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April 19, 2014

Did ABC Wait Too Long to Air Their Charlie Sheen Interview?

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 1st 2011 12:00PM
Andrea Canning talks to Charlie Sheen on 20/20 on March 1, 2011
At some point on Saturday evening, the folks at ABC News must have been feeling very proud of themselves.

Andrea Canning had just spent the day with Charlie Sheen, the first television reporter to do an extensive video with the actor since he let loose with various tirades on the radio and TMZ, causing CBS and the producers of 'Two and a Half Men' to shut things down for the season. ABC made the big announcement, calling it 'The First Interview,' and planned to debut it on 'Good Morning America' this morning, followed by a big splashy '20/20' special tonight.

It may have been the first television interview Sheen gave, but it sure as heck wouldn't be the last.

The folks at the Alphabet Net got scooped, then scooped again, and then scooped yet again. But the way the network has been reacting to these scoops makes us wonder if they think that it's still 1991 instead of 2011.

In the time between his Saturday interview with Canning and today, Sheen spoke to Jeff Rossen of NBC's 'Today' show, not once, but twice; 'Today' scooped ABC by airing Rossen's interview on Monday morning and had more from the two of them this morning. After that, Sheen spoke to TMZ for 40 minutes in that wonderful train wreck of a live UStream interview. At that point, you could see he was starting to calm down and be more reasonable in his rants.

Then Sheen was interviewed for an entire hour with Piers Morgan on CNN, where Sheen was his calmest yet. Sure, he wasn't exactly Barack Obama–level calm -- he still went off on John Stamos, AA, his dad and others -- but at least he said he regretted the "Chaim Levine" remark he directed towards Lorre and he recanted his demand to be paid $3 million per episode.

Finally, the kicker: a 45-minute interview on Howard Stern's SiriusXM radio show this morning, where he sounded so calm and reasonable that, according to the press release about the interview, "Both Howard and Robin Quivers said that he didn't sound all that crazy."

ABC's response to all this? They moved the clips of Canning's interview up to Monday's 'GMA.' But they still held the vast majority of the interview for tonight and their '20/20' special.

It feels like they're making a humongous mistake, doesn't it? Not only will the interview now look out of context with how the story is progressing, since on Saturday Sheen was still in hyper mode, as opposed to last night, but I can't imagine that he will tread any new ground. Rossen and TMZ already talked to 'the goddesses,' Sheen's already talked about 'Major League 3' ad nauseam, and he's already talked about what it'll take to get things going again on 'Men.' What else is there to say here?

It's inconceivable that the folks at ABC News didn't think that Sheen would talk to anyone and everyone with a camera after they spent the day with him on Saturday. After all, Sheen had called into three different radio shows -- including Dan Patrick twice -- to tell his side of his dispute with Lorre, Warner Bros. and CBS. He texted reporters at TMZ and Radar Online, as well as Canning, late last week. It was highly likely that he wasn't offering ABC any kind of television exclusive.

After all, he wasn't asking for Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer to interview him; he called in Canning, a very capable reporter but not one of the network's top-line names. That should have been a sign that Sheen wasn't just going to talk to ABC.

So what ABC News should have done was A) aired excerpts of the interview during the Sunday 'GMA', then B) blown off the deadly-dull Oscars red carpet special and aired the '20/20' special at 7 on Sunday night. Yeah, the red carpet stuff has its fans, but surely the first interview with Sheen under the glare of TV lights would have gotten higher ratings than Tim Gunn marveling at Melissa Leo's Elvis in Vegas outfit, right? Even if they had to pay a penalty to the Academy for blowing them off, it still would have been worth it.

ABC, and the other broadcast network news divisions, need to realize that things move a lot faster than they used to, and if they have a hot interview, they can't sit on it to draw out the anticipation. Now that Sheen's talked to everyone and their grandmother, that "scoop" that they got on Saturday doesn't feel so special now, does it?

Tell us: What should ABC have done with its Sheen interview?


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