders with porn stars.
And TMZ's immediate access to this material highlights how online and social media have flipped the script in Sheen's hyper-public breakdown.
Debuting his own webcasts over the weekend and a Twitter feed last week, Sheen let anyone pull up an online chair and sit ringside for his downward spiral, harnessing new media to turn the world into a giant enabler. From his 2 million Twitter followers — gathered in record time and sparking an endorsement deal — to the hapless 115,000 folks gathered at the start of Saturday's webcast, each helped bolster Sheen's ego in exchange for an intimate peek at his fall.
This is how personal Sheen's story has become. We must decide whether gorging on the details of his decline is worth the twinge of regret after participating in his online circus.
And while some traditional media outlets are shameless in attempts to curry favor with Sheen in exchange for access — NBC's Jeff Rossen and CNN's Piers Morgan may be the worst — other journalists have done serious work excavating his story.
G.Q.'s recent in-depth profile, "Coke, Hookers, Hospital, Repeat," outlines Sheen's failure to continue collaborating with director Oliver Stone — after Platoon and Wall Street, Sheen missed chances to star in JFK and Born on the Fourth of July — his violence against women, and tendency of pals such as Sean Penn to explain away his worst qualities.
As the inevitable litigation and attempts to reboot Two and a Half Men unfold, fans will likely get an up-close look at it all, courtesy of a star who seems determined to go out in a blaze of social media-stoked glory.