On the eve of Hollywood’s most significant yearly event, I shared with my wife Maggie one of the smallest performances to ever be awarded the Oscar. It is Ned Beatty’s turn as station chairman Arthur Jensen that netted Beatty Best Supporting Actor honors. Beatty’s key scene widely available on Internet video platforms like YouTube might have particular relevance today given the current economic climate.
But in re-watching Beatty’s Oscar winning scene and some of Peter Finch’s rants as network anchor turned TV evangelist Howard Beale, I was immediately struck with how the show might be a metaphor for the Charlie Sheen debacle. Watch the Beatty scene embedded from YouTube below and then travel from there to some of Beale’s rampaging speeches. Then think of Sheen’s self-destructive behavior. While the producers of “Two and a Half Men” might be unhappy with their popular star’s off-set activities and comments, they will eventually reap the benefit when Sheen marks his controversial and triumphant return to the small screen. And make no mistake, Sheen will be back and probably without apology. And the show will see high ratings.
The main through-point that we should key up on is that while Sheen may share crazy with Howard Beale, he can’t claim any sort of moral high-ground. In fact, it may be Sheen’s intent and even twisted genius to wallow in the low-ground of moral ambiguity. Depending on your personal paradigm, you may be repulsed or fascinated or both by Sheen’s behavior marked by alleged forays into excessive drug use and infamous sexual excursions. Like a train wreck that cannot be dismissed from view, Sheen’s off-screen persona may have the effect of fueling the television’s shows continued success. But just where will the network, CBS, draw the line? If Beatty’s incarnation as the opportunistic station chairman has any basis in fact, the line has yet to be reached and this temporary hiatus for “Men” is just that “temporary” while the show is retooled to make maximum use of Sheen’s sensational popularity.