Just because he's not chewing the ears off of tabloid reporters, don't think that Two and a Half Men boss Chuck Lorre isn't letting his feelings about Charlie Sheen's situation be known.
We found four Chuck Lorre production company vanity cards that obliquely (or not so obliquely) reference the situation. The statements are both poignant and funny—"Go to Al-Anon meeting" makes Lorre's to-do list—and they reveal Lorre's perspective on the situation as clearly as anything else:
As a little bit of background, we should make sure you know that Chuck Lorre, the producer who has worked on such shows as Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly, has long communicated his feelings about a myriad of topics through the unusual medium of his production company "vanity card." In case you don't recognize the term, vanity cards are the brief slides that appear at the end of every episode of a TV show from a certain executive producer. If you can bring to mind Joss Whedon's "Grrr...argh," J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot or Tina Fey's baby in a peacock costume, you'll know what we're talking about. And if you so desire, you can browse the world of vanity cards at the Closing Logos Wiki.
Lorre's cards address topics ranging from his battles with CBS' standards and practices department to his spiritual struggles and sexual anxiety. Only those with the appropriate enthusiasm and pause-button skills can catch them during the few seconds they flash on TV, but they're also available online. We went looking through the archives to see if any of these cards remarked on Charlie Sheen's troubles, and here's what we found:
Chuck Lorre Productions, #324 (Jan. 17, 2011)
WARNING! Do not attempt to replicate what you saw in tonight's episode of Two and a Half Men. Despite the seeming lack of serious consequences and regardless of the hilarity that ensued, this is extremely dangerous behavior and could result in injury or death. Please keep in mind that we employ a highly-paid Hollywood professional who has years of experience with putting his life at risk. And sadly no, I'm not talking about our stunt man.
Chuck Lorre Productions, #315 (Nov. 22, 2010)
To Do List
Re-calibrate the line behind fiction and reality
Meditate using new mantra, "high ratings do not equate to high self-esteem"
Go to Al-Anon meeting
Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying "no comment"
Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying "as far as I know everything's terrific"
Write a country song entitled, "Hooker in the Closet." (Chorus: "There's a hooker in the closet, 'neath the monogrammed robes, don't know how she got there and I can't find my clothes. Officer Krupke, how are you tonight? I've misplaced my watch but I'm feeling alright.") Donate royalties to womens' shelter
Quit the business and teach creative writing at Cal State Bakersfield. Fresno?
Bite the hand that feeds you because you've had more than enough to eat
Hire a publicist to put a positive spin on this vanity card
Chuck Lorre Productions, #311 (Nov. 11, 2010)
When I'm not working on The Big Bang Theory, I work on other TV shows. One of those shows gets a lot of bad press. Sometimes, when I read the very unkind things written about that show, I'll remember the words of a sleazy music manager I was briefly associated with back in my rock 'n' roll days. The guy was right out of central casting. Bald, middle-aged, pot-bellied and sucking on a cheap cigar, he would sit behind his metal desk in his ratty little office and pontificate to dumbass musicians hungry for career guidance. One of his speeches has remained vivid in my memory for thirty-five years. He said, to a soon-to- be-nonexistent, dumbass power trio I was then a part of, "Boyz, if halfs da peoples loves ya, and halfs da peoples hates ya, you're a star!" At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. It wasn't until fifteen years later when I was writing for a TV show called Roseanne that I figured it out. I was once again reminded of all this when the star of the show I was talking about earlier came out for a curtain call in front of a packed studio audience. They went wild with applause. I looked at the man taking the bow and thought, "there is a big star." Then I looked up at the screaming, cheering audience and thought, "there are halfs da peoples."
Chuck Lorre Productions, #246 (March 16, 2009)
A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Charlie drinks a lot on Two and a Half Men. With the exception of the occasional "funny hangover" scene, he regularly makes drinking to excess look elegant, cool, sexy and fun. Given that the reality of drinking like Charlie is a nightmarish descent into alcoholism, liver disease, broken marriages, lost jobs, devastated families and friends, jails, insanity, institutions and, very often, death, the argument could be made that this is extremely irresponsible on our part. To redress this lapse of judgement we ask that you not drink to excess. While you're at it, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest and exercise, and avoid degrading yourself by having meaningless sex with strangers in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness in your soul. Thank you for your cooperation.
A word cloud of the above text might turn up multiple mentions of drinking, sex, Charlie and sadness.
We find ourselves wondering how grownups like Lorre, Men cocreator Lee Aronsohn, CBS bosses Nina Tassler and Les Moonves and WB TV boss Peter Roth find a balance between, on one hand, setting limits with Two and a Half Men star and center of gravity Charlie Sheen (the situation may eventually call for such drastic measures as ending the show permanently) and on the other, protecting the livelihood of hundreds of other employees who are dependent on Men.
Sadly, Sheen himself seems unable take responsibility for either himself or others, and that's his failure, one which no one else can explain away, redeem or resolve for him.
(Originally published Jan. 28, 2011, at 4:37 p.m. PT)