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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…