If you want funny rage, play An­gry Birds

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

SO, what’s the key in­gre­di­ent that de­fines a “win­ning!” TV sit­com? A bank­able star? A be­liev­able premise? A solid sup­port­ing cast? Huge rat­ings suc­cess and the fi­nan­cial wind­fall that fol­lows? A lengthy prime­time run?

Or some­thing as sim­ple as just be­ing a funny show?

As far as Char­lie Sheen’s lat­est com­edy ef­fort, Anger Man­age­ment, is con­cerned, Cana­dian view­ers will get to de­cide for them­selves this week­end when CTV — rights-hold­ers to the made-for-U.S.-ca­ble com­edy — serves up a sneak pre­view of the show in the cov­eted slot af­ter Sun­day af­ter­noon’s Olympics clos­ing cer­e­mony (ap­prox­i­mate air­time is 6 p.m.).

The FX se­ries, which will have its of­fi­cial Cana­dian pre­mière on Sept. 11 on CTV, is a bit like Sheen’s pre­vi­ous sit­com, CBS’s enor­mously suc­cess­ful Two and a Half Men, in that it seeks to cap­i­tal­ize on its star’s off-screen an­tics and rep­u­ta­tion by hav­ing Sheen play a char­ac­ter that isn’t all that far re­moved from his real-life self.

In this case, he’s cast as Char­lie Good­son, a for­mer pro base­ball player whose ca­reer was cut short by an anger-driven self-in­flicted in­jury (his rag­ing at­tempt to break a bat in half re­sulted in a torn-up knee). Robbed (by his own stu­pid­ity) of his ath­letic as­pi­ra­tions, he went back to school and be­came a ther­a­pist spe­cial­iz­ing in anger-man­age­ment is­sues.

That’s the frame­work; the rest — like Two and a Half Men — is pretty much stan­dard sit­com-blue­print ex­e­cu­tion.

The se­ries pre­mière opens with Sheen, as Good­son, tak­ing a not-so­sub­tle shot at his for­mer real-life em­ploy­ers. Star­ing straight into the cam­era, he seethes, “You can’t fire me — I quit! Think you can re­place me with an­other guy? Go ahead — it won’t be the same. You may think I’m los­ing, but I’m not — I’m…” and then the cam­era pulls back to re­veal that ther­a­pist Char­lie is show­ing his court-or­dered Star­ring Char­lie Sheen and Selma Blair Sun­day at 6 p.m. (ap­prox.) CTV

out of five clients an ef­fec­tive way of us­ing an punch­ing-bag dummy to re­lieve stress.

Cue the laugh track, for the first of many, many over­wrought times.

Char­lie — hardly sur­pris­ingly, in sit­com-premise terms — turns out to be a ther­a­pist who prob­a­bly needs help even more than his clients do. He’s hav­ing is­sues with his teenage daugh­ter, with his ex-wife, and with his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, whom he be­lieves could be a bad influence on his im­pres­sion­able ado­les­cent young’un.

And when a dis­cus­sion about the mer­its of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion gets heated, Char­lie picks up a lamp with the in­ten­tion of whack­ing Mr. Slacker New Boyfriend in the head with it. He stops him­self, but re­al­izes he’d bet­ter get help be­fore he loses it com­pletely.

Un­for­tu­nately for Char­lie (but con­ve­niently for the writ­ers’ room), the only ther­a­pist he trusts with his deep­est se­crets is his best pal, Kate (Selma Blair), with whom he’s also car­ry­ing on a rather frisky friends-with-bene- fits re­la­tion­ship.

And she’s one of those an­noy­ingly eth­i­cal types who be­lieves it’s un­ac­cept­able for ther­a­pists to sleep with their pa­tients, so Char­lie’s forced to de­cide whether it’s his head or a more southerly des­ti­na­tion that she’s go­ing to treat.

It’s all very, well, pre­dictable. And not par­tic­u­larly hi­lar­i­ous, though you’d never know that from the vol­ume and fre­quency of the laugh-track in­ser­tions.

Sheen is what he has al­ways been, in TV-com­edy terms — a guy who can hit his marks and de­liver his lines in an ef­fi­cient if some­what ef­fort-re­strained man­ner. The sup­port­ing cast is able, but there’s no one in Char­lie’s col­lec­tion of lov­ably loony clients that could match neu­roses with the mem­o­rable bunch from The Bob Ne­whart Show.

Anger Man­age­ment is an av­er­age, sort-of-OK, oc­ca­sion­ally amus­ing com­edy that would likely have at­tracted very lit­tle at­ten­tion if its star hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced a head­line-grab­bing per­sonal and pro­fes­sional melt­down last year.

That fact that it’s on TV at all must rank as some kind of vic­tory for Sheen, but it’d be a stretch to call his sit­com re­turn a win­ner.

FRANK OCKENFEL / FX

Not mad about you: Char­lie Sheen’s lat­est sit­com isn’t des­tined to be a clas­sic.

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