Charlie Sheen Makes News … and YouTube

 

Conflict, controversy and human interest are three main drivers news. Charlie Sheen’s saga combines all of them.

Media have been criticized of late for broadcasting interviews of Sheen in his current condition, shortly after CBS and Warner Bros. canceled the star’s #1 hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men” for the rest of the 2011 season.

Sheen seems to be under some kind of psychological distress, either drug related or due to mental illness, although public drug tests showed that he’s clean of chemical substances. His physical appearance may show otherwise.

Sheen’s strategy of inviting media to publicly cover his drug testing added fuel to the proverbial media firestorm. The fact that Sheen accepted and at times initiated interview requests put media somewhat in the clear for their coverage of the comedic actor.

Should media back off on Sheen? Media do have an ethical responsibility, but also report news for their respective audiences whether they are readers, listeners or viewers. Celebrities and controversial political figures are lightning rods for media coverage. Sometimes media interest borders on the unexplainable, such as with Sara Palin and Kim Kardashian.

The same goes for Sheen. His story is not so unique compared to millions of others who are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, loss of jobs and careers, not to mention child custody services. The list goes on. Sheen being a celebrity makes the news more interesting.

There is a business story here however, such as jobs being affected due to Sheen’s behavior, loss of revenue for a network and studio, as well as possible lower taxable income for the state. But that story is less interesting compared to the number of Sheen’s Twitter followers, which reached a record amount since the account was first created. Really?

As much as people want to turn away and not pay attention, the reality is it’s too good not to watch. It works both ways however. In better times, these public figures leverage their celebrity with media to launch product, build businesses and influence opinion.

Right now, everyone wants to see what Sheen will do next. Media will cover this story as long as Sheen plays along or the news gets old and someone else becomes center stage. That may be a while given “Sheen’s Korner” now airing on YouTube.

Too much brand power at the top is dangerous for Two and a Half Men

Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper in Two and a Half Men

 Too much brand power at the top is dangerous.  Apple, Inc. is a good example.  The stock recently dropped after CEO Steve Jobs announced he was leaving the company indefinitely, again, to deal with health problems.  Another instance is former HP head honcho Mark Hurd, who abruptly resigned as CEO last year amid a firestorm of controversy involving actress-turned-marketing consultant Jodi Fisher, causing the company stock to drop by as much as eight percent in the aftermath.

CEOs and celebrities however usually are judged by different standards.  Troubled entertainers usually call attention to themselves, resulting in higher box office sales primarily because moviegoers want to see what they’ll do next. 

People will want to watch hit comedy Two and a Half Men if it returns next season.  Not only because it’s a funny show, but also to follow the Charlie Sheen drama.  CBS and Warner Bros. this past week canceled the #1 comedy for the rest of the season after Sheen’s public tirades toward the show’s executive producer Chuck Lorre.  Among other crude remarks bordering on anti-Semitism, Sheen reportedly challenged Lorre to an octagon ultimate fighting match.  

These antics make great headlines, and it appears that Sheen is not thinking rationally.   Be that as it may, only 16 episodes aired this year, eight short of the full 24.  That’s $16 million in lost salary for Sheen, not to mention smaller paychecks for the show’s co-stars and hundreds of staffers.   

The average person probably has little sympathy for anyone making $2 million a week, especially in today’s troubled economy with such high unemployment.  There’s hundreds of millions of dollars at stake however.  Two and a Half Men anchors several other comedies that air every Monday night, creating a potential economic snafu for CBS.   

The question at hand is can Two and a Half Men be successful without Charlie Sheen?  The short answer is that everyone is replaceable.  Think back when Sheen replaced Michal J. Fox in Spin City to some success.  All shows have their run.  Seinfeld, Friends and Cheers are just a few of several long-standing hit comedies.  Two and a Half Men already have 177 shows in the bag after eight seasons, a huge milestone with lots of content for syndication. 

Relying on one person either in the business world or entertainment industry can put any organization at risk.  The gist about Two and a Half Men is that the show pokes fun of Sheen’s real-life persona.  Ironically, this latest go-around makes for more funny episodes.  The challenge now for the show’s producers is to evolve the Two and a Half Men brand beyond Sheen, a feat easier said than done.  But that’s entertainment and we’ll all be watching.