Charlie Sheen / Charlie Harper
Has there ever been a badder boy than Charlie Sheen? Trick question! Yes, but only one: His own alter ego, Charlie Harper.
According to my dad, who is the only person I know in real life to have ever actually watched "Two and a Half Men," Harper is was "a man child who lacked touch with reality. He was into younger women, like a male cougar. But he was cool! ...Did I already say sexual predator?" A playboy millionaire with too much of everything (money, time, self-esteem), Harper partied hard up until his final moments, when he fell in front of a train in Paris – or was pushed by a woman he had toyed with for years. It was only a matter of time.
The Real Charlie Sheen
What is there to say about Charlie Sheen that he hasn't already said about himself? He has tiger blood and Adonis DNA, and he's an F-16. It's Charlie Sheen's world, we all just live in it. He has snorted blow off the solid gold hoof of a unicorn. A real live unicorn. This is all true.
Much like his character Harper, though, Sheen gets into all kinds of trouble. The thing is: without the safety of a sitcom and a live studio audience, his actions actually come with little things called "consequences."
Sheen has been arrested and sent in to rehab more times than Wikipedia even bothers to list. He has five children, three ex-wives, and two porn "star" ex-girlfriends (yes, they are now exes) who appeared with him in that 2011 interview when everyone found out that, yes, Emilio Estevez is the sane one.
Sheen's loud mouth and ultra-ego eventually got him fired from the role that had once made him the highest-paid actor on television – but they allowed him to live with porn stars and be as much of a ladies' guy as the character he played. And he didn't even have to wear those trendy bowler shirts to do it in real life.
The only real difference between Sheen and his character – for now – is that Charlie Harper is dead.
David Duchovny / Hank Moody
Try as he might, the main character of the hit show "Californication," novelist Hank Moody, just can't keep it in his pants, which is no problem for "X-Files" fans still clinging to fantasies of nekkid Mulder. For five seasons of "Californication," Hank's unquenchable lust has been the one thing that's kept him from achieving his creative potential – and from keeping his family together. It also got him into a pretty sticky situation at the end of the Season 5 finale.
The Real David Duchovny
It certainly made for a good headline: "Duchovny: Sex Addict Onscreen and Off." In 2008, the actor released a statement that he checked into a treatment center to battle a longstanding sex addiction. Rumors for the trigger ranged from a history of alcoholism to an extramarital fling with a tennis instructor. After rehab, Duchovny returned to wife Téa Leoni and the couple's two kids, though they've reportedly been separated since June 2011.
This probably means that Duchovny's addiction, much like Hank Moody's, is a lot of what's standing in between him and ultimate happiness. The part could not have been cast better.
Tracy Morgan / Tracy Jordan
Full disclosure: I have a Who Dat Ninja? magnet on my refrigerator. It's a testament to how much I love Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock's eccentric, ego-centric (male) diva and the "TGS" production staff's worst nightmare. They work overtime doing damage control to clean up after his antics. When Jordan isn't trying to stab talk show hosts or accidentally voting for Ralph Nader, he's wasting time, blowing money, and embarrassing the people who are forced to work with him.
He was originally supposed to be a satirical character that would poke fun at the overblown egos of the Martin Lawrences of the world, but then life began to imitate art.
The Real Tracy Morgan
2011 was a rough year for Tracy Morgan (publicity-wise; he was probably doing just fine money-wise).
In January, during live pre-NBA game coverage on TNT, he said Sarah Palin was "good masturbation material," much like the time when Tracy Jordan (his alter-ego on the show) set off panics in the streets of New York with random false declarations he spouted on "Larry King Live."
In June of the same year, he came under fire after he did a comedy show in Nashville and said that he would "pull out a knife and stab" his son if he ever spoke in "a gay voice." After he issued an apology, the incident was parodied on an episode of 30 Rock. Speaking on Morgan's character's behalf, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) said: "He's not capable of hate. He's just an idiot who doesn't know what he's saying."So not only is the real Tracy Morgan an embarrassment to the show that turned his career around, but he also tends to say the dumbest things his mind grapes can think up – and gets into just as much trouble for them on the show as he does off. The main difference being, of course, that when Tracy acts up on the show, it's actually kind of endearing.
Lisa Robin Kelly / Laurie Forman
Remember the '70s? Me neither. Remember "That '70s Show"? Remember when Eric Forman had that b*tchy, slutty older sister, Laurie that was always getting into trouble? She was a mess.
At the end of Season 1, she flunked out of college. (Remember "flunking"?) In Season 2, she tricked oafish Kelso into cheating on his girlfriend and blackmailed him into continuing the relationship via PG-13 sexual favors. In Season 3, she broke his heart. Then she disappeared from the show and really wasn't missed all that much. Laurie Forman was a manipulative and self-absorbed liar. She didn't appear to have any friends of her own, and everyone kind of hated her – even (especially?) her parents.
