There’s no reason to recap Charlie Sheen’s highly publicized departure from the sitcom Two and a Half Men and subsequent string of bizarre interviews and publicity stunts. If you weren’t paying attention in 2011, you probably don’t care now. For those who weren’t fascinated enough to follow the spectacle, the upshot is that Sheen returned to television with the FX series Anger Management in 2012. The 10-episode first season kicked off by setting a ratings record for most viewers of a cable sitcom premiere. FX announced their renewal the show for a staggering 90 episodes over two years.
The first season is now available on home video just as the second season has begun airing. Having never seen the show prior to checking out the DVD, I was shocked to find such a hyper-conventional sitcom (with an overbearing laugh track). Sheen plays, as he did on Two and a Half Men, a guy named Charlie (Goodson as opposed to Harper). Charlie is a former major league catcher who ruined his career due to an injury sustained when, furious over fan interference, he tried to break a baseball bat over his knee. After confronting his own anger issues, Charlie embarked upon a new career as an anger management therapist.
While each episode involves, to varying degrees, Charlie’s interactions with his patients, he’s still in therapy himself. Dr. Kate Wales (Selma Blair) is not only his therapist, she’s also his friend with benefits. Jennifer (Shawnee Smith) is Charlie’s ex-wife, who remains an integral part of his life due to their daughter, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla). All these folks interact in the standard sitcom ways, with Charlie and Kate’s complicated relationship the focal point. Will they or won’t they steer their relationship in a more committed direction? Other subplots involve Charlie and Jennifer wondering if their daughter is a lesbian, Charlie dating a barista who turns out to be Kate’s patient, and Charlie’s entanglements with his group members.
The best moments are the most meta ones. Denise Richards guests on one episode as a business associate of Jennifer’s. It’s kind of a fun seeing the two exes play off of each other, with Sheen’s real-life background tweaked fairly liberally. Even better is when Martin Sheen shows up late in the season as, you guessed it, Charlie’s dad. The elder Sheen has been added as a recurring cast member for the new season, which will hopefully build on the promise shown in their only first-season episode together.
The two-disc DVD release has a few mildly entertaining features. The best is a surprisingly funny gag reel that highlights the strong chemistry between Sheen and Blair. “Charlie’s Baby” is a 17-minute collection of cast and crew interviews, mostly praising Sheen. “Behind the Couch: Meet Charlie’s Patients” is a similar piece (though this one only runs about four minutes) focusing on the group therapy members.
Anger Management is a mild, traditional, and sporadically funny sitcom that holds up well over the course of 10 season one episodes. Whether or not the concept can sustain 90 more remains to be seen (the earliest second season episodes have garnered some of the lowest ratings in the show’s short history).