Channel Guide - Large

I doubt many people tuned into the premiere of Charlie Sheen’s FX show Anger Management thinking that it was going to be their new Thursday night fave. If you’re anything like me, then sheer curiosity is what brought you to Sheen’s latest, in which he plays, of all things, a therapist (get it? ‘cause he’s Charlie Sheen and he’s helping people with their problems! Oh brother! Cue laugh track). The vague, non-plot of the series opener finds Sheen counseling a group of sitcom archetypes (the senior citizen whose dialogue is filled with folksy bigotry, the young gay man who sits beside the folksy bigot on a couch, the socially inept guy who makes women uncomfortable, the superficial chick who’s made uncomfortable by the creepy, socially inept guy) and fuming over the values his ex-wife’s new boyfriend is passing down to his daughter.

You see, he helps people with their anger management issues but he also has anger management issues, hence the title and hence the reason why you don’t really need to watch more than one episode. Honestly, the show wasn’t the wholly objectionable thing that I’d thought it would be. I did, however, find almost every aspect of it mystifying.  “How is it that this exists?” I thought to myself as I watched the premiere.

Two and a Half Men! Part Deux

Before Sheen left Two and a Half Men, or rather, was fired from the CBS sitcom, he made several quotable comments disparaging his former boss, Chuck Lorre. So it seems really odd that he would then go on to star in a show that replicated the formula created by this so-called “stupid little man” once he broke free. Anger Management is, like Men, a multi-camera sitcom, but the most glaring similarity between the two shows is that they both have laugh tracks, something that I think may actually be unprecedented for an FX original – the network boasts a lineup of comedies that are, for the most part, very smart and unconventional, and whose writers seem to trust that viewers can tell when something is funny or not. Sheen’s character, Charlie Goodson (I’m sure Martin Sheen would have a thing or two to say about that last name), is also a bit of a lothario cut from the same cloth as Men’s Charlie Harper. In fact, the characters are similar enough (and their house’s actually look similar enough) that you could have told me that this was a Men spinoff and I wouldn’t have questioned it.

Jokes?

The other major similarity between Men and Anger Management is that there aren’t any jokes. Or more fairly, the humor is broad (with the occasional tinge of PG raunch), which means in the second episode of Thursday’s two-part premiere, we get to hear Sheen drop gems like “you all witnessed what we in therapy call a train wreck.” There’s a time and a place for this kind of writing and that time isn’t now and that place isn’t FX.

Louie and Wilfred, which air post Sheen, are darkly witty and so different from everything else on basic cable. To have this new show included in the same programming block doesn’t make much sense, if only because it underscores Anger Management’s mediocrity. On the premiere of Wilfred, the titular man-dog’s rival, another dog named Jelly Beans, is observed licking himself and we get the brilliant line “we all know you got tasty balls. No need to flaunt it.” On Anger Management we’re offered hacky lines like, “there are no instructions on spaghetti. It’s like doorknobs – you’re just supposed to know what to do.”

Charlie as Charlie

In Spin City, Sheen played Charlie Crawford, with Men he was Charlie Harper, and now he’s Charlie Goodson. So my question is, are we all supposed to be so enamored with this man that we only want him to portray slight variations of himself? Seriously, are we all that intrigued by him that its okay that he continues this way? Well, I watched this show, so maybe that answers the question.

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