For years, actors, writers, producers and network executives have extolled the virtues of working in cable television as opposed to the broadcast networks. Fewer episodes, more time to write and, thus, better writing and better shows.
Unless you're working on Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management," which is rolling out episodes the way Detroit rolled out cars when Detroit was making lousy cars.
The first 10 episodes were rushed through production. And, if it continues to hit ratings marks mandated by the deal the producers signed with FX, that will trigger an order for 90 more episodes which will be produced in two years.
"I would say the odds are overwhelming that it will ultimately earn that renewal," said FX president John Landgraf.
It would take a show like "The Big Bang Theory" or "Modern Family" almost five years to turn out that many episodes. And the question is obvious how can you create quality when you're trying frantically to keep up with the assembly line? It's like Lucy and the chocolates in the classic episode of "I Love Lucy."
"It doesn't put any pressure on me," Sheen said. "That's something I can't control."
The prospect of doing 90 episodes in two years is "exciting as hell," Sheen said. "This is a really amazing group. I mean, forget about it. I don't think 90 is gonna be enough. I feel that we've just scratched the surface, barely."
Executive producer Bruce Helford the guy who had to quickly get 10 episodes written and faces the prospect of writing 90 more even more quickly labeled the task as "daunting."
The last time anybody attempted anything like this for a broadcast network was probably "Batman," which produced 60 episodes for the 1966-67 season. And, while that show is a camp classic, the quality of those episodes was extremely low.
"Anger Management" stars Sheen as an anger-management therapist with anger-management issues of his own.
If you've seen an episode, Helford's revelation that "there's no real rehearsal for the show" will not come as a surprise. He said the actors are handed their lines, the scene is set up, the actors get their makeup done and they shoot the scene while making script changes on the fly. Scenes are shot out of order, and there is no studio audience that's a laugh track you're hearing on TV.
"Almost every actor came to me at some given point and said, 'What am I doing?' because they never had the chance to feel the entire play," Helford said. "It's a really tough process, and my hat's off to everybody. These are really accomplished actors and talents, but I think everybody felt like they were basically on the ledge."
Sheen's co-star, Selma Blair, said the experience was amazing, but tough. "It's just an incredible rush to just kind of say your lines for the first time in front of a camera and hope you work again one day."
When it was suggested that the show might be produced that way because of Sheen's well-publicized personal and professional issues, Helford immediately rejected the notion.
"It's not easier for anybody," Helford said. "Honestly, it's partly a financial consideration of how quickly you shoot a show and how we can keep this budgetarily way below the bloated, horrible budgets on a regular sitcom.
"It's not easier for the writers. It's not easier for the actors. It's a more difficult experience. It's more of a gut experience. And, hopefully, more of a spontaneous experience. A little less polished and rehearsed, a little more natural. And as we do it more, I think it's even going to feel more natural and more spontaneous."
Not that there's anything wrong with controlling bloated budgets. But the idea that entertainment quality entertainment can roll off an assembly line boggles the mind.
"I am happy creatively with the show," Landgraf said, rather unconvincingly. "As with any comedy, I think it's got more growth in it creatively. I think it's still developing. But, generally speaking, I'm real happy."
Happy with the ratings sure. They've been quite good for cable, although just a fraction of the audience for Sheen's former show, "Two and a Half Men."
Happy with the quality that's tough to believe.
Charlie Sheen's new sitcom airs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on FX.