"You can't fire me. I quit," Charlie Sheen says to the camera as he hits an unseen object that sounds like a punching bag. "Think you can replace me with some other guy? Go ahead. It won't be the same. You may think I'm losing. I'm not. I'm ...
"Anyway, you get the idea."
At this point, the camera pulls out to reveal that Sheen is not talking to viewers. His new Charlie character is addressing a living room full of patients with anger issues. And what he has been punching is a ridiculous-looking bopping bag named Bobo. It's a good way to take out frustrations, says Charlie.
This is how Sheen's promising new FX series, "Anger Management," opens. Sure, it's a slap at his old boss, Chuck Lorre, who fired him from "Two and a Half Men," a sitcom that was loosely based on Sheen's bad-boy image (and that earned him a reported $1.2 million an episode), then replaced him with Ashton Kutcher. But Lorre has been taking pot shots at Sheen on that CBS show all season.
What's more, "Anger Management" is well written and quite funny. Despite the "Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour, the "tiger blood" nonsense and the general craziness, Sheen's comic timing is not only intact, but as sharp as it was during his best days on "Men."
His new character, Charlie Goodson -- a symbolic surname? -- is an anger-management therapist who flamed out as a major-league baseball player. In a rage, he shattered his knee -- by breaking a bat over it.
And so, Charlie went to college and graduate school to become a psychotherapist. His specialty is anger issues. Now, the recovering rage-aholic holds group-therapy sessions in his living room, and does some pro-bono counseling of inmates at a state prison.
The funnier patients are those who come to his home. They included Patrick (Michael Arden), a passive-aggressive, gay personal shopper; Ed (Barry Corbin), a grouchy homophobic retiree who likes to talk about his " 'Nam" days; Nolan (Derek Richardson), who's attracted to angry women; and a new patient, Lacey (Noureen DeWulf) who was court-ordered to attend these sessions after shooting her cheating boyfriend in his privates. Lacey's miffed, 'cause she'd wanted private therapy.
"The criminal court is usually more accommodating," a drily sarcastic Charlie says. "Next time, try the concierge."
Charlie, a likable guy, also has an ex-wife, Jennifer (Shawnee Smith); a 15-year-old daughter, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla), who suffers from OCD; a sympathetic bartender at a local watering hole (Brett Butler); and a longtime best friend, Kate (Selma Blair), a fellow therapist with whom he's sleeping.
In the pilot, after learning that his ex-wife's new boyfriend -- a rich, Ferrari-owning club promoter -- has advised Sam to skip college, Charlie confronts the guy. At first, he's nice, saying, "We'd like Sam to go to college."
The response: "That would have been a really good move in 1962."
One thing leads to another, and Charlie finds himself this close to smacking the guy with a lamp -- and realizes he needs to get back into therapy himself.
Alas, though, he's sleeping with the best anger-management therapist he knows, Kate. When his neighbor Michael (Michael Boatman) wonders why this would be a problem, Charlie says: "It's unethical for a therapist to have sex with a patient. They teach that Day One. It weeds out half the class." (He and Kate find a humorous solution.)
Make no mistake: "Anger Management" is an adult comedy. You see boxes of condoms, and a lot of the humor is of a sexual nature, though it's generally not as raunchy as Sheen's old CBS comedy. In the second episode, a joke about Megan's Law crosses the line.
In that second episode, a woman from Charlie's past reappears, posing as a patient. Back when Charlie was a single-A baseball player passing through Beloit, Wis., she was his "slumpbuster." (According to a superstition, Charlie explains, a player on a losing streak would try to break it by sleeping with the ugliest girl he could find.)
"Anger Management," loosely based on the 2003 movie with Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, is executive-produced by Bruce Helford ("The Drew Carey Show"). In an unusual arrangement, FX is airing 10 episodes, and if they do well, and Sheen is agreeable, an additional 90 episodes will be produced. (If they do, I hope they turn down the volume on the laugh track.)
Not that Sheen is necessarily hurting for money. After his firing from "Men," Sheen filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, which was reportedly settled for $25 million last September.
Maybe Sheen does have a bit of big-cat blood after all. The guy seems to have nine lives.
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