DID YOU READ

Charlie Sheen’s Mad As Hell and He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore

Charlie Sheen’s Mad As Hell and He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore (photo)

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Charlie Sheen’s been quoting “Apocalypse Now” a lot during his ongoing public meltdown — “‘You have the right to kill me, but you do not have the right to judge me.’ Boom. That’s the whole movie. That’s life.” — but the film he should be watching to understand his own life is “Network,” which predicted just about everything in our modern telvision landscape, including Sheen’s recent rise from sitcom has-been to media circus ringleader.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network” — or if you haven’t seen it at all — it tells the story of Beale (Peter Finch), an aging network anchor who reacts to the news of his impending firing by using one his last shows to announce his intention to kill himself on live television. His bosses’ first reaction is to suspend him, but they reverse themselves when they realize that Beale’s public meltdown draws big ratings. Though Beale is undeniably insane, he’s also undeniably good TV, so the executives at UBS keep him on the air.

On Saturday, over 100,000 people tuned in to UStream to watch Charlie Sheen become Howard Beale. They could have watched him every week on CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” until his erratic behavior and insulting comments about his bosses got him fired. But all those Ustreamers were much more interested in Sheen’s post-dismissal behavior: Beale-ian rants about violence and persecution and rage. Sheen played the part so thoroughly he even provided his own Beale-ian catchphrases. Beale famously encouraged his viewers to go to their window and yell “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” On Saturday, Sheen wanted people to do the same with his catchphrase: “Duh, winning!”

That parallels between Beale and Sheen’s freakouts are eerie. After Beale is suspended from his gig on UBS, he becomes front page, top story news for every other media outlet in the country. And in the days after CBS finally fired Sheen from “Two and a Half Men” he appeared as a massive ratings draw for NBC’s “The Today Show,” “ABC’s “20/20,” CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” and “The Today Show” again. The only difference with “Network” is that CBS didn’t look at the ratings their competitors were milking from Sheen’s meltdown and grab for a piece of it themselves. Maybe they would have, if only Sheen, bitter over his firing, had let them.

The content of their screeds are similar too:

“I probably took more [drugs] than anybody could survive… I was bangin’ seven-gram rocks and finishing them because that’s how I roll, because I have one speed, one gear. Go. I’m different. I have a different constitution. I have a different brain. I have a different heart. I got tiger blood, man. Dying’s for fools, dying’s for amateurs.” — Charlie Sheen

“This is not a psychotic episode. This is a cleansing moment of clarity. I am imbued, Max. I am imbued with some special spirit. It’s not a religious feeling at all. It is a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing as if suddenly I had been plugged into some great electro-magnetic field. I feel connected to all living things, to flowers, birds, to all the animals of the world and even to some great unseen living force, what I think the Hindus call prana.” — Howard Beale

You could argue that Charlie Sheen hasn’t been a mentally well man for a while; you’d certainly having a tougher time arguing that he was in complete control of his faculties while he was trashing his room at the Plaza Hotel in an alleged coke rage. In one interview, Sheen joked that the only drug he was on was “Charlie Sheen.” But really the only thing he was worried about going cold turkey on was fame. Like Beale — another aging, single, substance abuser — it was the impending loss of the television spotlight that finally pushed Sheen over the edge. In an environment of media consolidation and political upheaval eerily similar to the one in “Network” — in one scene, Faye Dunaway marvels at the way Beale’s breakdown is more widely covered than skyrocketing oil prices and a civil war in Beirut — Sheen, a faded TV star speaking his unbalanced mind, has become the biggest story in the country.

Sheen’s rants don’t have Beale’s political dimensions — at least so far. So I don’t think we’ll see Sheen reenacting the apocalyptic end of “Network” (then again, the title of his proposed autobiography is “Apocalypse Me,” so who knows). Regardless, the people tuning in to watch Sheen putz around his home office on UStream are doing it for the same reason they fictional throngs flocked to Beale: because people in the worst emotional states make the best television.

One of my favorite scenes in “Network” is Beale’s announcement of his intention to commit suicide, seen from inside the control room at UBS. As he says he’s going to blow his brains out, a producer responds with “10 seconds to commercial.” The UBS staff is so dead inside from their years working in the TV industry that they don’t even notice his threat. Beale warned that watching television turns people into “humanoids.” Maybe. Or maybe television’s appeal is that it permits us to think the people on it are humanoids, which allows us to view its programming free of our sense of empathy. We watch reality television — the socially acceptable version of lunatics like Beale or Sheen — cheering for people’s failure, laughing when their hearts break, without ever considering the emotional impact these decisions must have on their real lives. They give us 45 minutes of entertainment for a potential lifetime of misery and shame.

Beale’s bosses fancy him a “modern day prophet renouncing the hypocrisies of our times.” Maybe the saddest part about the Charlie Sheen drama is that our real life Howard Beale doesn’t even renounce our hypocrisy. He only reinforces it.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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