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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Sheen's 'Anger Management' is abominably bad

It's hard to watch Charlie Sheen's sitcom comeback "Anger Management" without asking one question.

What was FX thinking?

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Not just because the show is bad - it's terrible.

But FX has built a reputation on out-of-the-box thinking. You wouldn't see "Louie," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" or "Wilfred" on ABC, CBS, NBC or even Fox.

"Anger Management," on the other hand, is a typical broadcast network sitcom. A stereotypically bad broadcast network sitcom.

It comes across as an obvious attempt to mimic "Two and a Half Men." Maybe a little more vulgar, but not much. And it's far less funny.

The opening is an unfunny, unimaginative reference to Sheen's oh-so-public mental breakdown and firing from his previous sitcom. We get a close-up of Charlie saying, "You can't fire me, I quit! 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 ..."

And then we get the set-up for the show.

In "Anger Management," he plays a therapist who specializes in anger-management issues. He's got a teenage daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) with OCD; a sardonic ex-wife (Selma Blair); and a fellow therapist (Shawnee Smith) with whom he has sex but no emotional attachment.

He has a bunch of patients - both in and out of prison - who revel in murder and toss off racial, ethnic and homophobic slurs while the laugh track hoots and hollers.

Like when one patient says, "I'm not angry. My boyfriend cheated on me so I shot him in the [testicles]."

Hilarious!

"No, no, Ernesto," Charlie tells another patient. "Frustration is when you accidentally cut your finger on a soap can lid. When you use a soup-can lid to cut off your cellmate's lid, that's anger."

"Fine," Ernesto replies. "I was angry that he took my soup."

The overstimulated studio audience and/or laugh track goes wild. It's not possible to overstate how annoying the laugh track is on "Anger Management." Every line that's supposed to be funny - 95 percent of which are not - is accompanied by a burst of phony laughter.

Sheen is not much of an actor. He was OK in "Two and a Half Men" because he was essentially playing himself and because, at least in the early seasons of that show, he had some pretty good writing to work with.

He's playing the same non-character again, and the act has worn thin. Actually, it's worn out.

Odds are this show is going to be around for a while. Sheen and the production company have worked out a deal with FX that if "Anger Management" hits certain (undisclosed) ratings goals for the first 10 episodes, a renewal for 90 more episodes automatically kicks in.

There's going to be huge curiosity about Sheen so lots of people will tune in Thursday night. And there have been awful shows that ran 100 episodes before.

Two episodes of "Anger Management" air Thursday (10 and 10:30 p.m. MT, FX). In coming weeks, a repeat will air at 10 p.m., followed by a new episode at 10:30 p.m.



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