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CBS has two responses to Charlie Sheen controversy. “No comment” when there’s an initial incident that leaves everybody asking, “Why is the network putting up with this guy?” And then a supportive statement later down the road when things settle down, usually after the crisis is resolved.
April 21, 2006: Denise Richards files court documents accusing Sheen of being an abusive, unstable porn and gambling addict. No CBS comment.
May 5, 2006: Comment! ”Charlie Sheen has been a true professional and a valued friend to CBS. We offer him our continued support during this very difficult time.”
Dec. 25, 2009: Sheen arrested for assault in Colorado on charges related to domestic violence. No comment.
Jan 9, 2010: Comment! At the TCA press tour, entertainment president Nina Tassler gets the Sheen question: “We’re being very sensitive to the fact that it’s a very personal and very private matter for Charlie. It has no impact on the network. His show is proceeding along with its regular production schedule and has had no impact. Right now, it’s business as usual.”
Feb. 23, 2010: Sheen enters rehab: Comment! A three-party joint statement is issused that spreads around the love/enabling: “CBS, Warner Brothers Television and Chuck Lorre support Charlie Sheen in his decision today to begin voluntary in-patient care at a treatment center. We wish him nothing but the best as he deals with this personal matter.”
April 2, 2010: Charlie Sheen’s “friends” say he’s quitting Two and a Half Men. No comment.
May 19, 2010: Sheen renews his contract after all, for more than $1 million per episode. Comment! Asked why CBS made the deal, Tassler said:“Because the show is called Two and a Half Men. It’s not called One and a Half. Because it is the show, his point of view. He’s a big star. We’re so thrilled to have him back. I think we value our stars and our actors. They brand the show. And he’s a huge part of it.”
Oct. 26, 2010: Sheen found drunk in trashed hotel room, taken to hospital. No comment.
A few weeks from now … Supportive comment?
Absent from from the network-and-studio Sheen response arsenal: Any statement resembling disapproval.
Now, we get it. Two and a Half Men is the highest-rated show in the network’s Monday comedy block and, until Big Bang Theory exploded last year, the highest-rated comedy on TV. And dealing with Sheen must be like trying to juggle Nitroglycerin during an earthquake. But at some point you want CBS to two-and-a-half-man-up and say: “We recognize that this behavior is not OK.”
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