Of Management and Men

Let me say this before we go any further: Anger Management is terrible.

Believe it or not, I actually had reasonably high expectations for Anger Management (Wednesdays, 8.30pm on TV2) before it started. Despite my qualms with his former show, I've always felt Charlie Sheen was a talented guy, capable of far more than he'd been doing for the past decade (or, at least, more than he was allowed to do).

Early chatter about the show was positive, with various reports stating that Sheen was back at his creative best, turning in a great performance and inviting figures from his personal life on to the show as guest stars - Denise Richards appears next week, and Charlie's dad Martin Sheen shows up near the first season finale. The buzz was good.

I also had reason to hope his new show might be good based purely on the fact that it airs in the United States on FX, which, until this point, had a spotless record in original programming: Anger Management joins Louie, The League, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Wilfred in FX's comedy stable, alongside original dramas Justified, Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story. That's a quality lineup of shows that rivals HBO's and AMC's.

That Anger Management broke a ratings record - it now sits as the highest-rated sitcom premiere in cable history (that is, among shows not airing on the US networks ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) - is proof of what FX's motivations were in doing a deal with Sheen and the various production companies involved.

We're only a couple of days removed from a blog in which I praised choosing creativity over instant ratings success, but Anger Management serves as a good reminder that television networks are all about chasing the almighty dollar, no matter how much we might applaud original ideas.

The truth is that Anger Management is more like Two And A Half Men than any of the other original comedies on FX's schedule*. Sheen's former show hangs over everything - and not just because he is involved: just like Men, Management is a lazy show that seems to indulge its star, settling for easy jokes in the name of turning Sheen into a human punchline delivery machine.

It's crass, it could probably be accused of casual racism, and it seems to be more obsessed with sex than the average 18-year-old male. Its co-stars are instantly forgettable, with the exception of Selma Blair, who has the potential to be Sheen's equal but always stops short of being the smartest or funniest person on-screen.

Yet, I think it might still be better than Two And A Half Men.

One of my biggest problems with Two And A Half Men (I mean, aside from the fact that it isn't funny in the slightest) is that it is a kind of comedic "wolf in sheep's clothing", using sexual innuendo and silly euphemisms to sneak adults-only content into an earlier timeslot.

By contrast, Anger Management is a show made for adults and airing on a network that lets it be brazen with much of its content. It is what it tries to be, unlike Two And A Half Men, which is pretending to be something it isn't.

It's just a shame that what Anger Management is trying to be still isn't very good.

What do you think of Anger Management? Is it better than Two And A Half Men?

(*) Though it is worth pointing out that FX does show repeats of Two And A Half Men thanks to a syndication deal with Warner Bros Television.

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