First things first, you’ll need a magnifying glass to spot the similarities between Chuck Sheen’s new sitcom and the Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler feature of the same name. Sure, Sheen and Nicholson’s characters have the same job, but the motivation, tone and character traits of the two and their respective lead characters couldn’t be any more different. And yes, that’s a good thing. Heck, anything showrunner Bruce Helford (“The Drew Carey Show”, “Family Ties”) does usually is.
Funny, sexy (not surprisingly, there’s quite a few sex jokes), witty and genuinely interesting, “Anger Management” has the makings of a hit – which, of course, is just as well considering the risks everyone, including Sheen, are taking here.
The first couple of scripts remind me of some of the craftier ’90s sitcoms – doused in; be it “Cybill” or “Drew Carey” or (and Charlie Sheen was a cast-member, so it’s even more evident) or the funniest half-hour of that era, “Spin City”, “Anger Management” is definitely the output of a seasoned, old school TV boss. In fact, there’s even something “Three’s Company” about it. And though elements of the series – namely the fact that those shoveling out advice to their clients on their daily basis struggle to put the same advice into practice on home turf – evoke fading memories of a Shelley Long/Treat Williams sitcom about shrinks from the Clinton-era called “Good Advice” (1993-1994), there’s a big difference : “Anger Management” is funny.
Now and then the local network here airs an episode of “Two and-a-Half Men” later at night – under the advertised title ‘A special Adults Only episode’. Someone at the network ostensibly notices one of the eps of Sheen’s previous sitcom features cruder, racier and more adult jokes than most of episodes and so removes it from prime time. “Anger Management” is adult humour every episode – in the first episode alone, everything from intercourse to masturbation and virginity is touched upon; sure, there’s still a certain restraint here, being television and all, but by-and-large, the show feels like it’s one that’s been let off-the-leash for a run (As opposed to “Men” which is, for the most part, tied to the pole outside Lorre’s office).
But to the story…
So, as you’ve likely read, Sheen is supposedly playing a version of Jack Nicholson’s character from “Anger Management” (1993) – only he isn’t really, this guy is more John Ritter from “8 Simple Rules” or John Goodman’s from “Roseanne” (I think if they’d have had Sheen play Nicholson’s character from the show it’d have resulted in a character more akin to Al Bundy) – though I guess those two always kept their pants on, can’t say the same for ‘Charlie’ (and yes, the character’s name is Charlie. Again). I guess what I’m trying to say is that this guy isn’t the screwloose asshole that Nicholson’s character was in the movie, Charlie’s a bit of a scoundrel, gets a little wound up, and he talks the talk, but he’s not a scary son-of-a-gun… he’s likeable.
Charlie, much more responsible than his namesake over on that other show, is merely attempting to keep his household together – not easy when he’s surrounded by strong-minded, independent women who either ignore him or laugh at him (obviously this is where some of that ‘anger’ may arise). He was married, but he’s now somewhat enjoying the single life (embroiled in a sexual relationship with his therapist, Kate. She’s trying to separate her home life from her office life, easier said than done when Charlie turns up to his sessions and drops his trousers. The relationship takes an interesting turn when Charlie loses one of his clients, Patrick, to Kate)- though he discovers even singledom can be infuriating.
The ex-wife, Jen, is still hanging around. They get along Okay, but she’s still understandably pissed at her former husband for screwing around on her (and she feels somewhat guilty for not being able to satisfy him). Charlie, ever the scholar, still feels its his place to question what Jen watches or reads – for instance, he ruined “Sex and the City” for her by referring to
Carrie Bradshaw as “a co-dependent horse face”, and is now at the woman for her obsession with romance novels (which she admits to reading merely for the sex; he refers to them as ‘spank’ books). I can relate to that last one.
Charlie and Jen have a teenage daughter, Emma (13). Bit of a brain. Suffers from OCD. She keeps Charlie on his toes. She’s antsy but smart. When we first meet her, Emma is anxious about which college she’s going to get into – despite only being in the eighth grade. There’s some fun, slightly risque dialogue between Emma and some of her peers about having ‘intercourse’ in the pilot.
The key locations are the house, the office (of course), and like Helford’s other series, there’s another prominent set, the Local Bar – which in this case, is The Merry Peasant. All good shows have a watering hole. No exception here.
Obviously it’s early days, and the casting may make or break the series (wouldn’t be surprised if Sheen was after “Spin City” comrade Heather Locklear to play Kate; she would fit nicely), but going on what I have at the moment I think the Warlock’s going to have the last laugh – “Anger Management” is dripping in Tiger Blood.
NB : Before you go flaming the comments section with unsavory comments about Sheen’s behavior of late, remember this – we’re judging the actor,not the man; I don’t give a shit what he’s tweeted or whose twat he’s twanked, and neither should you – a fine actor is a fine actor. Don’t deny yourself another fun Sheen performance because you’ve got yourself an incurable case of the Mel Gibson’s. Okay, so I wasn’t much a fan of “Two and a Half Men” – it seemed underwritten and too button-pushy for my liking but gang by-and-large, Sheen has knocked it out of the park like a Cleveland Indian on most occasions. I’m glad I don’t live in a world where “Platoon” or “Wall Street” or “Young Guns” or “Major League” or even “Lucas” (sue me!) were Tom Cruise vehicles; they will and always should’ve belonged to CS.
“Anger Management” premieres this Summer on FX