TV review: Charlie Sheen can't manage laughs in 'Anger Management'
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Picking up right where he left off, Charlie Sheen appears at the start of FX's "Anger Management" (9 and 9:30 tonight) speaking directly to viewers at home: "You can't fire me, I quit. Think you can replace me with some other guy? It won't be the same. You may think I'm losing but I'm not, I'm -- "
And then, before he can use his "winning" catchphrase, Mr. Sheen turns to the therapy patients he coaches in his newest role and explains he was demonstrating how to address a bop bag to help sort out their anger issues.
It's an obvious, minimally funny gag that fits perfectly with the tone of "Anger Management," Mr. Sheen's obvious, minimally funny new sitcom that casts him as Charlie Goodson, a former professional baseball player-turned-therapist.
A viewer's willingness to tolerate "Anger Management" will correlate to their previous enjoyment of "Two and a Half Men" or past TV series from "Anger Management" executive producer Bruce Helford ("The Drew Carey Show," "Nikki," "George Lopez"). Fans of FX's sophisticated comedies (particularly "Louie," back with new episodes tonight at 10:30) may be put off by "Anger Management's" laugh track and generally predictable plots.
The "Anger Management" pilot is all over the place trying to set the stage of Charlie Goodson's world. There's the therapy group that meets in his living room, a therapy group he hosts pro bono in a prison; there's his friendship with his favorite bartender (Brett Butler, whose own demons resulted in the cancellation of her ABC sitcom "Grace Under Fire") and neighbor (Michael Boatman, who starred with Mr. Sheen on "Spin City") and Charlie's relationships with his 15-year-old daughter (Daniela Bobadilla), his ex-wife (Shawnee Smith, "Becker") and his therapist/friend with benefits (Selma Blair, "Hellboy").
If that's not enough, a new member joins Charlie's group therapy sessions. Lacey (Noureen DeWulf) announces her boyfriend cheated on her so she "shot him in the [testicles]." See, jokes about nailing a guy in his privates -- not that different from "Two and a Half Men."
But the general theme of "Anger Management" -- the redemption of Charlie Goodson, echoing Mr. Sheen's attempts to redeem himself -- is different (and softer) if overly calculated. The show's writers pursue this theme with all the expected sitcom tropes, including Charlie interacting with a homely female stalker, a plot that should also be familiar to "Two and a Half Men" fans.
Mr. Sheen looks healthier in "Anger Management" than he did at the end of his "Two and a Half Men" run and at least one crew member says Mr. Sheen was under control and didn't cause problems during production of this first batch of "Anger Management" episodes.
In a somewhat unorthodox arrangement, the production company behind "Anger Management" has made a deal with FX that if the show hits a certain ratings target, FX will automatically order an additional 90 episodes of the series.
Whether or not Mr. Sheen deserves another chance on TV -- an open question given his past misdeeds -- will be up to viewers, who vote with their remotes, to decide.
First Published June 28, 2012 12:00 am