Anger Management

Charlie Sheen's new cable show is the odd man out among its peers on FX.

Who would have thought that Charlie Sheen's new series, Anger Management, would be the only show on FX without a TV-MA rating? No doubt people thought Sheen's return to a television series after his well-publicized brouhaha with CBS and departure from Two and a Half Men would result in some kind of nude-hooker hootenanny with F-bombs aplenty and graphic content meant to offend.

But no. Anger is really just a slightly more content-dangerous network sitcom. Having watched the two episodes that FX sent along, it's easy to wonder why the series isn't on a broadcast network rather than FX, the ad-supported cable channel where even the animated series are TV-MA.

Sheen plays Charlie Goodson, a former pro baseball player whose anger-management issues sabotaged his career. He then goes to college to become a therapist specializing in, you guessed it, anger management. He has an ex-wife, Jennifer (Shawnee Smith), who is smart and sarcastic but has terrible taste in men. That frustrates the now well-adjusted Charlie because the two share custody of a 15-year-old daughter, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla), with OCD issues. Charlie adores his daughter, respects his ex-wife and constantly worries about them. Meanwhile, he's happy where he's at, having no-strings-attached sex with Kate (Selma Blair), who happens to be his best friend as well as a fellow therapist (and eventually his therapist). There are plenty of people for Charlie to bounce one-liners off of.

As it turns out, it's best to look at Anger in two ways. First, as a business decision on FX's behalf. And secondly, as solid proof from Sheen that he can still be funny and even endearing in a network-styled sitcom with a laugh track. And yes, Anger is consistently funnier than the current version of Two and a Half Men. It's not even close.

However, that doesn't make a series for FX (home of the best half-hour comedy on TV, Louie -- see below). And that context is likely to be the problem (at least among critics) greeting Anger.

Is Anger funny? Sure, in a big-tent, broadcast-network kind of way. For his part, Sheen proves why he's bankable. Nevermind his personal life -- he nails his lines, uses his face and physical nature to make punch lines funnier than they might be and commands a multicamera sitcom better than pretty much anybody in the business. It also would be needlessly highbrow (and inaccurate) to ignore the fact that Anger has a string of funny jokes scattered throughout. But they are variations on what you've heard a million times and are, at the core, fairly predictable. That might be ratings gold on a broadcast network, but the guess here is that people come to cable because they want something different.

Anger isn't different. It's just airing in an unexpected place.

Airdate: 9 p.m. Thursday, June 28 (FX)

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