I've never understood the love for "Two and a Half Men." In its heyday, when it was garnering tens of millions of people tuning in, I was baffled. Flabbergasted, even. I hated it when Charlie Sheen was the star, and even though I didn't think it would be possible for it to get worse, Ashton Kutcher made sure that happened.
So I had low expectations going into "Anger Management," which made its CTV debut after the Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday. (Yes, if you have access to FX, then you watched it a couple of months ago and this is old news.) But if you're like me and you get your favourite shows from a satellite feed that doesn't carry the cable channel, then read on.
Despite the dreaded laugh track, I didn't chuckle or snicker once -- but I did smirk whenever Brian Austin Green spoke, because no matter how much he's grown up and how tatted he's become, he'll forever be David Silver. (Sorry, BAG!) But perhaps because I expecting very little, I didn't hate it. I know, not a screaming endorsement.
No lie, I actually wanted to bash it to pieces. Itty-bitty pieces. Unfair, yes, but I have to admit, Sheen's pretty great. In fact, he's easily the best thing about "AM." Though I suppose being the best of 'meh' isn't the greatest of raves. In fact, you'd have to be a seasoned detective to find any evidence of a compliment in that crime scene of backhand.
Sheen makes fun of his former self (who can forget all that tiger blood and Adonis DNA?) and proves he's grown up since his Violent Torpedo of Truth tour. Unlike then, when his biggest mistake was aiming the torpedo at his own face, this time around Charlie's in on the joke.
Sheen portrays anger management therapist Charlie Goodson (heh heh, get it?), an ex-baseball player who has his own anger issues to deal with. It makes him qualified, I suppose, but that all turns to poop when he almost takes a lamp to the noggin of his ex-wife's boyfriend (that would be BAG). But he truly is a good guy, as seen in his relationship with his ex, Jen (Shawnee Smith), and teenage daughter Sam (Daniela Bobadilla, and perhaps named in honour of his eldest child with Denise Richards). The only similarity between Charlie Goodson and Charlie Harper may be his fear of commitment, but on "AM," he actually shows a shred of respect for the opposite sex (or, at the very least, the same respect given). Goodson is sleeping with his best friend, Kate (Selma Blair), and things get sticky between them when Charlie needs to find his own therapist -- and Kate just happens to be it.
"AM" flits between different stories, and hopefully as the season goes on, it finds its focus. There's Charlie's life with his ex and daughter, his sessions -- both personal and professional -- with Kate, his scenes with his friend and neighbour, Michael (Michael Boatman, who is wasted here and has meatier minutes on "The Good Wife"), and his interactions with a bartender (Brett Butler, welcome back). But the key should be (but isn't, yet) the group therapy sessions he conducts with the likes of a old crusty dude (Barry Corbin), a bitchy gay guy (Michael Arden), a pushover (Derek Richardson) and an evil hot chick (Noureen Dewulf). There's also a group of prison inmates he works with, which hopefully gets dropped since the half-hour was already cluttered with people and the men in orange suits were the least funny (and most creepy).
I think the worst thing about "AM" is that it doesn't fit with FX's raunchier programs. At all. Bruce Helford ("The Drew Carey Show") has created a decent-enough show, but I think Charlie and his loyal fans deserve more than decent enough. "Anger Management" has the potential to be pretty good. Great, even. The actors certainly have the chops. The writing, however, is lacklustre at best, and the jokes (for lack of a better word) are predictable and, at times, almost nonsensical.
Hopefully the show's scribes don't piss away Sheen's comeback. They obviously don't, I suppose, and "AM" either gets better or Sheen's fans truly are undying. Its FX premiere garnered the cabler its best ratings ever (5.5 million), was picked up with an initial 10-episode order, and if that run is successful, FX will order an additional 90 episodes -- which is likely.
For a guy who's been given a road map (albeit, one cleverly disguised as a stern warning) for his long journey back to pop culture relevance, he's trying not to waste it. As long as we don't see a resurrection of those musty-looking bowling shirts, or the appearance of half a man, then "AM" -- and Sheen -- has a promising road ahead.
"Anger Management" returns on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.