With only a few slight missteps, Charlie Sheen’s new series Anger Management has, for all intents and purposes, perfectly executed the rarely attempted genre of the adult sitcom. Louis C.K.’s Lucky Louie (2006) previously attempted to do the same, and though that series had a difficult time finding itself, its immense potential was evident from the start.
Playing former baseball player Charlie Goodson, Sheen definitely knows his way around a sitcom. The premiere kicks off with an obvious reference to the public feud between Sheen and Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, though the brief jab certainly doesn’t represent the type of series that Anger Management is, or its quality.
Sheen comfortably nails every set-up and punch line given to him. You can tell that the series was completely written around him, and rightfully so – though it doesn’t always work. Throughout the two-episode premiere, Sheen’s character seamlessly jumps from scene to scene and is always able to drive the dialogue. However, a few of the locations feel less strong than others, so having fewer locations for Goodson to travel to in future episodes will help build up the stronger, more enjoyable scenes, serving to highlight more of the series’ talent.
With an expansive cast, containing many familiar faces (and a few new ones), Anger Management has a high level of talent at its disposal. Unfortunately, that makes the few lines that fall flat from the newer talent all the more apparent – no matter how hard the laugh track is trying to convince us otherwise. Additionally, Sheen brings with him fellow Lorre exile Brett Butler, whom the producer had a feud with in 1998. Having been off the screen for so long, it’s nice to see Butler back in action.
It may take audiences a few episodes to adjust to seeing such a mature sitcom utilize the familiar three-camera setup. Fortunately, Sheen may just be the perfect ambassador for this type of unfamiliar genre.
Still, there are certain aspects of the network sitcom that would be better left on the networks. For example, the often annoying laugh track makes what would typically be a fun joke much less so. It’s an especially unfortunate inclusion considering NBC’s Whitney received complaints about the very same thing. One hopes that a less boisterous, more realistic audience reaction will be included in the future.
Of course, it’s difficult to talk about Anger Management without mentioning the unique situation that it finds itself in. Receiving an initial order of 10 episodes from FX, the series deal dictates that if the first episodes hit a certain ratings number, the network will have to order an additional 90 episodes, essentially making it a syndicated sitcom.
And with lofty goals of producing those episodes over the course of the next few years, FX’s overt financial move certainly shakes up its current line-up. Attempting to rework audience’s expectations for its network, FX’s already late starting 9pm primetime programming now erases that clear divide with evening television.
In a brilliant programming move, FX has created a perfect transition between its marathon of evening Two and a Half Men episodes and Anger Management. However, by providing a buffet of Sheen entertainment, it’ll be interesting to see how its placement will impact the series that follow - Wilfred and Louie - as the transition is noticeable and rough, making a continuous night of viewing potentially challenging.
Though perhaps not falling within everyone’s tastes, there’s little doubt that Sheen’s Anger Management will be a success. Based on curiosity alone, Sheen should have no problem hitting that contractual ratings average. That being said, one hopes that all of this rightly deserved attention that Sheen is bringing to the network will benefit Wilfred and Louie, two shows that certainly deserve it as well.
Anger Management airs Thursdays @9pm on FX
Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio