A few years ago, on a foray into wacky Hollywood, I attended the People's Choice Awards. Oh, it was joy itself to hang out there. But it wasn't the stars, such as they are, who interested me. It was the crowd of crazy, shouting gawkers cheering from behind the barricades on the other side of the street.
There was a "We Love you Ray" sign, declaring undying devotion to Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond). And similar signs for whoever were the sitcom hotties that year. And then, I saw it – a large, plain white piece of cardboard, held by a solemn-faced young man, which stated "Repent, Hollywood Scum."
Possibly that solemn-faced young man will have a new companion on his campaign.
Angus T. Jones, who plays the young fella on Two and A Half Men, has been found to have made a video in which he refers to the sitcom as "filth" and pleads with viewers not to watch it. That's not just dissing your employer, that's waving a big 'ol sign that screams, "Repent, Hollywood Scum."
According to numerous reports, Jones's awakening came when he received a personal message from God, who told him "get it together." You don't know whether to laugh or cry.
How odd of God to chose a multimillionaire sitcom star (reportedly earning $350,000 (U.S.) per episode) to point out that Two And a Half Men is a weekly exercise in awful innuendo and childish jokes about sex and stuff. How odd that Jones should follow in the footsteps of former co-star on Two and A Half Men, Charlie Sheen – the guy whose personal breakdown and delusions accrued more coverage than the Arab Spring in 2011.
Charlie Sheen was ill. He showed signs of a serious mental breakdown addled by years of drug abuse. What was truly startling was the delusional grandiosity and his claim (like Jones's) to have special insight. Like Jones too, he was anxious to condemn Two and a Half Men and all who sailed in that little sitcom ship.
Coincidence? Nope. And odd, not really. The fact that young Jones is following in the path of Sheen – albeit with his God and a fundamentalist church at his side, not two busty babes – illuminates something about the TV racket. Far be it from anybody to deny young Jones his revelation from God, but it's a darn peculiar suddenly to attack the work that to date has made you very wealthy.
It's a strange world, that L.A., where the stars of sitcoms live and breathe. A sitcom is relatively easy work, the main toil being done by a team of writers. There's big money, and short work days. Inside the bubble that is sitcom success, the behaviour of Sheen and Jones erupts because it is a very enclosed place, one that creates and nourishes soulless narcissists.
Just as many in the TV and movie rackets spend vast amounts on plastic surgery and fail to see how it makes them look grotesque, not gorgeous, they also become deluded about their power, responsibilities and insight into the human condition. The default position, when stressed, is going spiritual or religious. Charlie Sheen declared he was a "warlock" with "tiger blood" and was destined to win his dispute with Warner Brothers and CBS. Angus T. Jones had a message from God and wants the world to stop watching Two and a Half Men.
One suspects that both became bored with the show. But inside that bubble and in a town teeming with soulless narcissists, such people are incapable of seeing their situation as outsiders would.
I met Sheen in January of this year, in Los Angeles at an event for the FX channel, which airs his new show Anger Management. "I'm not crazy any more," he told me and a handful of other journalists there. He talked about his "crazy" period. "It was a lot about what had been going on for all the years on the job. It was also 30 years in the business, pressure cooking up, and finally saying all the things I wanted to say."
True, maybe. Sheen was parked as far away from the actual event as possible. The party location was a historical Pasadena building with condos on the upper floors. I saw a resident returning from walking the dog, coming through the back garden. She glanced at our table, caught a glimpse of Sheen, scooped up her dog and raced inside. She felt the vibe.
That solemn-faced young man with the "Repent, Hollywood Scum" sign might agree with Angus T. Jones these days. But, really, he had the wrong sign. A better, more truthful declaration would be, "Look outside the bubble, you soulless narcissists."
Love, Hate & Propaganda III: War on Terror (CBC, 9 p.m. on Doc Zone) is a well-crafted reminder of the recent past – the role that propaganda played in the time leading up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most useful section deals with how the looming wars were covered very differently by the English media and the Arab media.