Written by Sarah

I’ve been very enthusiastic in my support of Charlie Sheen’s TORNADO OF AWESOME over the last couple of weeks. I refuse to call it a “meltdown” or a “trainwreck” or a “downward spiral”. What’s happening with Charlie Sheen is none of those things and that’s partially because I think if/when he needs to, he can rein it in and handle his business. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, I just think that he’s fully aware of what he’s doing—and how crazy it is—and he can stop the TORNADO OF AWESOME any time he wants to. Did you catch him on 20/20? He was being a dick, sure, but he was also in control. He said some crazy sh*t but he was shutting down topics he didn’t want to discuss and directing his crazy like a weapon. Mostly though, I think Charlie Sheen is playing an elaborate Live Action Role Playing Game in which he is a Level 5 Warlock.

There’s a level of calculation involved in Charlie Sheen’s current behavior that frees me from feeling bad about enjoying all this. Take his twitter. He joins up and gets over a million followers in the first 24 hours, and while he is the only celebrity on twitter that is really entertaining me right now, he just told TMZ he did it for the money. Now his Twitpic stream looks more like product placement than entertainment. See? Calculated. And let’s not forget what this is really about—a contract dispute.

I called a former boss who’s an entertainment lawyer to get her take on the complicated mess that is Charlie Sheen’s contract with CBS and the state of Two and a Half Men in general. While the show is terrible, it is also a very lucrative property (syndication rights are estimated at $3 million PER EPISODE) and I strongly believe a large part of the TORNADO OF AWESOME is owed to CBS execs letting Charlie Sheen “be Charlie Sheen” because he was still showing up for work (mostly) on time. And therein is the crux of the situation. Charlie Sheen’s first break from Men is protected under the American Disabilities Act—he can’t be fired for going to rehab, even if “rehab” is just his house and his “recovery” was “accomplished” with mind bullets.

This second break is entirely CBS and Warner Bros. TV’s doing because they felt Charlie Sheen “being Charlie Sheen” had become prohibitive to delivering the season’s remaining episodes. Here’s where it gets sticky. The best legal option for the studios would have been to finish out the season (the now-infamous “eight episodes”), hope the ratings decline, then sue Charlie Sheen on grounds that his behavior had a negative impact on the show. But by ending production like they did, now the door is open for Charlie Sheen to sue on grounds of “frustration”. He could claim he did what they asked—rehab—and came back sober and ready to work yet they halted production anyway, robbing him of the $16 million in salary and up to $24 million in syndication revenue those eight episodes represent.

I’m not sure that Charlie Sheen’s TORNADO OF AWESOME will help him convince a potential judge and jury that he really was “ready and able” to work, but right now it looks like he has the better chance of winning any litigation in a contract dispute. Until TMZ finds the right person to pay off (allegedly), we’ll never know what, if any, morality clauses he may be in breach of, and as it stands in the legal community that isn’t going to be good enough grounds to claim damages against Charlie Sheen anyway. CBS could just cancel Men outright to mitigate further losses, but since they didn’t, legally speaking CBS/WBTV are in breach of contract, not Charlie Sheen. Or, that’s what a good litigator would argue.

So yeah, for now I’m enjoying the TORNADO OF AWESOME guilt-free. No doubt, as a nasty custody battle over his twin boys unfolds with his ex-wife Brooke Mueller, the TORNADO OF AWESOME could turn into a HURRICANE OF SAD at any moment, but until it does, just remind yourself this is really about rich people wanting to be even richer and feel free to laugh and enjoy this. And this. And most of all this.

Photos from Wenn.com