"You can't fire me! I quit!"
"You think you can replace me with some other guy? Go ahead! It won't be the same."
"You may think I'm losing. But I'm not! I'm—well, you get the idea."
So began FX's sitcom Anger Management in 2012 with Charlie Sheen pretending to be anger therapist Charlie Goodson even as he so obviously channels the real Charlie Sheen—and all while pounding on a blow-up punching bag.
Charlie (the fictional dude on the show, not the one-time tiger-blooded tabloid king) is a former pro baseball player who now counsels an assortment of oddball characters on the art of keeping cool. But if keeping cool is an art, Charlie has a little too much Jackson Pollack in him—prone to splatter and splash at the most inopportune moments. That's because his own anger management issues aren't fully under control, so he's seeing his own therapist: his best friend and sometime girlfriend, Dr. Kate Wales.
Much of the first season was predicated on Kate and Charlie's relationship. Then their caustic (and very professionally inappropriate) tryst was terminated in Season Two—apparently to give Charlie the chance to sleep around more, much like his character (yet another Charlie) did on Two and a Half Men.
And Sheen's new show feels, frankly, a lot like his old one. Scores of sexual references—from predilections and gender preferences to the act itself—bounce through the dialogue, along with flurries of crass language. We see characters in bed together and groping each other. Women sometimes wear skimpy getups.
And then, of course, there's the semi-sleazy meta-story behind it all. Writes Time's James Poniewozik:
"When Anger Management tries to have it both ways with its character … it's impossible to ignore how Sheen and FX are also trying to have it both ways here. FX is not just hiring an actor with a history of drug and violence-against-women issues, but using a wink-wink marketing campaign to leverage that history into ratings. Sheen is not just getting paid to rehabilitate his image on TV, he gets to play-act, through his character, at growing, learning and mastering his impulses, whether or not he does anything about them in real life. … Sheen has a right to work and FX has a right to hire him, but that's what this is—business. But if Anger Management scores good ratings, just wait for the 'America to Charlie: All Is Forgiven!' headlines."
Anger Management did indeed divert the attention of anywhere from 3 to 5 million pairs of eyeballs per episode when it launched. And in the flush of that success, FX committed to produce 100 episodes of the salty show. But ratings sank like a concrete warlock in Season Two, so FX latched onto the idea of pushing a few episodes over to its sister channel Fox during summer rerun season—hoping to goose ratings and keep the sitcom from sliding into irrelevance.
But this is a show well suited to the irrelevance woodpile, what with its wooden writing and knotty content issues. Time to get out the ax … and then schedule some anger management therapy sessions for the channel execs responsible.
"Charlie and the Secret Gigolo"
Charlie bails out his ex-wife's boyfriend, Sean, after the man punched a guy for looking at his girlfriend's backside. And when Sean joins Charlie's therapy group, we learn that he used to be a male escort. We hear lots of jokes about gigolos, of course. Lacey makes passes at Sean, offering to wear less clothing the next time she sees him.
Saddled with marital problems, grumpy guy Ed starts rooming with Patrick, a gay man who just broke up with his last partner. Though Ed is virulently dismissive of Patrick's lifestyle (calling him "William Shakes-queer" at one point), the two bond over milkshakes and reality television.
Charlie and Kate, meanwhile, run a sex study, and we see a couple rolling around in bed (under sheets) in the study room. Peering into the room are Kate and Charlie, who make numerous comments about the quality and sincerity of the sex. References are made to climaxing. Charlie also has a fling with a computer tech girl, prompting tech-sex jokes.
Charlie and Sean get into a fight and wind up in handcuffs. We hear about drinking. Characters say "h‑‑‑" (four times), "a‑‑" (three times), "d‑‑n" and "douchebag" (twice each), and "b‑‑ch" (once). God's name is misused.
"Charlie Goes Back to Therapy"
After Charlie nearly clocks his ex-wife's new boyfriend with a lamp, he decides to return to counseling. But the best counselor he knows is his best friend, Kate, whom he also sleeps with. "We feel nothing for each other now, and it's working!" counselor Kate enthuses about their love-free, sex-drenched relationship. And we see Charlie and Kate in bed, panting after sex. Out of condoms, both suggest potential substitutes so they can go another round.
The group Charlie counsels includes Patrick, a gay man (who, when his father asked him if counseling might help keep him from being gay, sent his dad a picture of himself dressed up as the Statue of Liberty with a sparkler stuck in his rear end) and Ed, who derogatorily refers to Patrick as a "queer." Charlie also counsels a gay couple in prison. Another prisoner talks about beating peoples' faces into plowshares. "I think that's in the Bible," he says. Someone mentions murdering another person in his sleep. A woman dressed in revealing clothing talks about how she shot her boyfriend in the testicles. Others admit to ogling her backside. References are made to promiscuous pasts and parts of the male anatomy.
Characters say "a‑‑" and "h‑‑‑" half a dozen times each, "d‑‑n" once.