By Curt Wagner
7:51 PM CDT, June 27, 2012
I've always appreciated the programmers at cable network FX for their desire to bring edgy, brainy and brave series to TV, which is why the Charlie Sheen project "Anger Management" stupefies me.
How does the home of challenging, outside-the-box comedies such as "Louie," "Wilfred," "The League" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" green light a sitcom so conventional I had to search through the press materials to make sure it wasn't subtitled, "The Further Adventures of Charlie Harper—That Guy Charlie Sheen Played on the Equally Bad 'Two and a Half Men?'"
Stunt casting happens when producers shoehorn someone with a loaded past or huge popularity into a role that doesn't fit the actor. With "Anger Management" (8 and 8:30 p.m. June 28, FX; 0 stars out of 4), FX has gone beyond stunt casting to "stunt creating." Sheen might be perfect for "Anger Management," but the series is not right for FX.
Apparently the network bigwigs saw all the media attention Sheen generated last year during his infamous meltdown that resulted in "Two and a Half Men" firing him and they decided, "Hey, we can cash in with this clown!"
Sheen, "Anger" showrunner Bruce Helford and FX have created a show so lazy in its ambitions I want to call Sheen up and remind him that he blasted "Two and a Half Men" for its easy setups and cheap punch lines. "Anger Management" follows the same multicamera format, with an even more overworked laugh track that actually puts an exclamation point on the flatness of generic jokes about boobs, penises, fat people, gay people, dumb people, crazy people and every other easy target one could imagine.
Sheen plays a hotheaded, washed-up baseball player named Charlie Goodson who has become a therapist and now helps people deal with their own rage issues. His group therapy patients include a collection of sitcom types: hot angry chick, wimpy romantic, homophobic curmudgeon and, of course, a queeny gay guy.
Meanwhile, Charlie's still trying to make amends for his own troubled past, which includes cheating on his now ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) and ignoring his now-teen daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) with OCD. He's also getting tons of sex from his former therapist (Selma Blair) with whom he gets along because "we feel nothing for each other."
Thursday's opener begins with a winking reference to Sheen's past troubles.
"You can't fire me. I quit," Charlie says as he throws a punch at something. "Think you can replace me with another guy? Go ahead. It won't be the same. You may think I'm losing but I'm not. I'm ..."
We're all supposed to finish the sentence for him—with his now famous catchword "winning" of course—as the camera pulls back to reveal Charlie showing his clients how to take their frustrations out on an inflatable dummy.
Cue the laugh track, because that's about the most celverest and funniest punch line in the first two episodes.
When Charlie's bald neighbor whines that the hot angry chick drove on his lawn and he'll have to re-seed it, she cracks, "You might want to throw some seeds on that bald head of yours." (Ha! ha! goes the laugh track.)
In the second episode, Charlie goes on a date with an unattractive woman (Kerri Kenney) to prove to his daughter that he isn't as shallow as she thinks. Turns out he bedded the woman during his ball-playing years and she was his "slumpbuster." (Ha! ha! ha! goes the laugh track.)
Stop me before I'm forced to seek therapy myself! Oh wait, one more: Every time the homophobic curmudgeon uses the word "queer" he has to drop a dollar in the "queer jar." These writers are so lazy their stealing from the roomies on Fox's "New Girl," who use the "douchebag jar" to enforce house rules.
"Anger Management" is a colossally wasted opportunity for both Sheen and FX.
Instead of phoning in another stock character, Sheen could have used this venture to create an intensely personal portrayal that helps troubled viewers fight their own demons with laughter. FX could have used Sheen's history to spark another deeply effective series in the vein of its darkly funny drama "Rescue Me."
No matter what Sheen believes, there's nothing winning here.
NOTE FROM CURT: "Louie" and "Wilfred" return with new episodes Thursday after "Anger Management," and both are must-sees.
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