With the debut of his new FX sitcom, Charlie Sheen's wild ride has turned depressingly tame. Anger Management, his first TV gig since leaving Two and a Half Men in 2011 in a tiger-blood-fueled frenzy, is loosely based on the 2003 Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy of the same name. Sheen plays a former baseball player whose tendency to lose it curtailed his career and sent him back to college to become an anger management specialist. His new commitment to self-control, however, is consistently tested by his ex-wife, his teenage daughter, and his no-strings-attached lover/best friend. Critics are pouncing on the sitcom's stale jokes and formulaic plots, calling it a disappointingly trite effort from a network known for original, boundary-pushing comedies like Louie, Wilfred, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Does Anger Management fall short?
It's good, but safe: This awfully familiar sitcom is not "the out-of-control, outrageously naughty series" you were expecting, says Linda Stasi at The New York Post. This was supposed to be "drug-crazy harem-master Charlie Sheen on FX," the network behind crazy, ballsy series like Nip/Tuck and Sons of Anarchy. It was supposed to make our jaws drop. Though Anger Management is legitimately funny at times, its old school vibe is "all too safe." It might as well be called "Three and a Half Men."
It's deplorable and expedient: This sexist mess is a "lazy, stiff, laugh-track sitcom," says Maureen Ryan at The Huffington Post. It's nothing but pure PR spin for Sheen, who is "being paid to appear in a program about a character who achieves some kind of personal growth" by a network that assumes we're stupid enough to buy his "facsimile" of redemption as the real thing. In the end, Anger Management amounts to nothing more than "image management."
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What is FX thinking? That Anger Management airs on FX alongside Louie, the most original show on TV, "only highlights the dramatic difference in quality between the two shows," says Alyssa Rosenberg at The Atlantic. The "chasm in quality" between Sheen's sadly derivative new show and the rest of the network's original programming is an embarrassment. "There's something particularly sad about seeing FX" funnel so much energy into selling Anger Management while "Louis C.K. is making personally and artistically transformative television" just one time slot over.
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Consensus: FX is slumming it by airing a new sitcom that's wholly unoriginal and that falls short of its standards — even if sitcom vet Sheen manages to land a laugh now and then.