How Bad Do You Have to Be to Get Kicked Off TV?

And it shouldn't be, according to Ray Richmond, television columnist and critic for The Hollywood Reporter. As long as Sheen leaves his divorce drama at the door when he shows up to work, CBS has no reason to can him.

"If you're molesting children in your off-hours, that's one thing, but this is a nasty divorce," Richmond said. "It shouldn't impact Charlie Sheen's day job. He's still an actor. This is still a role. Given the situation, it's probably no more incongruous knowing what we know than for Ellen DeGeneres to play a straight woman with a husband."

Sheen's the second sitcom actor in about a year to come under question because of his personal life. Last April Alec Baldwin, who plays a TV exec on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock," raised questions about his sanity as a star and a parent when leaked an expletive-laden voice message he left for Ireland, his then 11-year-old daughter with ex-wife Kim Basinger. In it, Baldwin berated Ireland for missing his scheduled phone call, calling her "a rude, thoughtless little pig," adding, "you have insulted me for the last time" and threatening to "straighten her out."

After publicly apologizing for the outburst, Baldwin asked NBC to release him from his "30 Rock" contract so he could focus his time on "parental alienation." But despite Baldwin's request and the many questions raised about his character, the network declined to let him go.

All the major networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox -- refused to comment on the record about what it would take for an actor to be removed from a series. But one network executive, who asked that his name and affiliation not be used, said it all boils down to TV's old system of checks and balances -- advertisers and viewers.

"When advertisers and viewers say things have crossed the line, they're usually right," he said. "If advertisers become shocked, offended and want to distance themselves because of something an actor did in their personal life, that elevates the issue. It's usually a case of someone doing something racially or politically insensitive or getting arrested."

Indeed, last June, ABC chose not to renew Isaiah Washington's contract after he reportedly called his "Grey's Anatomy" co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot" and got into a physical altercation with Patrick Dempsey.

And in May, the character played by "CSI" star Gary Dourdan was shot and killed in the show's season finale. Dourdan, who had been on the CBS drama since 2000, was arrested and charged with felony possession of heroin, cocaine and ecstasy in April. It is widely suspected that Dourdan's offscreen troubles might have played a part in his character being written off the show.

So whether or not Sheen should star in today's most successful comedy on television, unless he racks up charges or runs his mouth on the set, there's about as much of a chance of CBS removing him from its payroll as there is of Sheen and Richards resolving their differences over a nice bottle of Pinot and a candlelit dinner.

"Are you going to dump the star of your highest-rated comedy because he's going through a nasty divorce? No," said Culture and Media Institute's Richmond. "Are you going to support him any way you can and provide whatever assistance you can to help this pass as quickly as possible so he can concentrate better on his job? Yes."

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