Charlie Sheen falls into old habits with new sitcom
Charlie Sheen in the new sitcom, "Anger Management," premiering Thursday is sure to get some notice, at least for the first few episodes.
San Francisco Chronicle
Tonight in Prime Time
Two things are relatively safe bets about the new sitcom "Anger Management" (9 p.m. Thursdays, FX) which debuted last week: The ratings are likely to be strong, especially for the first few episodes, and Charlie Sheen probably won't make the American Psychological Association's shortlist to keynote its next convention.
Even if Sheen had not gone rogue and exited his very lucrative role as Charlie Harper in "Two and a Half Men," viewer interest would be high for his new show, simply because, no matter what else he is or has done, Sheen is an almost perfect sitcom star.
He's never demonstrated much acting range, but his personality is, you should pardon the expression, "winning," particularly on the small screen.
Developed by Bruce Helford ("The Drew Carey Show"), "Anger" isn't shy about mining Sheen's personal and professional past in creating the character of Charlie Goodson, a former ballplayer (shades of "Major League") whose career was shortstopped when he tried to break a baseball bat over his leg in anger and blew his knee out.
Naturally, after working out his issues, he became a psychologist, counseling others on how to control their tempers.
You may know that Sheen had a few public anger issues of his own, but that was then and this is well, the jury's still out on that one.
There may even be a bit of irony in Charlie's last name, since, compared with Emilio Estevez, you probably wouldn't think of Charlie as Martin Sheen's "good son."
Charlie's group session includes a crusty old geezer named Ed (Barry Corbin), requisite gay guy Patrick (Michael Arden), slacker Nolan (Derek Richardson), who doesn't have anger issues but is attracted to angry women, and Lacey (Noureen Dewulf), ordered to therapy after shooting her boyfriend for cheating on her, which, of course, makes her Nolan's dream girl.
Charlie is also trying to be a single dad to his daughter, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla), who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. The cast also includes Charlie's neighbor, Michael (Michael Boatman), his favorite bartender with the ever-sympathetic ear, Brett (Brett Butler), and his ex-wife, Jennifer (Shawnee Smith), who understands Charlie well enough to know all his weaknesses and not to indulge them.
Things are fine with Charlie on the surface. He's not in a romantic relationship, but hooking up regularly with fellow psychologist Kate Wales (Selma Blair).
When Sam announces she's not going to go to college because Jennifer's current boyfriend says it's a waste of time, Charlie blows his stack and realizes he needs help to regain control of his anger issues. The trouble is, the best psychologist he knows is the one with whom he's having frequent no-strings-attached hookups.
This is all fairly predictable stuff and makes for a show that you'd watch because of the cast, but would never put in the top tier of TV shows or talk about the next day.
A show something like "Two and a Half Men," as a matter of fact.
Until the arrival of Ashton Kutcher, "Men" earned good ratings season after season without ever having to reinvent itself. The kid got older, but that just meant he could participate more in the off-color sex and fart jokes.
Charlie Harper remained a womanizer, getting close to marriage at one point, but inevitably screwing that up. When Sheen left the show, Charlie's character died and Kutcher came in. The chemistry with the rest of the cast isn't the same, of course, but there is still no impetus on the part of Chuck Lorre to make any big changes in the basic nature of the show.
Like "Men," "Anger" not only plays it safe, but plays wisely, making the most of Sheen's bad-boy appeal and, shamelessly, of his notoriety as well. Regardless of — or perhaps because of — his womanizing, drug issues and public tantrums, he's become even more of a valuable TV commodity after "Men," proving yet again that nothing succeeds in TV like excess.