Before Anger Management even aired Thursday evening we all knew from FX Network advertising that it was the “Next Great Sitcom “and “Better than Two and Half Men.” We’d seen that no matter how bad the train wreck, everyone, especially Charlie Sheen, deserved a 24th chance to prove their worth.
Sticking with that theme, Anger Management begins with Charlie staring into the camera and growling “you can’t fire me, I quit. You can’t replace me with some other guy, it won’t be the same. You may think I’m losing, but I’m not.” At which point Charlie turns to a spottily filled room and explains that those are examples of frustrations the occupants can use to channel their anger using a blow up doll called Bobo, the bopping bag if they feel one of their fiery outbursts rising to the surface.
You see, Charlie is a work at home anger management therapist holding group sessions for a motley crew of angry misfits. The great thing about being on FX is that Charlie isn’t constrained by some of the programming issues that held him back on Network television. We’ll have to watch and see if he and FX use this freedom to turn Anger Management into a break out hit, but it at least gives him free rein to go farther over the top.
After Charlie introduced his clients to Bobo, we meet the clients beginning with a passive aggressive gay man named Patrick (Michael Arden) who, in response to a rebuke from his father, dressed like the Statue of Liberty and stuck a sparkler up his ass. Patrick was harassed by a grumpy Vietnam Vet named Ed, played by Barry Corbin who wasn’t all that excited about having fought in the Nam for the right of queers to go around taking pictures of themselves with sparklers stuck up their butts and a very uninteresting Nolan (Derek Richardson) whose major problem is that he is attracted to angry people.
Nolan’s introductory speech was interrupted by the newest member of the group, Lacey, played by Noureen DeWulf who entered the room complaining about Charlie’s noisy neighbor. Lacey is a moral challenge for Charlie and about as angry as you can get. She was sent to Charlie as a court appointed patient and had driven across Charlie’s neighbor’s lawn to reach her therapy session. Michael Boatman plays neighbor Mike who was more than willing to forgive the trespass if Charlie could wrangle a hook-up with super-hot Lacey for him. Lacey is in therapy because her boyfriend cheated on her so she shot him in the balls which should be a red flag for both Charlie and Mike.
Charlie decided to show Lacey that he, too was once a very angry man and pulled out a video of him just after he made his big break from minor league to major league baseball. He had played in the minors for nine years, which in real life is a death sentence, but finally got a call to the show. During a game, while playing catcher, he went back for a pop-up and muffed the catch. He angrily picked a bat off the ground and tried to break it over his knee. He shattered his knee instead. End of baseball career.
At this point in the show, Sam, Charlie’s teenage daughter comes home and enters the living room where the session is taking place. She locks and unlocks the door about fifteen times, demonstrating a major obsessive compulsive disorder. Charlie being a top notch therapist senses something is wrong and dismisses his group. He then goes to see what’s up with Sam (Daniela Bobadilla). To me, stopping to help his daughter shows a rare maturity on Charlie’s part. Is this a new dimension?
When asked what is wrong, she tells Charlie she isn’t sure she wants to go to college. Charlie prods until he discovers that his ex-wife Jennifer’s new boyfriend Sean has convinced Sam that college doesn’t need to be for everyone. Charlie discovers the boyfriend has a couple of Ferraris and is a Club Promoter. Charlie now wants a meeting with Jen’s boyfriend to set some boundaries. Charlie setting personal boundaries is rarefied air. Maybe his personal anger management issues have mellowed him out. Or not.
Throughout the show Charlie periodically has unbridled sex with Kate (Selma Blair) his former therapist. They have worked out a system in which Charlie promises to NEVER LOVE HER and NEVER LOVE HER FOREVER and to only HAVE SEX WITH NO COMMITMENT AT ANY TIME which is the style of sex we expect from Charlie. This lack of commitment is complicated during this episode because Charlie realizes he needs emergency therapy and must turn to Kate to meet that need.
If Kate is acting as his therapist, it means they can’t have sex due to the therapist code of conduct – whatever that is. This causes a major quandary for Charlie until he works around this dilemma by reversing things and becoming her therapist which somehow makes it okay for them to go at it like rabbits. However they made it work, it brought out the condoms.
During all of this, Charlie makes it over to Jen’s house to have his talk with Sean. He tells Sean that directing Sam away from college is a parental no-no. Sean informs him that 54% of recent college grads couldn’t find work and 85% moved home. After some back and forth, Charlie isn’t ready to surrender his parental rights to a moron and starts to assault Sean, but stops when Sam comes into the room. Charlie leaves in a huff.
In the interim Charlie visits the local bar where he has a drink with his old buddy bartender Brett (Brett Butler) who he queries about her college days. She admits she attended college, but paid for it by stripping. She made so much money stripping that she dropped out. She lamented that if she had seen forty coming she would have finished school. A sentiment shared by every older woman in one way or another.
So far Charlie’s done a lot of things during the show and it’s been fairly entertaining. Charlie has shown some sitcom evolution and that’s a good thing. He’s demonstrated responsibility, he’s shown good judgment, he’s demonstrated restraint and he’s kept the humor fairly level.
Then, out of the blue, the show throws Charlie into a prison group counseling session. For unknown reasons Charlie volunteers to help with an anger-management program at a local prison. Hello? This part of the show makes absolutely no sense. I guess if you need to make rape, murder and assault jokes this is the place to do it, but I, for one, don’t see any reason to include those jokes. The only funny thing that came out of this bit for me was when goofy Wayne (Stephen Taylor) told Charlie, after Charlie confessed to his prison group that he had gotten angry about Sean, that Charlie would have been justified in beating the guy’s face into plowshares cause it was in the Bible. The show should jettison the prison humor.
The show wrapped up with Jennifer letting Charlie know that she dumped Sean because he is too opinionated and he has weird manscaping in the shape of Abe Lincoln.
I’m not sure what that last line means and I’m not sure Charlie did anything other than show he can still winningly handle what the writers give him; I give the episode a B.