Multi-camera sitcoms are dying a slow, painful death on networks with shows like 2 Broke Girls and Whitney, whose ability to be both mindless and unfunny simultaneously is somehow perceived as ‘talented’ and ‘edgy’ in this warped television landscape. And the last few years, basic cable’s stepped into the ring to tag-team the old, glorious television format and beaten it to the pulp with Tyler Perry sitcoms and now, Charlie Sheen’s latest ‘comeback’ vehicle, Anger Management.
Now, it’s not enough for Anger Management to be ruthlessly humorless; this show really brings narcissistic self-idealism and willful ignorance to the next level. The show’s about a man named Charlie (novel fucking idea, right?), whose womanizing past and tempermental ways have landed him in a cushy apartment, with an ex-wife and daughter who love him, working as an anger therapist. In the first two episodes, he sleeps with his best friend/therapist, and in the second, dates an ugly girl he hooked up with 16 years ago to break a slump.
There’s nothing wrong with those two stories themselves, but somehow, the dick-riding, half-wit writers are willing to take it down the most mind-numbingly empty directions. Him sleeping with a person he needed in his life (and couldn’t sleep with if she was her therapist, because now Charlie Sheen is a man of honor) is a ripe opportunity to start breaking down how this character fucked up his life. I’m not talking about revolutionizing his life: I’m talking about making a comedy of a man trying to redeem himself from his past.
But that’s not what being in the Charlie Sheen business in 2012 means. Instead, we get a disturbingly unfunny (and a little too realistic) show about a guy who does what he wants, when he wants, and only has to half-heartedly apologize in the last two minutes of the show. I mean, shit, it’s about a guy named Charlie who used to be a baseball player… does anyone not think we’re watching Charlie Sheen’s dreams play out on TV?
Outside of Charlie, there’s really nothing there of interest. His anger management group includes the stereotypes of a grumpy old man, a super gay guy who’s mad at the bitchy, dumb girl in the work because she’s hot (I’m serious) – and don’t forget the teenager, who’s had about a line and a half so far. His family is no better, which is the most disappointing: how awesome would it be to have his ‘therapist’ (played by a listless Selma Blair), and his ex-wife and daughter require him to be a better person, and the humor of the show come from him trying to better himself for the women in his life?
I could get on board with totally mediocre version of that (though I think it would be a lot better than that). But this isn’t really a show about family, happiness, or learning to deal with anger: it’s about Charlie being Charlie, making Charlie face and doing silly Charlie things to make Charlie happy. And in the end, it will probably garner enough ratings in its 10 episodes (simply by people tuning in to see what happened to the babbling shithead we saw last year), to earn the 90-episode pick up waiting on the back end of the contract.
But for me, Anger Management is really the worst kind of comedy on TV (and frustrating, because it could be one of the best). I was hoping to see a character like Sam Malone on the first season of Cheers – that is, watching a man who’s trying to change himself after losing everything. But Charlie can’t show Charlie growing up and becoming a better person, because Charlie’s not interested in that journey. He just wants to be awesome, and has found an entire creative and production team that’s willing to help him film this masturbatory exercise of a television show.
- the end of the second episode is what really set me off. Why would his ex-wife take him off the hook for being a cheating asshole who’s living in a delusion? Reminds me of last season’s episode of Louie when he argues on the set of a comedy show over a woman professing her love for a self-satisfying asshole. In fact, everything about Louie is the perfect contradiction to the narcissism penetrating every crevice of Anger Management.
- Was there a funny line in either of those episodes? I couldn’t find one… the show doesn’t want to be edgy or over-friendly, so it’s already settled into the comfort zone of thinly-veiled self-references, old sex jokes (the Milky Way condom joke was ripped right from Archer), or jokes about gay people. Fantastic.
What did you think of Anger Management? Will you keep tuning in? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!