June 28, 2012 6:31pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Anger Management' Premiere: A Softer (and Similar) Charlie Sheen
If anyone was unclear about the content of Charlie Sheen's new FX sitcom, Anger Management, before its Thursday premiere, they had good reason.
Despite the series' cinematic roots, months of dialogue and a slew of publicity, the actual meat and potatoes of Sheen's Two and a Half Men follow-up was absent from promos which instead highlighted the star's penchant for second chances with an exploding CGI train.
But when the one-hour premiere kicked off at 9 p.m., Sheen returned to TV in a vehicle eerily similar to the one we last saw him in. After a few cracks at his old gig -- "You think you can just replace me with some other guy?" -- the boom of a laugh track sounds and the frame opens up to reveal the quintessential living room of a multi-camera sitcom.
His name is still Charlie, but, thankfully, he's not wearing any bowling shirts.
References to his high-profile fallout with the CBS sitcom he starred in for eight seasons are mostly brushed out of the way in that opening scene. The essence of Charlie Harper, however, seems unavoidable. FX is banking on the rather large audience that flocked to his brand of middle-aged hound dog with a curious knack for bedding attractive younger women. And that's what the show delivers.
Still, he does seem to have a slightly bigger heart. This new Charlie, while insisting he wants a casual relationship with friend/therapist Kate (Selma Blair), is visibly attached to the romantic lead. And to the show's credit, there's also chemistry with ex-wife Jennifer (Shawnee Smith) -- if only comedic.
STORY: Charlie Sheen on 'Two and a Half Men': 'It All Got Icky Because of Me'
This more sensitive Charlie, grappling with his own titular rage issues, shows an even softer side with the series' "Half." His daughter's (Daniela Bobadilla) obsessive compulsive disorder -- which may well vanish after the first episode -- prompts two humanizing moments that would have been more than uncharacteristic for his previous incarnation.
So will Anger Management work for FX? If a significant portion of his enduring fanbase knows enough to tune in, sure -- though they'll all probably be a little confused come 10:01 p.m., after the credits roll and the grown man in the dog suit comes on screen.
Did you watch Anger Management? Sound off in the comments.