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Thursday 2 October 2014

Bi any standards a right Charlie, but he is winning

Published 06/03/2011 | 05:00

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TELEVISION Declan Lynch applauds the Two and a Half Men actor for taking on the stop-relaxing brigade

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The great TV event of the last week was brought to us by Mr Charlie Sheen. The troubled actor's interviews about his state of being originally appeared on American television. But soon they were all over YouTube, and were being shown on our own TV channels, usually in the showbusiness section, or on dedicated programmes such as Xpose.

Which was not the right place for Charlie Sheen last week.

Xpose is providing a sterling service for those who find the News too boring, but Charlie Sheen has outgrown it now, and indeed he may well have outgrown us all.

Prime Time was the place for Charlie Sheen last week, for his radical contribution to the culture of the Anglo-American world, a culture that was being ground down relentlessly by the stop-relaxing brigade, until Charlie came along.

He blew them all away, sitting there in front of the American people, out of his mind on his own natural juices, high on the improbability of it all, with a message not of redemption but of defiance.

The forces of stop-relaxing have destroyed a man as great as Tiger Woods. But Charlie Sheen was ready for them.

I would question only the intensity with which he was relaxing, a contradiction which I am sure the man himself has worked out to his own satisfaction.

There would be no abject confession, no declaration that he had been blind, but now he could see. Because Charlie was winning.

In fact he was bi-winning, as he told the excellent interviewer on Good Morning America, who asked him if was by any chance bipolar. Not "bipolar", but "bi-winning", he explained. And he said it with such a sense of deep personal accomplishment, you knew there was a very real chance that whatever place he was at, he would not be coming back from there any time soon. There was no direction home.

Certainly the phenomenal response to Sheen's performance can partly be explained by our natural curiosity when we feel we are in the presence of one of the great madmen. But there was also a tremendous amount of admiration out there for his refusal to kowtow to the approved celebrity narrative and come out with his hands up.

Charlie was coming out with a machine-gun, rattling off lines like, "I've defeated this earth-worm with my words. Imagine what I would have done with my fire-breathing fists".

He declared himself to be extremely old-fashioned, a nobleman, and a chivalrous man. And he added that life without dignity is worthless.

Actually that was Ghadaffi.

He said that he was "clean", that the drugs tests don't lie. Which may be disturbing for some viewers -- myself included -- who are forming the view that Charlie Sheen really doesn't need the drugs any more. That whatever drugs he has taken in the past have more or less done the job.

I would also suggest an underlying reason for his passion and his intellectual ferment. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the many institutions which have incurred his wrath, a fact perhaps not totally unrelated to the fact that AA tends to recommend that you stop drinking. And though he says he is getting along fine on this drug that he calls "Charlie Sheen", I suspect deep down that Charlie Sheen might in truth not be totally averse to having a few beers as a regular feature of his extra-terrestrial lifestyle.

Indeed, I suggest that so profound is his desire for drink, and whatever else follows, he is willing to construct an entirely new world for himself and for like-minded individuals, and to roll it out on network television without fear of the consequences for his career or even for his liberty -- he is free, baby! Free inside!

So he mocks the language of AA -- he does not "use" drugs but he "uses" many household items such as the blender or the vacuum cleaner. And I guess that AA types would have no answer to that, except to say that they're sitting in a quiet place sipping a nice cup of tea and watching Good Morning America, where they can see Charlie Sheen emerging as perhaps the outstanding lunatic of our time. Other than that, Charlie's got AA licked.

As he put it so wonderfully, he doesn't subscribe to any of the conventional wisdom about getting off drink or drugs. He just blinked, and it cured his brain.

It is also not entirely immaterial that, as the son of Martin Sheen, there is a touch of Paddy in Charlie Sheen. Enough, surely, to put him ultimately beyond the reach of the most determined professionals in the addiction industry.

Paddy is getting a good run too, on Fergal Keane's The Story of Ireland, which I am enjoying in all its opulence, knowing that we don't have to go through all that again.

And, of course, Paddy made more history when he beat England at cricket. I was alerted to it with about six overs to go, giving my full concentration to the commentary on Sky, examining every word from every angle and concluding that even by their usual impeccable standards, the English were being almost unbelievably gracious and generous.

And Paddy was winning. He was bi-winning.

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