Sheen is in the green and it's our business

Sheen is in the green and it's our business

It happened on Friday. I was sitting at my computer minding my own business when I suddenly got an e-mail from the good folks at "Extra" about a conversation with Charlie Sheen. Turns out that Sheen said something interesting in this media alert, which is unusual in that I've never seen anything noteworthy on "Extra" itself.

Sheen was talking about the story making the rounds last week -- broken by The Hollywood Reporter's own Nellie Andreeva -- that he was about to earn a salary increase to a reported $350,000 or so per episode on his Emmy-nominated CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men."

Noted Sheen of the money discussion: "It's one of the few areas where (the media) think it's OK to reveal people's earnings. I think that should be the case across the board."

You know what? Sheen is right. And not just a little bit right but really, really right. I personally would come clean about my own per-week earnings, except that CNN hasn't yet called to ask. But Sheen does raise an interesting point: The last taboo in America -- money -- is somehow considered public domain when it comes to Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes.

Who decreed that financial details should be treated as essential, readily available information? One imagines it isn't the star who first volunteered to share but no doubt a studio or company, no doubt as sympathy leverage to use in the event the celeb decided to hold his or her employer over a barrel.

Interestingly, we never see similar pieces about how much showbiz executives earn unless some sort of stockholder revolt or distress forces the disclosure. But as one Hollywood talent manager says, "Those same execs have no issue with telling you how much their talent earns."

It has always been thus, of course. And that brings us back to Sheen, who seems to understand that blow-by-blow accounts of his 300% or so raise don't do much to endear him to the public and in fact stands to foster resentment from both fellow castmates and fans.

This has nothing to do with Sheen deserving it or not. If they're paying it to you, it's because you're worth it (and probably much more). Paying a name star $8 million or so a year (covering 24 episodes) for a show that happens to be the top-rated sitcom in network primetime -- and that just sold for big syndication bucks in separate deals with Tribune Broadcasting and FX -- doesn't sound too terribly massive.

But it nonetheless serves the interests of CBS and Warner Bros. Television to make sure it's common knowledge that not only is Sheen going to be earning so much money every single week, it's also a substantial raise from what he was getting. This supplies a ready defense in case Sheen takes to holding out for bigger money, say something closer to the $1 million per episode that he reportedly had been seeking. They could say, "Look, we take care of our people. This is just pure greed."

It's all about erecting your tent on the moral/ethical high ground. That's why it was such a risk when the "Friends" stars famously banded together in seeking $1 million per episode apiece. You can bet it wasn't the actors' reps who released that info but the other side, to try to build up public sentiment against the performers and force them to accept less.

That it didn't work for the "Friends" Six was a testament to their iconic popularity. They chose the right time to make their stand. But it could just as easily have blown up in their faces. Sheen, by contrast, lacked similar clout by virtue of the fact he had 3 1/2 fewer potential accomplices.
comments powered by Disqus