Farewell Whitney, Dr House… Hello Steve Winwood

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th February 2012.

This past weekend brought the news of Whitney Houston’s untimely passing. When Michael Jackson died on June 25 2009, the pay TV music stations ceased their regular programming and switched to non-stop Jackson videos. This did not happen with Houston. I’m not particularly surprised. Although arguably as big in the late eighties as The King of Pop, Houston’s days as a viable creative or commercial act were long behind her.

I only own one Whitney Houston CD. I bought it in 1987 with the money I had saved from collecting aluminium cans. I lost interest soon after. In Whitney, that is, not in collecting cans for money. Most of her fans from the eighties probably did the same.

It is always sad when drugs claim a life, regardless of whether they were famous. In Whitney’s case, it is such a waste. The knockout voice had departed but she had real potential for a comeback as an actress. Although I don’t care for the film or Kevin Costner, Houston was showed charisma in The Bodyguard.

 

Why is it that every time I go to the new supermarket, they are playing Steve Winwood’s 1986 hit Higher Love? I hadn’t heard it for years, and then in the space of a few days, twice I’ve found myself singing along as I wander the aisles. They’ve obviously done their research. Somewhere in the world, lab technicians in white coats are testing the effects of Huey Lewis on the shopping habits of rats. Well, the Winwood certainly made me increase my expenditure. Unfortunately for the supermarket, I just bought my usual stuff and then went home to order a copy of Steve Winwood’s greatest hits CD online.

 

Fox announced the cancellation of House last week. After eight seasons, this current one will be the last. As far as I’m concerned, the show had flatlined years ago. Recent ratings would suggest that most people agree with me. There is no doubt that the acerbic Gregory House will go down as one of the great TV doctors of all time, brought to life by the brilliant Hugh Laurie (although someone should have taught him to hold his walking stick in the correct hand).

Although it initially made for fascinating viewing, House was very formulaic. If you were one of Doctor House’s patients, you might want to get another physician. You are guaranteed to get a little better, then much worse, then a little better, then much, much worse, whilst House’s team of medicos misdiagnose you over and over again on a clear perspex whiteboard. Eventually, you’ll survive but only after lots of convulsing.

As ratings began to slide, the producers and writers resorted to more outlandish and silly storylines. Dr House goes to the mental asylum. He finally gets together with Cuddy but they hit turbulence which results in House driving his car into her, er, house. He goes to goal and jumps over a shark whilst waterskiing.

If there are two things I’ve learnt from watching TV, it’s to leave town when Jessica Fletcher arrives, because someone is going to die, and to avoid being admitted to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (House) or Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital (Grey’s Anatomy). The medical staff are incompetent or way too distracted with each other to keep you alive. Try Eastman Medical Center and ask for Doogie Howser, M.D.

Charlie Sheen: the ultimate method actor?

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st March 2011.

With the Oscars and Razzies over for another year, Hollywood can once again turn its focus back to doing what it does best. That’s right, trying to deal with Charlie Sheen’s antics.

This past week, it was announced that US Network CBS and Warner Bros. Television will discontinue the production of hit sitcom, Two and a Half Men, following the many reports of Sheen’s (mis)adventures with alcohol, drugs and porn stars as well as numerous public remarks made by the star about the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre.

Whilst the word “cancelled” has been bandied about in the media, it appears that the production of the current season, its eighth, has been shut down, not the show itself. So as far as we know, there might be more. Of course, several hatchets will need to be buried before season nine can even be contemplated.

I’m not sure if anyone would even notice if the show ended anyway. Channel Nine should be renamed the “Two and a Half Men Network (now with less Ben Elton)”. There must be an endless supply of tapes hidden away in the vaults considering that there seems to be brand new episodes premiering every other night, alternating with The Big Bang Theory, another show from the spring that never seems to run dry.

The show has been running for so long that the “half” in the title is actually now referring to seventeen year old actor Angus T. Jones. Perhaps they should just rename the show to Three Men and be over with it. Or if Sheen doesn’t return, drop it to Two Men.

Another solution to save the show and keep the title would be to kill off Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, and bring in a new younger kid. If you go with a really young actor, you could even rename the show Two Men and a Baby. Add a female midget and you could even go with Two Men and a Little Lady. Keep the girl, add a pizza place and… I’m sure you get it.

Maybe Sheen’s role could be recast. In Roseanne, the original Becky, Lecy Goranson, was replaced by Sarah Chalke from Scrubs for two seasons, who was herself replaced by Goranson again for one season, only to replaced for the final season by Chalke again. I’m sure nobody noticed.

Of course, in order to prevent any further complications, a stable and reliable actor should replace Sheen. My suggestions would be someone like Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr. or Carrie Fisher.

I think what people fail to realise is that the character of Charlie Harper in Two and a Half Men is a hedonistic womaniser and alcoholic. Surely this is just a case of the ultimate method actor? Charlie Sheen might be difficult to work with, but he sure does his research. Is this any different to Dustin Hoffman staying up all night in order to look exhausted for a scene in Marathon Man?

So what if Charlie Sheen likes to live his character. At least he’s not playing a vampire. Perhaps the character of Charlie Harper was based on Sheen in the first place. If so, the show’s producers can hardly complain.

Regardless, Charlie Sheen certainly makes the boring world of Hollywood more interesting. As long as he doesn’t go the way of Anna Nicole Smith, River Phoenix or Chris Farley, perhaps we should just accept this as a case of art imitating life imitating art.

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 12:55  Leave a Comment  
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