The TV Column: Charlie Sheen will be in rare form at Washington show

April 18, 2011

Charlie Sheen’s Violent Torpedo of Truth stop in Washington on Tuesday night could be something of a disaster for those who have bought tickets. Sheen — we will not attempt to conceal it — may not be at his fizziest.

That’s because Tuesday is also the day Sheen is scheduled to find out whether his $100 million lawsuit against the “Two and a Half Men” production company Warner Bros., and “Men” executive producer Chuck Lorre, will be hashed out in public, as Sheen wants, or arbitrated privately, as the studio hopes.

Anyone who’s coughed up the needed lettuce to buy a ticket to the show at DAR Constitution Hall is presumably already a Sheen fanboy or fangirl — one who doesn’t need to be told that the actor has a different quality of charm than the usual performer who’s in the middle of a national tour with no actual act. They already know and buy into the notion of Sheen as a sort of a cross between a warlock and a Ferris wheel, but with a lovable streak — if you’re inclined to blast for it.

But if Sheen’s camp loses in court Tuesday morning, it could bring out the very worst in Sheen — or the very best. It depends, as do so many things in life, on your perspective.

Anyway, since it’s undoubtedly going to affect his Washington stop, here’s what you need to know as you’re deciding whether to dress casually, or in body armor:

Sheen’s legal team, and the team representing Warner Bros. and Lorre, will appear in Santa Monica Superior Court on Tuesday to decide whether the actor’s lawsuit should be tried in court. Shortly after Sheen got the old heave-ho from Warner Bros., his attorney, Martin Singer, filed the lawsuit against Warner Bros. and Lorre in state court, claiming that the studio and Lorre got together and decided to fire Sheen, only after Sheen attacked Lorre — costing Sheen, and the show’s other employees, a bundle.

“Defendant Chuck Lorre, one of the richest men in television who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, believes himself to be so wealthy and powerful that he can unilaterally decide to take money away from the dedicated cast and crew of the popular television series ‘Two and a Half Men’ in order to serve his own ego and self-interest, and make the star of the Series the scapegoat for Lorre’s own conduct,” Singer wrote in the court documents, along with other yeasty stuff.

Singer contends that the decision to cancel the season’s remaining eight episodes was made because Lorre hated Sheen and because Lorre allegedly wanted out to focus on his other shows. Lorre also produces the CBS sitcoms “Big Bang Theory” and “Mike and Molly” for Warner Bros.

Warner Bros., understandably, wants all issues with regard to Sheen’s services on “Two and a Half Men” settled in arbitration, per the arbitration clause in Sheen’s contract with the studio.

Sheen wants his lawsuit heard in open court, where it would get the full media-circus treatment — particularly gratifying for Sheen’s camp on those days when sensitive Warner Bros. financial documents will be submitted as Exhibits B and C.

And, of course, juries tend to get googly-eyed over celebrities.

Yes, if the judge decides Tuesday that the suit should be thrashed out publicly in court, Sheen’s going to be in rare form when he performs Tuesday night.

Because, despite all his protestations about how happy he is to be through with putting on “silly shirts” and “effortlessly and magically converting [Lorre’s] tin can into pure gold,” Sheen very much wants his “Two and a Half Men” job back.

Sheen’s been saying as much on tour. In one recent tour stop, Sheen said there have been discussions about his returning to the show. He put the likelihood of it happening at 85 percent.

(Warner Bros. lawyer John Speigel responded by sending a letter to Singer saying: “Those statements are false. As you know, there have been no discussions, there are no discussions, and there will be no discussions, regarding his returning to or having any involvement with the series.”

Last Friday in Toronto, Sheen told his tour audience: “I’ll get that [expletive] job back!” and mentioned that he’d like to drop the lawsuit, according to media reports.

Legal navel-gazers seem to agree that there is little chance of that happening unless the judge decides that the lawsuit should be tried in court. Only then might Warner Bros. agree to a deal, they speculate.

If the judge in Santa Monica decides that the suit should be dealt with in arbitration, that light wrap of body armor might be advisable Tuesday night to protect against the chill in the DAR Hall.

HBO picks up ‘Veep’

As expected, HBO has picked up a comedy series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as vice president of the United States.

The “Veep” pilot was co-written and directed by Armando Iannucci. He was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 2009 satirical flick “In the Loop,” based on his BBC series “The Thick of It,” about Anglo American politics.

Iannucci also executive-produces “Veep” with Frank Rich, formerly of the New York Times and now with New York magazine, and Christopher Godsick (“Take the Lead”).

“Veep” is set to debut in ’12.

Although shot in Baltimore, the new HBO series will be set in Washington. Louis-Dreyfus will play former senator Selina Meyer, who becomes vice president of the United States and who is surprised to discover the job is everything she was warned it would be.

Other cast members were announced, but no one has been named to play the president of the United States. That’s because “we doubt we’ll ever see the president,” Iannucci told The TV Column.

You will also not be told to what political party Louis-Dreyfus’s character is attached.

“I don’t want [the show] to be seen as a response or commentary to a specific set of individuals,” he said. “Selena is very much in the middle of the political spectrum; she could easily be a liberal Republican, or a conservative Democrat.”

It’s not Iannucci’s first stab at a U.S. comedy series. Several years ago, “The Thick of It” became the template for an ABC pilot of the same name, which was going to be about a newly elected congressman and his staff; ABC did not pick up the show.

“Veep,” Iannucci emphasizes, is not an American version of “The Thick of It.”

“In the British government, they have no money and little influence — all they can do is say stuff,” he explained.

“Whereas, the American system is, they have a lot of money and quite a lot of influence and try not to say very much, because anything they say might be used again them . . . by their political opponent.”

Iannucci says he’s not troubled by the reluctance of American viewers to watch shows set in Washington. As of late, a slew of them have failed — or failed to get picked up — though most of the former were reality series set here, most recently “Real Housewives of D.C.”

“Okay, people are not interested in politics. My answer is to try and make a show as funny as possible, and get as good a cast as possible, and good writing . . . and don’t try and hide the politics,” Iannucci says. “The comedy comes from being very open about politics.”

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