As easy of a joke as it is, there is something refreshingly honest about the opening scene of the premire of Charlie Sheen’s new FX sitcom Anger Management, during which Sheen’s character — an anger management group therapist — takes out his frustration on a rubber doll, shouting phrases along the lines of, “You think you can replace me?” and “It won’t be as good without me!” Exquisitely unsubtle meta-references to Sheen’s boot from Two and Half Men back in 2011. Any daringness existent in the scene doesn’t come attached to the writers’ willingness to pay credit to Sheen’s professional past. In fact, a star whose off-camera life can be successfully farmed for jokes is found money. What is commendable about the material is that it acknowledges why people are watching Anger Management. Straight out the gate, the show is making Two and a Half Men jokes. It doesn’t wait until a few episodes in, nor the end of the pilot, nor the end of the first scene, nor the end of the first sentence. The very first thing viewers are given when they tune in is Sheen, faced directly at the camera, spouting a gag about his dispute with Men creator Chuck Lorre and his resultant replacement by Ashton Kutcher. It’s an admission from the show itself that the reason people are tuning into Anger Management is to see the other side of the Sheen tunnel.
So how does it hold up? Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly on board the Sheen bandwagon back in his glory days of Two and a Half Men. For those in the same company — those not looking to fill the void of the CBS sitcom’s pre-Walden Schmidt era — Anger Management isn’t going to do you any favors. The sitcom presents itself with many of the same ideals as its predecessor. Some of the larger themes involve sex, divorce, sexuality, and contentious social relationships with a comedic spin. But to those seeking a complete rehashing of the adventures of Charlie Harper, Anger Management only meets you half way.
Perhaps in light of Sheen’s public “rehabilitation,” his Anger Management character (also named Charlie) is a tad more “together” than those of past. Another homage to Sheen’s life, the character is a former baseball player (an obvious nod to the actor’s Major League days) whose athletic days were also his days of “rage”… and of alcoholism and infidelity. But now, Charlie — surnamed Goodson this time around — is better. He’s learned how to live happily. He is an anger management therapist with his own group of one-note patients — the token gay guy, the token bigot, the token pervert, and the token girl — to cure. He’s also the attentive father of a teenaged girl struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The show actually does deserve props for not grabbing at a more stereotypical portrayal of OCD: Charlie’s daughter Emma (Daniela Bobadilla) is not shown to be particularly neat or clean, but struggles with anxiety that manifests in repetitive habits. Her scene of locking/unlocking the door over and over is meant to be played for laughs, but at least it’s not hand-washing. Charlie Goodson stands up for tolerance, nonviolence, and healthy human behavior.
But of course, he’s still Charlie. He’s still a womanizer — driven by the casual sex he is having with friend and fellow psychologist Kate (Selma Blair), obsessed with fancy cars, and not above childish pride. Not to mention his character history: The man fought, drank, cheated on his wife, and used people to benefit him. He’s got Charlie in him… but will it be enough for Two and a Half Men fans?
Here, Sheen is playing his own straight man. He’s got the wild side of Charlie Harper in his character, but he’s also meant to be a believably good father and skilled medical professional. As such, he’s going to be a slightly less “colorful” character. While those averse to the ways of the Sheen will be put off by Goodson’s cons, those looking for the same old, hedonistic, free-wheelin’ Charlie Harper might actually be put off by his pros.
It might not seem fair to keep comparing Anger Management to Two and a Half Men, but it’s the show’s doing. If it didn’t want comparison, it wouldn’t open its very first scene with jokes about Sheen’s ousting from the series. Anger Management begs us to draw parallels with Sheen’s life. The only problem is that this isn’t the venue for it. A comedy rooted in the appeal of sex jokes doesn’t work when its character is meant to be past the stages of suspended adolescence. Granted, the pilot does attend to the idea that Goodson still has some work to do on achieving self-betterment. But unfortunately, the show’s humor doesn’t look like it has any intention of maturing along with its character, or with its star.
So can Anger Management work for anyone? People looking for crazy Sheen might be disappointed. People uninterested in Sheen altogether will be put off. People who actually hoped for a spinoff of the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson movie will have no idea what is going on. Anger Management doesn’t really know who it’s trying to make laugh, and as such, there’s doesn’t look to be a whole lot of laughter.
[Image Credit: FX]
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Charlie Sheen is quite happy with his decision to join the FX family for his new series Anger Management. But, it sounds like he's still harboring a little resentment for the fact that he was let go from Two and a Half Men after his wild stunts in 2011.
"It's smarter," Sheen described his new show to Hollywood.com at the FX Upfronts at Lucky Strike Lanes in NYC on March 29.
While Sheen has spent the past few days again apologizing for last year's madness, it truly does seem like he's a changed man based on the way he behaved at the FX event. "Charlie spent about two hours chatting with fans and signing autographs," a witness describes. "He looked good and was super friendly."
According to the witness, Sheen wasn't Sheening it this time. "He didn't touch a drink all night," the witness says. "He seemed happy to be focusing on promoting his new show."
"He appears to have calmed down a lot," adds the witness. "He wasn't even concerned about flirting with any of the young, attractive women around him."
And his new co-stars are thrilled to be working with him. "Charlie's like Michael Jordan in television," Shawnee Smith said to us. "Working with him has not [been] disappointing. We have a ball. He's great. He's warm and funny as hell, a real team player. It's great."
Daniela Bobadilla wasn't nervous to sign on with Charlie. "I actually got to meet him in my audition and he was the nicest, most giving actor," she shares.
"He's a legend," adds Noureen DeWulf. "He's great. His personality is so big. I like his work. I was excited."
Maybe Sheen just needed a dose of his supportive Anger Management team to help him get back on track. Anger Management premieres on FX June 28. Are you excited?
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NBC's newest "The More You Know" Public Service Announcement might as well be, "Good things are worth waiting for." At least, it is employing this maxim when it comes to Awake, the intriguing drama that was supposed to air on the network as a mid-season replacement. In order to further develop its high-concept plot, the series is being put on a temporary prenatal hiatus, and will air sometime later than previously expected—although, it is still aiming for the early side of 2012.
Showrunner Howard Gordon actually asked for this delay in scheduling so that he and the crew could plan more episodes (six have been shot so far) and to ensure that the series will maintain its level of fascination on a longterm basis.
The series revolves around Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), a married father who gets into a car accident with his wife (Daniela Bobadilla) and son (Jay Seals). Afterwards, Britten is launched into two parallel realities: in one, his wife has died from the crash, but his son is still alive. In the other, his son has died and his wife is alive. Britten struggles with the conflicting realities (which also involve different jobs, friends and grief counselors), wanting to hold onto both as not to lose either his wife or son, but also constantly at odds with not knowing if he is awake or dreaming.
The preview below exemplifies the plot in a very interesting way. Although we'll have to wait a bit longer for this great concept to materialize, it'll be worth it if the crew and network can figure out a way to keep it fresh and captivating as long as possible.