The Week In TV
Spring is a-comin', TV is still going, and I'm an F-18, bro. This was the week in TV Land:
• Holy shit, Charlie Sheen. I mean, holy shit. This has been the craziest week yet in the public life of one Carlos Irwin Estevez. Sheen's been a noted douchebag for a while now, with documented drug abuse and battery charges offsetting his good-time-dude image on CBS' execrable Two and a Half Men. Even as recently as this year's Television Critics Association press tour, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said, "On a personal level, we are concerned, but he has his job, he does it well, and the show is a hit." That's the nicest way possible to say, "Yes, he beats his wives, but our ratings are through the roof, so don't come asking me to make a moral decision. This is Hollywood."
Yet last week, Sheen was actually fucked up enough to call CBS' bluff.
On Thursday, as CBS was preparing to get the show back on track, Sheen called into The Alex Jones Show and went totally raisin cakes, lashing out at the network, series creator Chuck Lorre, and pretty much everyone else in the world. He said he has "magic and poetry at [his] fingertips," adding, "Most of the time, and this includes naps, I'm an F-18 bro, and I will destroy you in the air and deploy my ordnance to the ground." That is a quote. Seriously. He also challenged Lorre to a fight, referring to him repeatedly as Chaim Levine. Lorre was born Charles Michael Levine, but Sheen's decision to hammer home the "Chaim" comes off as weirdly anti-Semitic, not to mention weird for a guy who was born with a different name, as well. Lorre had already poked the crazy bear with a stick a couple weeks back, though, joking about Sheen's habits in one the show's post-credits vanity cards.
As a result of all that, CBS has pulled the plug on Two and a Half Men production for the remainder of the season, and I've got my fingers crossed that this spells the end of the titanically unfunny show forever. The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates said it perfectly: "Two and a Half Men is the show that no one I know watches -- which is to say a hell of a lot of people." I cannot imagine anyone voluntarily watching the show, let alone taking any real joy from it. It's exhausting and abrasive. More broadly, I'm glad that Sheen is finally going to deal with the consequences of his actions. When normal people go on drug binges, beat their wives and girlfriends, and insult their bosses in public, they pay big time. This chucklehead's been clocking $1.8 million an episode, which was the highest salary on TV. He deserves every fraction of discomfort he's invited on himself.
Some good has come out of all this, though: Cats Quote Charlie Sheen. You're welcome.
• Wow. I expected the Oscars to blow, but last night's show was staggeringly bad. James Franco and Anne Hathaway, bless their misguided hearts, didn't have a single good moment that wasn't immediately drowned out by the producers' raging desire to capture the MTV Movie Awards demo. The Oscars can be fun and playful -- past hosts who've killed have always been comedians -- but the show this year was so desperate to be cool that its various attempts fell flat and died hard. Bringing out Billy Crystal again just underscored how much better he was than just about anyone else who took the reins of the show. My brain started to melt sometime around the moment Harry Potter got auto-tuned, but really, it was gone long before then. Even by the standards of bloated awards shows, this one was bad. I vote for Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law to co-host next year.
• It was a big week for online streaming. Netflix signed a deal with CBS to bring a variety of shows to its Watch Instantly feature, including the runs of Star Trek, Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, Cheers, Frasier, and more. Of all those, Twin Peaks feels the most like a victory; it was criminally hard to come by on DVD for years, and only recent sets featured the original pilot film. Meanwhile, Amazon announced that its Prime members will have streaming access to a variety of TV series and movies. A Prime membership is $79 for one year of free two-day shipping, now with video streaming; meanwhile, Netflix's cheapest membership shakes out to about $96 a year plus tax. Amazon doesn't yet have the titles to compete with Netflix, but still, this is a shot across the bow. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top.
• The Emmys rejiggered their awards categories last week. The big news was that the miniseries and made-for-TV movie categories will be combined, but that just makes sense, given the annual dearth of both. The more interesting news is that the cinematography categories are basically getting rebuilt. Previously, the awards were divided by time, with one trophy for cinematography for a half-hour series and one for cinematography for a one-hour series. Going forward, the categories will be split thusly: multi-camera series and single-camera series. This means that sitcoms and dramas, half-hour and hour-long, can all theoretically compete against each other; Community, Parks and Recreation, and other doc-style sitcoms are all shot single-camera. Multi-camera shows like, say, Rules of Engagement are now in their own category. The old set-up usually split comedy and drama, since almost no dramas are half-hours. But this shakes up the genre matches in a big way. Interesting choice by the Emmys.
• I've never been a big Hell's Kitchen fan. Life feels far too short to spend a few nights of it watching a guy yell at people who are trying to stab each other in the back while making burgers. Still, the show has its fans, and they're in for a treat. The Fox reality show has been renewed for two more seasons, its ninth and tenth, with the ninth set to air later this summer.
• If you've been following Pete Vonder Haar's brutal slog through the trenches of American Idol, you know that the show's increasingly desperate to drum up new viewers and prove that it's still relevant and hip and other things Steven Tyler isn't. Fox announced last week that viewers will finally be able to vote for their favorites online, marking the first time the show has collected votes via computer. Viewers will be able to vote 50 times per night, too, so get ready for slow load times as legions of tweens keep hitting refresh for the girl who sounds the most like Lady Antebellum. It's the American way.
• I'll leave you with this, if you can power through it. Donald Rumsfeld stopped by The Daily Show to plug his memoir, perhaps not remembering that Jon Stewart was not his biggest supporter. Cringe-inducing talk ensued:
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