You'll be hearing a lot about Charlie Sheen's new sitcom for FX, “Anger Management,” in the coming days, and you may as well get one of the first warnings right here: It's not particularly good. It's not particularly terrible either, which is just another way of saying FX got exactly what it had hoped for.
There's a slick, oleaginous professionalism to “Anger Management:” A by-the-numbers sitcom with a beat and rhythm that demonstrates a profound and intimate knowledge of the form. Everyone and everything is familiar, right down to the couch. You dive in and feel yourself floating in a vat of sitcom-y goo -- a not particularly uncomfortable feeling if only for the reason that the goo is so conventional.
Sure, there are a few funny lines here (far too few) and good actors too -- Selma Blair, Barry Corbin, even “Becker's” Shawnee Smith -- who all know exactly how to hit their mark. Sheen, above all, is playing perfectly to archetype -- the horny late middle-ager with a taste for the nubile that is constantly getting him in trouble with his ex and young daughter.
Jokes proliferate about various male and female sexual functions and body parts -- and what you can do with those body parts if you are sufficiently limber. That said, there's nothing particularly raunchy or scandalous about “Anger Management" -- especially by FX terms.
In fact, by said FX terms, this is positively chaste. Ex-ballplayer with anger issues who now runs an anger-management counseling session. Attendees comprised of gay man, elderly redneck, dimwitted slacker, man-hating hottie...
Go ahead, you can supply the dialogue. You've heard it all before. You saw it all before on “Two and a Half Men.” This is, in fact, “Two and a Half Men,” though I doubt CBS is of a mind to sue after (well) everything. Charlie Harper is back! Only he doesn’t wear stupid bowling shirts this time! And he’s nicer! But still bawdy, carnal, crude, desirous, erotic and flesh loving. Female-flesh-loving. Females-under-25-flesh-loving. Ba dum ba dum ba dum baaaaa duummmmmmm.
Well, whatever. I actually predict “Anger Management” will do brilliantly well for FX and therein lies the danger. It doesn't have a fraction the wit of, say, “Archer” or even “Wilfred,“ and being that it's surprisingly chaste, won't likely appeal to the 23-year-olds who have memorized Sterling Archer's sickest lines. This will draw new fans -- many thoroughly tired of what "2.5 Men” has become and who pine for the days of Charlie. They won't be disappointed.
My prediction: This will get the largest launch of any newcomer in FX history. (An easy prediction to make, by the way.)
The danger is simply this -- "Anger Management” is a CBS or Fox show, airing on FX, which will look at the monstrous numbers “AM” gets and wonder why, say, the second season premiere of “Louie” got only 1.6 million viewers? FX may end up saying: Let's do more “Anger Management’s,” fewer “Louies.”
But I'm jumping ahead of myself. “Anger Management” bows June 28 at 9. My paper review next week and -- who knows! -- I may change my mind by then. Highly unlikely, however.