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Posted at 5:19 PM ET, 03/ 8/2011

Sheen-ologists answer questions no one is asking them

By Lisa de Moraes

Like the sight of relief workers pouring into devastated areas, nothing so heartens reporters chronicling the gut-wrenching story of a Hollywood celebrity crack-up as the sight of e-mails streaming in to offer unsolicited assistance in the form of easy quotes from academics, lawyers, and other aspiring talking heads.

sheen22.jpg

And so it has been for the past several days since the Charlie Sheen story blew up.

Hi Lisa,

Charlie Sheen got FIRED from his show. Sad!

So wrote an emissary for Fordham University media professor Paul Levinson, who was making his services available "TONIGHT or tomorrow to discuss the outcome" of Monday firing of the "Two and a Half Men" star.

"CBS's firing Charlie Sheen is definitely CBS's loss and may be Charlie Sheen's gain," Levinson offered to discuss with us, without us even having to ask.

It was such an act of selflessness we didn't have the heart to point out CBS did not fire Charlie Sheen - Warner Bros. Television, which produces "Men," fired him Monday. One does not quibble about accuracy at moments like this.

"With his popularity and notability now at an all-time high, going back to [the] confines of even a hit television show might not have been the best move for Sheen," Levinson continued as, after a brief struggle -- like that of a wild creature who, while wandering through the underbrush, steps into a metal leg trap -- we became resigned to hearing him out.

"As for CBS, to fire someone on the basis of currently unsubstantiated charges - about his fitness as a parent, and whether he is free of drug use - is dishonorable in any case," Levinson said, before his publicist cut him off in the email and we made good our escape.

"As you know, Warner Brothers is calling it quits with Charlie Sheen - firing him from his hit show 'Two an a Half Men.' Producers rely on insurance for this type of situation," a representative for "leading entertainment industry insurance broker Aaon/Albert G. Ruben," whose vice president Lorrie McNaught, was seized with public-mindedness and ready to offer assistance in the form of sound bites about insurance coverage available for stars, the amount of money Hollywood producers spend on insurance, and steps studios take to make sure the stars show up for work.

Sadly, we were overlooked by USC law professor Jack Lerner, who volunteered to Variety the observation that Warner Bros. TV's 11-page letter explaining in glorious detail why it was giving Sheen the old heave 'ho, "puts to rest the argument that this dispute was ever about anything other than Sheen's addiction, like creative differences or antagonism between Sheen and ['Men' co-creator/exec producer] Chuck Lorre."

In the letter, Warner Bros. cited an "incapacity" clause in Sheen's contract, a clause about "moral turpitude," and recent interviews in which Sheen vowed not to work with Lorre, by way of explaining why it was giving Sheen the hook.

We did however, receive a generous offer from Dr. Samuel Charap, associate director for Russia and Eurasia at the Center for American Progress, offering to discuss how Sheen - oh, never mind. He wants to talk to us about Vice President Joe Biden! Funny, we hadn't heard Biden was in the running to replace Sheen on "Two and a Half Men" - only John Stamos and Rob Lowe.

We also received a touching note from someone speaking on behalf of Adam Galinsky, "academic expert" from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Galinsky is the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at that Kellogg School of Management. His most recent research examined how levels of prenatal testosterone can affect bargaining behaviors.

We had never been offered the unsolicited help of a professor of testosteronology before. We were deeply moved.

Galinsky's research found that individual differences in prenatal testosterone predict the degree to which someone will defend their personal interest when their self-respect is threatened during the negotiation process. In short, those with higher levels of testosterone made lower return offers, after they had been on the receiving end of an unfair offer. Ergo, testosterone level predicts how people respond to unfairness.

Now this is a guy who would know about two and a half men!

Anyway, Professor Galinsky was offering to speak for free about how his research on testosterone levels relates to Sheen's behavior following his demand for $3 million per episode the rep explained.

(Actually, Sheen said he would come back to the show next season - "Men's" 9th -- for his contract salary, which was reported to be nearly $2 million-ish per episode, because he is a man of his word. But, if CBS and Warner Bros thought he was going to come back for that kind of chump change to do a 10th season of the show, his price tag would go up to $3 million per episode owing to the way he'd been treated of late.)

We have not yet heard from any molecular biologists, investment advisers, decorators, or dentists. There must be a piece of the Sheen story for you! Please contact The TV Column ASAP.

(Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images)

By Lisa de Moraes  | March 8, 2011; 5:19 PM ET
Categories:  Charlie Sheen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Charlie Sheen comic book in the works. Naturally.
Next: 'Glee': Gwyneth Paltrow returns! And talks about sex!

Comments

Well Lisa, remind me never EVER to send you email if this is what you do with it.

I have to think you didn't inform Mr. Levinson that you would be pulling back the curtain, so to speak.

Do you insult all your potential contacts?

Posted by: IAmATVJunkieDotCom | March 8, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Much thanks for the publicity, Lisa - even though, apropos Mae West or P. T. Barnum, you did manage to misspell my name in one place :)

(As for CBS, you really think Warner Bros would have fired Sheen without CBS's concurrence?)

But keep up the important work. Your analysis really helps people understand what is happening with Charlie Sheen.

Posted by: PaulLev | March 8, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Are Americans really stupid?
If not, why the majority of them including their press and media give utmost important to the idiot, uncivilized-DRUGGIST and third grade actor and his trashy life style? The world is passing through the many crisis, Mideast-gulf nations are rising, China and India are catching the moon, but we stupid people waste our borrowed billions on watching flimsy Hollywood cartoon, third grade sexy and fiction movies, gossips, T.V. Shows like 2 1/2 men? GOD SAVE AMERICA!!