The Real Lisa Robin Kelly
Since her last appearance on "That '70s Show" in 2003, Kelly, now 42, has not been staying out of trouble. In August 2010, she pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated. Yawn.
Then on March 31, 2012, at damn near 1:00 in the morning, her male roommate / possible boyfriend / hopefully ex-boyfriend told the police that Kelly had attacked him in his home. She was arrested on a felony charge of corporal injury, though she claims she has been framed. She released the statement:
"He must have scratched himself or done something to himself. ... I am clean and sober and I have made a lot of progress. I am completely innocent. I weigh 105 pounds. ... I just want to start working again."
And you know she means business, because she's already gone out and gotten a new headshot taken.
On August 15th, 2013, the troubled actress died in a rehab facility after a long battle with drugs and alcohol.
Jon Stewart / Fictional Jon Stewart
In 1997, Jon Stewart guest hosted "The Larry Sanders Show," the show-within-a-show on The Larry Sanders Show, normally hosted by Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling). The ambitious young comedian was a network favorite on the fictional "Larry Sanders Show," and at the end of the series (the real one), he replaced Sanders as the host of his own talk show. No flipping.
Fictional Jon Stewart wanted to turn the program into a more edgy, social commentary-driven late night talk show, and that's just what he ended up doing.
The Real Jon Stewart
It can be hard to believe how long our modern-day comedic heroes have been around (see also: Jeffrey Tambor, above).
For two years in the '80s, Jon Stewart held the 2 a.m. drunk audience slot at Manhattan's Comedy Cellar, and he spent most of the '90s popping up on MTV and Comedy Central shows like "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist" when I was supposed to be doing homework. Though the official version of history says that Craig Kilborn left "The Daily Show" in 1998 to host "The Late Late Show," insiders say that friction between Kilborn and some of his staff (particularly the ladies) was a major factor in his departure.
Enter Stewart in 1999, and the modern version of "The Daily Show" was born. Now it's what you watch when you're supposed to be doing homework.
Just like the guy he played on "Larry Sanders" years back, Stewart replaced a host who was getting tired of the job and brought a younger, more commentary-filled voice to a show that ultimately appealed to a younger audience.
Christopher Reeve / Dempsey Cain
Do you recall what you were doing May 25, 1995? Probably not watching the steamy HBO TV special and suspense-thriller Above Suspicion, written by one William H. Macy.
Christopher Reeve starred as a paralyzed cop plotting to murder his cheating wife (like ya do), played by Kim Cattrall. Reeve reportedly spent time at a rehabilitation hospital to research the role, learning how to use a wheelchair to get in and out of cars, mastering his craft and adding another notch to his belt of skills at the time (like pretending to fly faster than a speeding bullet without wincing).
The Real Christopher Reeve
The film was overshadowed by a miserable coincidence on May 27,1995 – just two days after the TV movie aired – when Reeve was thrown from a stubborn horse. He fell headfirst and shattered his first and second vertebrae, which paralyzed him from the neck down. And then rude stuff like this happened:
The most unfortunate and tragic coincidence on this list, Reeve's paralysis exacerbated, and created, a series of conditions which eventually led to his death in October 2004.
Dustin Diamond / Screech Powers
Before Sheldon Cooper – before Carlton, Milhouse, and even Urkel – there was Screech Powers, "Saved by the Bell"'s teenage nerd; a guy who was so horribly repellent, only Tori Spelling would date him.
From 1989-2000, for four incarnations of "Saved by the Bell" (including a few memorable specials, like the one in Hawaii with Staci Carosi and the Battle of the Sexes on the beach), Screech tucked his Zubaz into high-top Converse and was systematically rejected by token black hottie, Lisa Turtle. When the cool kids who allowed him to hang out with them finally moved on with their lives, Screech returned to Bayside High to work as an assistant to his best friend, school principal Mr. Belding. In the end, none of his friends seemed to really help him succeed, and people continued to laugh at him for the rest of the character's life (as far as we loyal fans know).
The Real Dustin Diamond
When "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" was finally (finally) canceled in 2000, Dustin Diamond rested on the dregs of his laurels, appearing as "Himself" in shows you never saw, like "Star Dates."
In 2006, he directed and released his own sex tape, Screeched - Saved by the Smell, which I also hope you never saw.
Some time after that, my friends ran into him in a bar in Boston, where he was selling t-shirts with his own face on them, trying to raise money so he wouldn't lose his house to foreclosure. If any of them gave him one cent, they never admitted it.
With nobody helping him in the end, his career has fallen to just about where Screech's did, being a walking punchline and, sadly, ending up on a depressing amount of VH1 shows.