Charlie Sheen manages a few laughs on ‘Anger Management’
In case there was any doubt that Charlie Sheen plays a version of himself in his new sitcom, “Anger Management,” behold his opening lines:
“You can’t fire me. I quit!”
“You think you can replace me with some other guy? Go ahead. It won’t be the same.”
“You may think I’m losing, but I’m not. I’m…”
Sheen, who does a turn as an anger management therapist suffering from his own short fuse, is barking these taunts while throwing punches at an inflatable doll named Bobo. (Sheen-speak for Chuck Lorre?) Bobo serves as a tool for his group therapy clients to take out their frustrations.
“Anger took away something that I really loved, and I’m here to try to keep that from happening to you,” Sheen tells his patients.
Sheen’s new character, Charlie Goodson, is a kinder, gentler version of Charlie Harper. “Two and a Half Men’s” womanizing party boy made Sheen the highest-paid actor on TV — and got the ax by Lorre last year after Sheen’s well-documented downward spiral.
Swap Charlie Harper’s ubiquitous bowling shirt for a suit and you have Charlie Crawford, the politicking playboy Sheen portrayed on “Spin City” before segueing into “Two and a Half Men.”
The pattern of Sheen playing permutations of himself — all named Charlie, no less — continues in the FX comedy, which seems tailor-made to give the trouble-prone actor a reason to return to the small screen.
Loosely based on the 2003 Adam Sandler film by the same name, “Anger Management” is a so-so sitcom peppered with equal parts funny lines and groaners. The show’s biggest selling point is clearly its tiger-blooded star. Fans of Sheen, and there are plenty of them, easily will recognize their good ol’ Chuck in his new role, even if he’s a little more compassionate than his previous incarnation.
Charlie Goodson is a former baseball player who let anger derail his sports career when he smashed a bat over his knee during a tantrum. Now he’s a divorced dad with an obsessive-compulsive teenage daughter and a misguided ex-wife, played a bit woodenly by Shawnee Smith (“Becker”).
This Charlie, like the others who came before him, has a zipper problem. His best friend with benefits is fellow therapist Kate Wales (Selma Blair; “Web Therapy,” “Kath & Kim”), who gets turned on when Charlie whispers things like “I promise I will never love you” during post-coital cuddling.
Sheen reunites with his former “Spin City” pal and Chicago native Michael Boatman as Goodson’s skirt-chasing neighbor, and comedian Brett Butler doles out drinks at Goodson’s favorite watering hole. From a humor standpoint, Goodson’s therapy clients are a mixed bag, with most of the duds populating a group of prisoners he helps on a pro bono basis.
The cable network has ordered 10 episodes of the show, but another 90 could be on the way if it’s a hit. Either way, Sheen insists this is his swan song. After “Anger Management,” he says he’s getting out of the acting business.
But if there’s a lesson to be learned from his recent train wreck of a comedy tour, “Torpedo of Truth,” it’s that Sheen has no willpower when it comes to resisting the spotlight. No matter how “Anger Management” fares, you can bet he’ll end up back on TV, playing someone called Charlie.