Posted by: citysoilverizonnet | March 8, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

PaulLev- do you really think anyone needs help in understanding what is happening with Charlie Sheen right now. He's had more written and said about him in the last few weeks than Egypt and Libya combined.

Posted by: justmike | March 8, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

JustMike - Yes, I do. Mere number of words written about any event or person does not necessarily equate with understanding. A lot of what I've heard about Sheen in the media - notably on television - is holier-than-thou chortling about how Sheen has destroyed his career and life.

And although you may have been saying it for rhetorical effect, Egypt correctly received hours and hours of uninterrupted coverage at the height of the crisis and revolution there - Sheen's coverage has correctly been negligible in comparison.

Posted by: PaulLev | March 8, 2011 7:54 PM | Report abuse

PS to Lisa: I see you went in and corrected the misspelling of name. Thanks. Very classy.

Posted by: PaulLev | March 8, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Dear Blogger,
(Or is it Senior Blogger now? – You’re a decade in at the Washington Post, right? Good for you.)

I appreciated your thoughtful and witty article. Once again, you delivered…

Your “work” has been described as a “weekly rundown of ratings ‘Winners and Losers’”. Perhaps we should reverse the roles – “a weekly rundown” of your own work reveals 10 consecutive blogs about Sheen. That’s fun.

Talk about “unsolicited assistance” - Your ‘We Watch So You Don't Have To’ recaps of American Idol, for example, are the most laughable collection of irrelevance I have ever seen (if it’s possible to distinguish between the layers of irrelevance that you produce as a “journalist”).

It must be amusing for the 20 or 30 people who accidently stumble upon your “work” each week to read how quick you are to criticize scholars trying to lend a little legitimacy to the mindless dross you crank out from your studio apartment.

I’m sure this article will serve as a glaring red flag to any potential contributors in the future. Well played, Pookie (that’s what your loyal fans call you according to what is sure to be a self-made Wikipedia page).

To echo PaulLev, very classy indeed.

Posted by: cgallahger | March 9, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

cgallahger writes:
It must be amusing for the 20 or 30 people who accidently stumble upon your “work” each week to read how quick you are to criticize scholars trying to lend a little legitimacy to the mindless dross you crank out from your studio apartment.
**************************************************************************************Which raises the question of what "scholars" are anxious to help Ms. DeMoraes add legitimacy to her columns and why do they care?
Call me old fashioned, but do most scholars now have publicists?I guess we all need to make a buck where and when we can. From your comments cgallagher, I might wonder if you are not the publicist in question... no matter.
I'm not yet on a "Pookie" basis and certainly have not visitied the fabled studio apartment but I enjoy reading Ms. de Moraes. I find her insightful and funny, particuarly when she reports on the TV "Industry" and the Reportrs Who Cover It.

It seems to me she strikes the appropriate tone for one writing about a billion dollar, hi-tech industry centered around the creation and distribution of brilliantly conceived drivel

Posted by: OlSloaner | March 9, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

While I am not familiar with the work of publicists, let alone academic publicists (which I agree, is an interesting concept in general), I would argue that if Ms. De Moraes had listened to any of the people she criticized, we, as readers, could at least have the opportunity to hear interesting perspectives.

Why do the scholars care? I don’t know – maybe because warlock status, tiger blood, and Adonis DNA are fun to talk about – especially when viewed through a novel lens. If the media is going to beat a dead horse, it might as well beat it with a different stick from time to time. I, for one, would be interested to hear the perspectives from legal, media, and management experts. Let the readers determine the legitimacy of their claims, as legitimacy can be endlessly disputed. But suppressing ideas and trivializing opinions without voicing them seems distasteful. References to “Pookie” and American Idol recap columns are illustrative of the trivial nature of Ms. De Moraes’ work. For her to trivialize the work of others is oddly ironic and if that’s the tone she is aiming for, then fine, there is nothing else to say.

I understand the comical juxtaposition of scholarly analysis of something as irrational and unstable as Sheen (operating in the realm of brilliantly conceived drivel as you so aptly state), but de Moraes’ attempt to keep up with the Joneses at other sensationalist tabloid outlets by excluding thoughtful debate seems counter to the spirit of the Washington Post.

Isn’t the media supposed to facilitate the exchange of information? I didn’t know bloggers held a monopoly on opinion, let alone truth. Admittedly, it’s doubtful that any of the “experts” know all the details of Sheen’s recent experiences, but I’m willing to listen and form my own opinion.

Posted by: cgallahger | March 9, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Olsloaner - happy to answer your questions.

I don't have a publicist - Fordham University does. And that's because, at Fordham University, we see the job of professors as extending beyond the classroom. My salaried job is indeed in the classroom, but Fordham, I, and many other professors think we have a public responsibility to share whatever of our expertise may be relevant, to the world at large. Comes with the territory of teaching at a pre-eminent institution.

As for bucks to be made - sure, publicists are paid, as indeed they should be for their hard work. But I don't see a cent for my sharing of opinions, and that's fine. Money is not the only measure of a worthwhile undertaking.

Posted by: PaulLev | March 9, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

PS to Olsloaner -

No, cgallagher is "not the publicist in question". Neither is IAmATVJunkieDotCom.

But I appreciate their sage commentary.

Posted by: PaulLev | March 9, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

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