The “Two and a Half Men” creator has found his hit CBS sitcom enveloped in controversy all over again with the release Monday of a YouTube video in which 19-year-old cast member Angus T. Jones slammed the show as “filth” inconsistent with his Christian beliefs. He made clear he does not want to continue with the program, though he himself acknowledges in his videotaped comments that he is under contract. More details here.
While Jones may be positioning himself as the moral diametric opposite of Sheen, both of them essentially did the same thing: make self-destructive career moves. Still, it's not too late for Jones to walk this one back before his situation gets as out of control as Sheen's did. As eye-popping a headline as this is providing today, if the controversy is managed properly, it won’t be remembered by next month.
Neither Lorre, CBS or studio Warner Bros. TV wants this kind of headache, certainly not after weathering the storm of Sheen’s highly publicized departure. No doubt they are asking themselves the same question Jones seems to have already answered for himself: whether he should continue on the series.
As juicy as this might be for tabloid fodder, the reality is Jones’ comments don’t do much damage to the show. You could even argue given the truism "there’s no such thing as bad press" that any attention for the show represents a good thing. So all interested parties may not be agonizing over this nearly as much as they did when Sheen aired his issues with the series.
That said, were this happening to “Men” star Jon Cryer instead of Jones, this would be an incredibly serious development. That’s a reflection of the fact that though Jones has proved himself to be a precocious performer over the years playing the incorrigible Jake Harper, the truth is his “Half” status makes him less central to the show as the “Two Men,” Cryer and Ashton Kutcher, and therefore more dispensible.
Lorre, the studio and network could very well be huddling to figure out whether there is a way to write the character out of the show. And they may do that less out of concern for whatever negative attention his remarks bring to the series but out of genuine concern for Jones’ well-being. Ultimately, how this plays out may reflect a balance of the creative impact his departure would make on the show and responsibility toward a valued longtime employee.
Jones’ situation could escalate to a pressing concern if he actually has the temerity to step up his attacks. If his contract penalizes him for disparaging the show, there's legal leverage that can be brought to bear.
Odds are he’s being asked to issue a statement that effectively minimizes or withdraws his previous remarks, or at least he’ll give producers credible assurance that he’ll discontinue his public condemnations for the show.
In all likelihood, all involved already knew full well of Jones’ beliefs. If they have already been creating tensions on the set of the series, this could mark the end of the road for the actor.
It’s not as if producers can do anything creatively to the series to make it more suitable for Jones’ highminded concerns. The truth is, “Men” is filth, albeit of the clever, well-written variety. To clean up the show’s act is to produce something quite different than what it is, which just isn’t going to happen.
Keep in mind it’s quite possible the studio is already planning the end game for the series, which would surprise no one if the current season was made its last. Having Jones pack it in early could end up a nail in the series’ coffin, though it would be a shame if he couldn’t find a place in the finale.
It’s worth noting though that Jones’ youth is a major issue here. This is a teenager who has lived in the bubble of this TV show since childhood. His comments represent someone trying to get a grasp on his identity like any kid his age but with the additional pressures that come with being very well-paid talent in the public eye.
As calculating as his attack of the show might seem, he truly may not have understood the implications of his actions, a reality that has already come crashing down on him.
But considering he is a teenager, what might seem to him a deeply held religious conviction today may not be as important to him tomorrow. If Jones is lucky, CBS/WBTV/Lorre will give him time to figure that out.