The news this week that his character on Two and a Half Men will be killed off next season, making way for his replacement Ashton Kutcher, was met with a resounding yawn. Who cares? He's already gone. Then Lionsgate announced they would rush a Sheen sitcom into production for January.
Will it connect with viewers? My guess is no. Sheen's last show worked because he was perfectly cast. His peccadilloes were well known and the more his off-screen activities echoed his on-screen behavior the higher the ratings went.
But the success of that show was directly related to Sheen's personal life. We knew he was one step beyond the lovable scamp he played on TV, but the genius of the show was to emphasize his bad boy image; the perfect marriage of character and actor.
Kutcher has a rougher road ahead. He's a popular actor but lacks Sheen's edge. Of all the names bandied about to replace Charlie the one that made the most sense was Hugh Grant. He hasn't been overexposed on television, has charm to burn, and a certain scandal in his past made him seem just a bit naughty but he smartly declined.
Come January Kutcher will go head to head with Sheen. Kutcher, a returning TV king, Sheen, a tarnished star looking for a comeback. Charlie is probably convinced his "winning!" ways will ensure a successful return but comebacks are tricky.
Ask Mickey Rourke.
He became a media darling following the release of The Wrestler, after a few years in career Siberia. Big things were predicted and then... nothing. He didn't disappear completely, but a role as a bad guy in the lesser of the two Iron Man films, a cameo in The Expendables, and leads in several direct to video movies don't exactly scream A-list.
You see, The Wrestler was Rourke's Two and a Half Men, a role tailor made for the actor. Rourke, an actor with a face only a plastic surgeon could love, can play other grizzled types but will likely never again find a role for which he is so perfectly suited. Ditto Charlie. There are plenty of smarmy, aging Lothario roles around but few have the light touch and magic that made his sitcom a mainstream hit.
Lionsgate must feel Sheen is still viable as a middle-America star, but will the audience accept him back? I don't know. I don't see many people wearing "Winning!" t-shirts on the streets these days.