The Bottom Line
- Stars Charlie Sheen, Selma Blair, Shawnee Smith, Daniela Bobadilla, Noureen DeWulf, Michael Arden, Derek Richardson
- Developed by Bruce Helford
- Premiere airs Thursday, June 28, 2012, at 9 p.m. EST on FX; subsequent episodes air Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. EST
Sheen remains charismatic and professional, and he knows how to carry this kind of show. The problem is that this kind of show is one that airs on network TV, or maybe TBS, and is content to pander to inattentive audiences with one-dimensional characters, predictable storylines, stale jokes and mild vulgarity. On the network that airs comedies like Louie, Wilfred and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Anger Management feels completely out of place. The quality and boldness of everything surrounding it highlight its abject lack of creativity.
Even as basic sitcom comfort food, Management is pretty unimpressive. It’s based essentially just on the title of the movie, with Sheen playing a very different kind of therapist than Nicholson did (and with no equivalent of the Sandler character at all). Sheen’s Charlie Goodson is a former professional baseball player whose short career ended thanks to an anger-induced meltdown, and who subsequently studied to become an anger-management therapist. Mostly this Charlie is an immature womanizer along the same lines as Sheen’s Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men (the Management pilot even opens with a toothless meta-joke about Sheen’s Men firing).
Charlie Goodson now runs a therapy group for people with anger issues, and he deals with his own anger issues by talking to his best friend/lover/therapist Kate Wales (Selma Blair). Blair brings a little sass to her performance, but she’s basically an accessory for Charlie to come off as manly and attractive, which is a pretty thankless role. Charlie also has a snarky ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) and a teenage daughter (Daniela Bobadilla), both of whom sort of roll their eyes at his antics in a very familiar sitcom fashion.
Plot-wise, the first two episodes of Management seem designed to portray Charlie as a terrible person, but since Sheen is playing him, he’s also meant to be loveable. He ultimately comes off as neither, instead playing like a bland collection of sitcom tropes, without any real personality, positive or negative, of his own. In addition to Blair, Brett Butler (as Charlie’s favorite bartender) and Barry Corbin (as an irascible member of Charlie’s therapy group) bring a little spark to their supporting roles, but the secondary character are pretty one-dimensional as well (and a few suffer rather unpleasant homophobic jokes).
Management would be forgettable in a network context, but on FX it’s nearly unforgivable. The show is being produced by Debmar-Mercury under the same model as their Tyler Perry sitcoms (House of Payne and Meet the Browns), which means it’s produced cheaply and quickly in order to churn out episodes for eventual syndication, and it comes off as slapdash and rushed. Sheen’s big comeback is as crass and uninspired as the show he left behind.