The Sheen “NET-work”: Sad as Hell

Between Twitter and his Web show, Sorry Charlie’s becoming an online Howard Beale

Twitter last week suspended a parody account called @ceoSteveJobs, Geek Smack reported, lest anyone confuse the satirical tweets with actual messages from the real Apple boss.

We humbly suggest that in keeping with that logic Twitter scrap the widely followed account Charlie Sheen started last week – because the tweeter, in the midst of a disturbing breakdown, can’t possibly represent the real Charlie Sheen.

Now that the TV news interviews are over, the falling-fast “Two and a Half Men” star is taking his public meltdown/pathetic reality show fulltime to the Internet. His Twitter account made the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest to get to 1 million followers (just over 25 hours), and he even out performed Justin Bieber as the top trending topic in a week in which the teenybopper idol marked his 17th birthday, Mashable notes.

Sheen apparently is still in enough of a right mind to know that he doesn’t need the traditional mass media to spread his madly self-deluded message of “winning.” On Saturday, he took to Ustream to deliver his new talk show, “Sheen’s Korner” (motto: “You're either in Sheen's-Korner or you're with the trolls”), drawing 100,000 viewers to the live train wreck and hundreds of thousands more rubberneckers afterward.

If you haven’t seen it, we can save you 50 minutes: Sheen, two friends/enablers and one of his live-in porn star “Goddesses” sit around and repeatedly shout “Winning!” and “Duh!” amid rude sound effects and babble that seems a pitiable attempt at replicating Howard Stern’s act.

The show ended about 40 minutes before “Saturday Night Live” offered its own Sheen parody: an Internet talk show called, “Duh! Winning!” in which Bill Hader, playing Sheen, spent much time repeating the show’s title. 

Even with appearances by actors playing Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan, disgraced fashion designer John Galliano and Moammar Gadhafi, the bit marked one of the few times where the “SNL” parody, in some respects, was less outrageous than the real thing. Unlike Sheen’s show, the sketch was more funny than sad.

One of the most unintentionally telling moments in Sheen’s surreal online effort came early on when the actor exhorted his viewers to open their windows and scream “Winning!” outside.

The reference, of course was to writer Paddy Chayefsky's amazingly prescient and ever-relevant screenplay for the 1976 media satire “Network,” in which old-school, washed up newscaster Howard Beale cracks and tells his viewers to shout out their windows, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

Beale’s meltdown turns him into a huge star, with his disintegration drawing big ratings. We’re not giving anything away by noting that it doesn’t end well for the character.

We’re watching something similar play out with Sheen, a cautionary tale for a media age that now includes the Internet, which we’re guessing even the late Chayefsky never anticipated. Unlike Beale, Sheen, bizarre tweets and all, is very real.

So we’ll offer our own twist on Chayefsky/Beale’s words, as Sheen crumbles before us: It’s as sad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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