As CBS frets over the flat-lining ratings of the Charlie Sheen-less Two and a Half Men, another network is getting into bed with the troubled sitcom star. Sheen's new comedy series, Anger Management, has been picked up by FX for a potential 100 episodes. According to the deal, FX is committed to airing the first 10 episodes as soon as next summer; if they achieve a certain ratings benchmark, the network is obligated to pick up 90 more. Anger Management will be based on the 2003 Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson movie, and Sheen will play a therapist who may require more help than his patients. It will be his first regular TV role since being dismissed from Two and a Half Men last winter. Is FX taking a huge gamble by agreeing to this seemingly Sheen-friendly deal?
This is a smart move: "The potential upside is huge," says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly. If Sheen's new show gives FX just a slice of Two and a Half Men's ratings, "the show would be a game changer" for the network. Remember, FX already airs repeats of Men, which have proven to be "a very solid draw." The huge ratings of the CBS show's fall premiere (which now stars Ashton Kutcher) was also credited to America's curiosity about all things Sheen-related. Both factors bode well for Anger Management.
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The terms of the deal are good for FX, too: This arrangement mimics what TBS used for the Tyler Perry sitcoms Meet the Browns and House of Payne, says Lisa de Moraes at The Washington Post. The advantage of greenlighting 90 additional episodes at once is that the studio "piles up 100 episodes a whole lot faster than if the show were sold" and filmed in season-long fragments. This upfront commitment could accelerate production and shorten — perhaps by years — how long the network has to deal with Sheen. That means FX "has to make sure that Sheen stays at Sober Valley Lodge for a whole lot less time" than CBS did.
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Are you kidding? Sheen will probably blow up in FX's face: Yes, there's a chance that both sides could end up winning, says Kevin Yeoman at Screen Rant, but there is a greater "potential for catastrophe." FX seems to have "found the promise of dollar signs" worth the risk of working with Sheen. Sure, the erratic actor has been on his best behavior lately. But "the star has had periods like this before," and they have reliably been "undone by a maelstrom of headline-grabbing antics."
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It also sends the wrong message to Sheen: The actor should still be suffering the repercussions for his terrible behavior, not landing sitcom deals, says James Poniewozik at TIME. This is a man, after all, who didn't just feud with Men producer Chuck Lorre, but also exhibited a pattern of alleged domestic violence. It may not be a TV's network responsibility to dole out justice for that, but it's still depressing that by picking up his sitcom, FX allows Sheen to feel that he is "redeemed, that he is bulletproof, that he is indeed [catchphrasing] in the end."
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