I have to admit that last week I was kind of surprised to see anyone talking about Charlie Sheen as if he was some kind of folk hero -- a crazed, trash-talking warrior taking on Warner Bros, CBS and executive producer Chuck Lorre. I also wrote about my dismay in the culture's voyeuristic fascination in watching this wreck of an actor in interview after interview. Read that here and here.

But I suppose given all the simple-minded ideological explanations in the media ether these days telling Americans that corporations and Republicans are responsible for all the pain we are feeling in our lives, why not? CBS and Warner Bros. are among the biggest of the big entertainment corporations, and he's one guy who is clearly at war with them. (Can it be long before the White House weighs in one this as was done recently in Wisconsin? Hey, maybe senior adviser David Plouffe can send Organizing for America workers to Hollywood to set up "grassroots" protests against Warners.)


In writing about Sheen's firing Monday afternoon, I found myself in total agreement with the actions of Warner Bros. and, by extension, CBS, the network that airs "Two and a Half Men" through a licensing agreement with the studio. Not only did Warner Bros. and CBS do the right thing in firing Sheen -- they did the smart thing.

And after 30 years of writing about the TV industry, I do not say that lightly. Almost every time I have praised a Hollywood studio or a network executive for doing something righteous, I later found out they did it for monetary reasons -- or, worse, for a really bad reason like punishing an enemy or squashing the last drop of life out of a competitor. You probably don't need me to tell you this, but Charlie Sheen is not only on the big kids' playground now, he's playing on the one where all the other big kids are armed with very long knives and only gained entrance to the playground once they proved they knew how to use them better than 99 percent of the rest of the population.

CBS and Warners behaved more responsible than anyone involved in this debacle when ithey pulled the plug on the rest of this season of "Two and a Half Men" after Sheen went on a radio show and launched a hate-filled attack on the show's executive producer, Chuck Lorre. At the heart of that attack was the fact that Lorre is a Jew.

Again, you probably don't need me to tell you this, but we are tapping into some ugly and scary world history when folks go off the rails and start blaming Jews for their troubles. I have written a book about representations of Jewish identity in television, "The Jews of Prime Time," (Brandeis University Press, 2003). All I am going to say is Sheen's attack of Lorre was ugly, and CBS and Warner Bros. were right in saying enough is enough once they heard the tape.

In a better Media America, that first interview and maybe one or two others to give Sheen a chance to clarify (or to verify what he meant to say) would have been enough to put an end to Sheen's agitated presence on our TV and computer screens. CBS and Warners were willing to take a multi-million-dollar hit on the rest of this season to remove Sheen from America's livingrooms.

But not the rest of our fine, fine media world today. Virtually everyone gave Sheen the best prime-time showcase it could -- and let him spew without challenge. And many of us watched. Shame on them, shame on us. And shame on so many of my colleagues in the world of media criticism who are ignorant of or don't care about the history of the kind of hate speech Sheen is trafficking in -- as long as they get ratings or page views.

As for Monday's firing, I would like to applaud Warner Bros. and CBS for doing the right thing, but I know they probably only did the smart business thing.  But you know what, that is good enough for me.

Yes, "Two and a Half Men" was a hit show, but, at best, it had a couple of seasons left. And it was built around an incredibly unreliable guy. So, how valuable a franchise is that in the final analysis?

Warners and CBS will surely not cancel the series even with Sheen out of the picture. As complicated as it might be, they will either re-cast the part or write Uncle Charlie out of the script, and then see if there is another season worth of more modest earnings left in the franchise. And who knows, the re-cast or rewrite might work, and they might get two or three years.

Given the shape Sheen was in -- with furniture arranged on the set so he could lean on it to get through some tapings -- how long could the series have gone on anyway? Does anyone in the right mind think Sheen was getting better the last six months? Beyond the hate speech directed against Lorre, his talk Monday of life at "Sober Valley Lodge" has a bit of the ring of a cult leader to it, don't you think?

But here is what it came down to in the end on the big kids' playground: Sheen in his anti-Semitism forced Warners and CBS to choose between him and Lorre. And while Sheen is clearly headed for the trash heap of coked-up famous-long-ago actors, Lorre has a long and consistent track record of creating and producing successful sitcoms. Recent examples include "The Big Bang Theory" and like "Mike and Molly."

Someone who creates and keeps those kinds of money machines on track is a lot more valuable to the TV industry than a wreck of a flipped-out actor who leans on furniture and can barely mouth the words people like Lorre write.

All the talk about CBS and Warners losing as much as $85 million by ending "Two and  Half Men," might sound impressive. But a moderately successful sitcom that runs for four or five years will wipe that loss out in a Hollywood heartbeat.

And unless Sheen gets the kind of medical help that CBS and Warners urged Sheen to get, he will be a pop culture punchline -- or, worse, starring in areality TV show  on Mark Cuban's HDNet appearing right after Dan Rather.