Was it just me, or wasn’t Charlie Sheen sacked from Two And A Half Men? I only ask because while it said Anger Management on the disc I reviewed from, Sheen essentially seems to be playing the same character in this show – with just a couple of tweaks. Anger Management has the same tone and most of the jokes could have gone into either series and nobody would have noticed. Although you could say that’s natural as it’s a sitcom, there seems a concerted effort here to make something that feels like Two And A Half Men’s first cousin.
Inevitably that means that if you liked Sheen’s old show, you’ll probably have a blast with this, but if you didn’t, you won’t like this either. That said, Anger Management’s humour isn’t always the blunt tool it is on Two And Half Men, but it’s not smart enough to pull in too many people who didn’t like Charlie’s earlier series.
The setup for this one (which is incredibly loosely based on the film Anger Management, but not really) sees Sheen as a character conveniently called Charlie who’s a psychologist who specialises in anger management, running group therapy sessions from his house. He’s also got a daughter with OCD (although this seems to come and go as the scripts need) and an ex-wife he remains friends with.
There’s also fellow therapist Kate (Selma Blair) who he maintains a friends-with-benefits relationship with, where they have lots of sex but have no feelings for one another. This gets slightly complicated when Charlie decides he needs therapy himself and wants to see Kate.
It a pretty simple set-up, with plenty of opportunities to try and find humour, from the group of neurotics with temper troubles that Charlie counsels, to his relationship with his ex-wife. It’s not going to win any awards for originality and like Sheen’s earlier show, it tries to please its audience with familiarity. You half know what the jokes will be, it’s an easy watch, and you always know where you stand.
As a result, it can sometime be pretty tedious – even Sheen himself must be bored of making jokes about being a sex hound by now – but it’s relatively comfortable. The supporting characters are also pretty good, with most of the funniest moments coming from Charlie’s support group.
That group does include a gay character, Patrick, who’s one of those people that seem to be getting more popular on US TV, where the show is generally positive about gay people, but the humour surrounding the LGBT characters does rather rely on stereotypes. Actor Michael Arden manages to bring a fair amount of dignity to the character, despite his stereotypical neuroses, uptight attitude, slight campness and job as a dresser in a clothing store. It could be a lot worse, but there’s still that uneasy sense of whether we’re laughing with him or laughing at him and his sexuality.
We can expect plenty more of the show in the coming years as it was made under a slightly unusual arrangement. These 10 episodes were made for FX in the US as a kind of tester, with the deals involved meaning that rather than the network renewing it season by season, if they wanted more they had to agree to make another 90 episodes. That’s what’s happened, with the plan being to make 45 shows a year for the next two years. It’s a model that ensures Sheen will be even more exorbitantly rich than he already is.
It’s good news for Two And A Half Men fans, especially if you don’t like Ashton Kutcher in the show, as Anger Management should feeling safe and familiar, with Charlie Sheen doing exactly the same shtick that made him the best paid person on TV with his earlier series. It’s the kind of show that’s okay and undoubtedly some will find it very funny, but many more will just see it as the sort of programme that’s okay to watch when you want to disengage your brain, but not one you’ll genuinely love.
Overall Verdict: It’s Two And A Half Men in therapist’s clothing, so if you liked Charlie Sheen as a sex mad jingle writer, you’ll like him as a sex mad psychotherapist. But if you didn’t like his earlier show, this won’t convert you.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac