I have never been quite able to figure out whether the guys at the FX cable channel are brave, stupid, insane or what.
They once made a sitcom about eating disorders that reveled in puke jokes and slapstick enemas. (It was actually very funny, but it turns out Americans have less of a sense of humor about enemas than you might expect.)
They did another comedy whose title was a testicular pun that even a couple of years earlier probably would have kept the show out of most program listings. (Which would have been a big favor to everyone.)
They are the only programming team ever to air a dramatic production about do-it-yourself circumcision, a distinction I suspect will last until sometime after the sun burns out.
And now they are the only people crazy enough to hire Charlie Sheen after his Olympian feats with drugs and hookers got him fired from Two And a Half Men
. Anger Management
, his new sitcom, is kind of a mirror image of Sheen: scabrously, outrageously funny at times and monotonously one-note at others. My suggestion is that you watch it now before Sheen goes back into rehab, burns the network down or returns to his home planet, as he once threatened to do during a Today
show interview. (“I’m tired of pretending like I’m not bitchin’, a total freakin’ rock star from Mars.”)
Even more extravagantly than Two And A Half Men
, Anger Management
plays off Sheen’s public misadventures. His character, Charlie Goodson, has not only an epic womanizer gene (“She seems bangable, in a Megan’s Law
kind of way,” a friendly bartender observes of one of his young dates) but a volcanic temper.
A former major league baseball player whose career ended after he wrecked his leg breaking a bat over it, Charlie became an anger-management therapist after going through counseling himself. He’s got his temper under control, barely, but the rest of his life is still a mess: His teenage daughter (Daniela Bobadilla Awake
) is hopelessly obsessive-compulsive, a condition not helped by the stream of losers his ex-wife (Shawnee Smith, Becker
And all the while, Charlie is sleeping with his own therapist (Selma Blair, the Hellboy
movies) in a relationship that’s even more peculiar in its emotional temperature (“I will never love you forever,” Charlie murmurs after an intimate moment) than its birth control practices, which include Saran Wrap and old Milky Way wrappers.
The show’s best moments inevitably take place during Sheen’s group therapy sessions with his patients. His regular group includes a passive-aggressive gay man, an aggressively aggressive homophobic Vietnam vet, a masochist and a just-plain-psychotic rich girl played by Noureen DeWulf, whose favorite ice-breaker is “My boyfriend cheated on me, so I shot him in the [bleeps].”
They at least believe, more or less, in the concept of therapy. The sessions Charlie does on a volunteer basis at a local prison are another matter. The inmates are either delusional (“I’m in here for attempted murder, but my real crime is that I love too much”) or openly mocking. One inmate solemnly assures Charlie that he eviscerated his victim not out of anger but frustration: “I was very frustrated that he was alive.”
Much of the creative team behind Anger Management,
including two executive producers, is drawn from the writing ranks of The Drew Carey Show
, which in its mid-’90s prime was a leader in television’s sitcom renaissance.
The comedy in that show derived from Carey’s innocent and largely uncomprehending office drone confronting the hostility of his sociopathic friends and co-workers. Sheen’s character is no innocent, but it’s probably no coincidence that Anger Management
is at its funniest when he’s surrounded by his malicious and badly damaged patients.
When Anger Management
wanders off into Charlie’s sexual wonderland, however, it’s often repetitive and only fitfully funny. That’s not unusual for new comedies: Often they get lost in a forest of punch lines in the early going before establishing where their characters are heading to provide a foundation for the jokes.
The problem is that we don’t know how much time Anger Management
has. That tick-tick-ticking you hear in the background isn’t the studio clock, it’s the star.