Published March 17, 2011
Charlie Sheen is doing more than just “winning” – he is changing America's pop culture landscape.
The actor’s beyond bizarre behavior has dominated the mainstream media over recent weeks. But have his very public meltdown gone so far as to attract more interest than the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, thebitter breakup between NBC and Conan O’Brien, and the sex scandals involving Tiger Woods and Jesse James?
The search for Charlie Sheen programming on TiVo more than tripled between February 6 and the end of the month, beating out major stories pertaining to the late Michael Jackson, the Royal engagement, the Tiger Woods scandal and Lady Gaga’s pre-Grammy interview. Overall, Charlie’s interview more than doubled the "20/20" seasonal average rating. And looking at the stats for TiVo’s top T0 celebrity news interviews since 2008, Sheen comes in second.
Despite having already been on his own personal media blitz, Sheen’s “20/20” interview, watched by more than 9.3 million viewers, drew more eyeballs than Britney Spears’s disastrous 2007 “comeback” at the MTV Video Music Awards, which attracted 7.1 million viewers, and tripled Paris Hilton’s first post-jail interview with Larry King, which drew 3.2 million viewers.
But Sheen isn't just about TV these days. While Michael Jackson’s highly-anticipated London comeback tour sold out within a few hours, Charlie Sheen broke Ticketmaster records last week, selling out his, albeit much smaller, upcoming comedy tour in less than 18 minutes.
Heck, some politicians are even using Charlie Sheen as a metaphor for America's military involvement in Afghanistan!
So what makes the Sheen saga so all-encompassing?
“He's melting down right in front of our eyes. He seems to be speaking his own peculiar language,” Brian Lowry, chief TV critic at Variety told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. “It's another train wreck involving a celebrity to crane our collective necks at, from a media that can't help itself from being drawn to the bizarre and inconsequential.”
But the reason this train wreck is so much more spectacular than so many other high profile crash-and-burns is because it combines such a vast array of juicy elements, including drugs, sex, porn stars, parties, loss and almost-daily new twists.
“Charlie’s scandal has eclipsed anything that comes before it, thanks to his full-on embrace of the attention and refusal to hide behind handlers or try to downplay or spin the situation. It has the humor of the Conan O’Brien ouster, but with a more dangerous edge,” Los Angeles-based pop culture expert Scott Huver explained. “It also has the pathos of the Michael Jackson death, but with self-provided comedy; and it has the salaciousness of the Tiger Woods scandal, but with the celebrity’s total celebration of his sordid behavior. It is the ‘perfect storm’ of pop culture scandals, and it is totally captivating.”
Hollywood entertainment producer/commentator Mikey Glazer says that Sheen’s “media movement” of nonsensical rhetoric and bashing his former bosses has enthralled so many because he's experiencing something many Americans can relate to.
“From its founding, America has revolutionary DNA and still loves flagrant insubordination. From ‘Office Space,’ to WWE storylines that involve beating up bosses, to the ‘Breakfast Club,’ there's a long pop culture history," Glazer siad. "A majority of Americans hate their jobs. Even if it’s a machete wielding multi-millionaire employee doing the talking in a self-concocted fight, everyone loves to see someone challenge authority.”
“He might be crazy, but he’s sharing kernels of truth about how Hollywood works. Stars are the most important people in entertainment, and people are responding to his lack of discretion," glazer said. "Ironically, Conan O’Brien should have been the one to say things about NBC that Sheen said about CBS, but he didn’t. That made Conan a martyr with a job, who is less interesting than the rebel (Sheen) who goes down with guns blazing.”
And it seems Sheen is like a reality show – only better.
“Right now, audiences demand and crave authenticity. ‘Jersey Shore’ 'guidos' have no filter, ‘Teen Moms’ have no filter and Charlie Sheen has no filter. What you see is what you get,” Glazer continued. “The disconnect between a manicured public perception and an alternate reality torpedoed the likes of Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, and John Edwards. Their cloud of stink will always be there, but Charlie is playing by his own rules.”