CBS Helps Enable Charlie Sheen's Bad Boy Behavior

Apologies for the cliché, but hopefully this is not a joke. A friend of Charlie Sheen's says the actor's hospitalization this week was due to hernia aggravation after he laughed too much at a TV show, according to Reuters.

If drug use or some other abuse was not the reason, that's good news. It is remarkable how reckless Sheen appears to live his life, while avoiding serious consequences. But the hope can continue he will find religion and remain the appealing actor he's been.

There is a lot at stake for CBS, Warner Bros. and him. Sheen's behavior doesn't seem to be hurting ratings for his comedy "Two and a Half Men" -- maybe it's even perversely driving interest.

Even in its eighth season, it is the third-highest-rated show on TV in the 18-to-49 demo -- if football and the new "American Idol" aren't included. Last fall, the first episode after his alleged violence in a New York hotel room, was the highest-rated one in five weeks.

Not long after he pleaded guilty to allegations of assaulting his wife, the show's 2010-11 season premiere on CBS produced ratings about 9% higher than the year before.



"Two and a Half Men" remains a linchpin of CBS' Monday comedy block, where it helped establish "Big Bang Theory." Next fall, CBS will likely count on it to juice a new comedy. Plus, for every episode Sheen appears in, producer Warner Bros. garners even larger syndication revenues.

For the 45-year-old Sheen, if CBS or Warner Bros. were to invoke some kind of morals clause and terminate him, he may have trouble getting another job. Robert Downey, Jr. has recovered from some demons to thrive in Hollywood, but studios may cower at taking the risk with Sheen. Not that he needs the money.

It's an inevitable debate, but let's blame the "Today Show." The NBC morning show asked Friday at what point CBS becomes an "enabler" in Sheen's troubling behavior. Both an addiction expert and author of a book on crisis communications, Steve Adubato, said the network has been part of the problem for a while and needs to change course.

"At some point to me it's more about CBS," Adubato said. "It's more about their sense of what it is that makes sense for him as a person. Because look: put the show on hiatus for a long time. Tell him, he can't come to work. Basically, no longer say as long as you're showing up, it's fine."

A counterargument may be that Sheen is better off with a stable job to go to. Perhaps a pay cut would play into that.

It's hard to imagine CBS and Warner Bros. haven't been involved in trying to help Sheen. CBS' Nina Tassler said this month the network is concerned about him naturally, partly because of his young children. Yet, the matter is difficult.

"On a professional level, he does his job, he does it well," she said. "The show is a hit, and that's all I have to say."

Sheen is a celebrity and willingly placed himself before the public at some level. But most employees have a right to deal with their problems on their own, as long as they continue to produce.

Not to be flip, but Sheen may be lucky he doesn't appear on other CBS programming, the NFL. Lesser troubles than his would have resulted in Commissioner Roger Goodell suspending him and maybe cracking down even more.

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