Missing Johnny Carson: Defending Charlie Sheen
By Meg Sonata
Johnny Carson's ghost haunted the airwaves last week. Like Charlie Sheen, Carson had his go-rounds with network executives. Famous talk show hosts including Letterman, Leno, Conan, and Rivers could have spoken up and admitted: This business pays talking heads to act crazy. What do you expect from Charlie Sheen?
Carson's comments were reliably funny, however. No children were dragged from his house. No psychiatrists testified that he was crazy for talking past bedtime. Nevertheless, Johnny regularly indulged in fantasies involving his appearance in multiple bedrooms every night. He ogled every female guest who appeared on his set. Double entendre was his stock-in-trade. On his show, "taste" meant his tongue stayed in his cheek--not in his guest's ear.
By contrast, Sheen's highly successful comedy, Two and a Half Men, invites comments regarding sanity from the get-go. Charlie and Alan’s mother clearly needs a shrink for taking out her hostility toward the grown men who run in and out of her life on her children. In another context, her behavior would be labeled "abuse," Nary a word on this subject escapes media critics usually .
Meanwhile, sibling rivalry characterizes the relationship between the grown sons who compete with one another to put Mom in her place--so long as six feet under remains unavailable. The Half Man in the sit-com clearly joins his father(s) in gradual initiation into Sons Without Respectable Mothers, Inc. The title of this show should really be Three Sons, No Mother, No Father, Either.
Most remarkably, the cast of Two and a Half Men even includes a female trained in psychiatry, who never appears in a rocking chair because, without a doubt, she is off hers. The infamous Rose climbs up his balcony to find her Romeo, her personal obsession, only to dive down over his home's balcony when each conspiracy to glue him to her fails--when he's lucky. In short, if an audience seeks "normal" characters, they don't go there.
Instead, however, if they seek a satire on modern life, they will find themselves right at home at Sheen's fictional address. There, juvenile men rule. There, females hand out favors of every kind with no thought to their real power. The Child in the House must compete with his elders, every single time, for bed-space, nutritious meals, and sex education lessons. Even obesity receives ridicule, as the hired housekeeper accurately lampoons her skinny bosses.
In this context, Sheen's recent public comments achieve bizarre propriety. They serve as heat-seeking missiles which always reach their targets. His fictional domicile left planet Earth many episodes ago. Hyperbole demonstrates radical rhetoric at its best. Personal attacks come with the territory, and his lease on life always hangs in question. America, don't look now, but every attack you make on Charlie Sheen only circles back to bite you You-Know-Where.