How was 'Anger Management' for you? Is Charlie Sheen’s new comedy a bold new venture, or a rehash of his former glories?
Whether it’s because we want him to beat the odds of becoming another statistic of celebrity life flushed down the drughole, or just because he’s a living postcard from the 80’s, we have a collective desire for Charlie Sheen to do well.
We want him to succeed.
Charlie’s previous sitcom, 'Two And A Half Men', the anthropological study of the evolutionary stages of Neanderthal men and the women who (scrub the skidmarks from their loincloths) love them, was, and still is, a huge success. As well as being the star of that show, Charlie Sheen was also unwittingly responsible for the revitalisation of the deplorable Ashton Kutcher’s career after Sheen’s colourful departure.
For that he must pay.
Sheen is Charlie again in his new series, Charlie Goodson, a former baseball player whose career ended over an injury, self-inflicted in a fit of pique. Charlie’s now an anger management therapist, helping others to deal with their rage issues while still dealing with his own.
"You can’t get rid of me, I quit. You think you can replace me with some other guy? Go ahead, it won’t be the same. You may think I’m losing, but I’m not, I’m…..anyway you get the idea."
While it might sound like a speech he’d dole out to Chuck Lorre, showrunner of his former sitcom, this is the opening scene of 'Anger Management', and it’s a taste of what the show does best; gently mocks Sheen’s own anger issues and cleverly interweaves real life Charlie with TV Charlie (real life ex-wife Denise Richards is also set to appear). Here’s a guy who knows the world has made him a punchline, and isn’t afraid to join in with the pointing and laughing.
As an anger management therapist, Charlie conducts group therapy sessions with a recurring group of patients all with their own, unique rage issues. There’s Nolan (Derek Richardson, 'Hostel') who is attracted to anger, Lacey (Noureen DeWoulf, 'The Back-Up Plan'), a woman court ordered to attend therapy, and Patrick (Michael Arden, 'Source Code'), whose anger stems from his family’s failure to accept his sexuality.
Rounding out the group is Ed (Barry Corbin, 'Northern Exposure'), a curmudgeonly war veteran who’s overly fond of using the word 'queer'. We’re supposed to excuse the usage of this offensive slur through means of a 'queer jar' (reminiscent of the douchebag jar from 'New Girl'), whereby Ed must donate a $1 to the gay men’s choir for each infraction.
Sure, the joke is meant to be on old dinosaur Ed for using socially unacceptable language in the year 2012, but it still feels like the diversification of TV hasn’t moved beyond making the gay character the subject of ridicule.
It’s in these exchanges where we see what 'Anger Management' doesn’t do so well; not just because it might be perceived as "political incorrectness" to bandy about insults on TV, but because name calling in comedy is just a lazy way to stretch out a couple of minutes of screen time. The writers of Sheen’s new show seem keen to capitalise on the popularity of his old series, which also means recycling some tired gags.
Sheen has always displayed a flair for comedy, with roles in TV comedies 'Spin City' and 'Two And A Half Men' and spoof movies 'Hot Shots' and the 'Scary Movie' franchise (and let’s not forget perfect cameo in 'Ferris Buellers Day Off').
He even managed to shine in 'Two And A Half Men' with just a painstakingly compiled compendium of the worlds best-loved tiny penis jokes for his script. 'Anger Management' is a little more grown up than that show, and there is a warmth and ease in Sheen’s performance that reminds us of why we found him so appealing to begin with.
'Anger Management' has huge potential; the concept is good and the cast is great; the writing just needs to rise to the same level. So long as they don’t let it become 'Two And A Half Men: The Twilight Years' and they keep the genital mockery to a minimum, Sheen could be on to a good thing.
Our fingers are crossed.'Anger Management' airs Wednesdays at 8.30pm on TV2