Warning: Full spoilers for the Season 1 finale follow. (Although if you’re worried about spoilers for Anger Management, you might need to reevaluate some of your core characteristics…)
Even though FX’s Anger Management, featuring Charlie Sheen’s much hyped return to TV sitcom-land, slipped from over five million viewers to around two million over the course of its 10-episode "trial" first season, FX president John Landgraf hinted, back at the Summer TCA Press Tour, that a renewal was likely. But a decision won’t be made until after the season’s done, so this is it! We now stand at what could be a dead end, or a gateway to a whopping 90 episode order (part of the syndication-ready deal in place).
So what’s happened to Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Goodson over the course of 10 episodes? Well, he’s pity-dated an "ugly chick" (Kerri Kenny), dated a hottie who didn’t believe in therapy (ex-wife Denise Richards) and hashed out old issues with his dad (real dad Martin Sheen). Has the show improved at all since the pilot episode? No. Not at all. In fact, it’s become even more obvious how painfully rushed and unfunny the show is. Back when I reviewed the premiere, I was willing to accept that FX was reaching for the un-dynamic and typical in an attempt to capture the millions of folks who watch the syndicated Two and a Half Men reruns on their channel. I chalked the show up as being "not for me" and believed its only crime was playing the "broader audience" game.
But it’s worse than that. The abrasive laugh track, which was once merely an annoying indicator of lazy writing and bad comedy, now scratches at my very soul; shining a giant spotlight on just how flat the jokes truly are. One begins to hyper-analyze the enthusiasm of the fake laughs versus the meager punchline they’re responding to. In "Charlie Gets Romantic," Kate (Selma Blair) gets a bit freaked out when Charlie wants to do more with her than just have meaningless sex. Like, go to a movie. So Charlie decides hold out on intimate kissing which then causes Kate to sexually shut down and, well, the "dry vag" jokes fly free and loose.
After 10 episodes, Anger Management is already in a rut. As I mentioned in the pilot review, there are a ton of cast members on this show and most episodes involve Charlie having at least one scene with each of them. Bret Butler in the bar. Michael Boatman at is home. The prison group. And this series chooses volume over quantity, bombarding you with an animated series’ worth of gags and one-liners, none of which register a laugh. Okay, wait. I will admit to chuckling when Patrick called Lacey "Kim Carcrashian." Yes, I’m ashamed to admit that this wasn’t, technically, a laugh-free finale.
The storyline involving Charlie’s ex Jen (Shawnee Smith) wondering if she somehow "passed the gay gene" onto Sam was awkward at best – with the show never actually deciding why Jen was so disturbed by this. It actually almost came off as homophobic, but then the story quickly diverted all its power into making Jen seem crazy and ignorant rather than needlessly anxious and angry.
I know most of this might seem like a review of the overall series rather than a deep look into the finale, but there’s really not that much to analyze. This review was mostly meant as a sort of "let’s check back in with the show before it gets a giant order that takes it up to 100 episodes" deal. The brutal format of this show follows predictable humor and painful callbacks to jokes that weren’t funny the in the first place. For example, Nolan’s obsession with Lacey jumping out of a "30 Days Without Incident" celebration cake wasn’t funny. And since the canned laughter makes for certain that no bad joke is distinguishable from another, it got to be not funny again when they came back to Nolan and he was still talking about it.
There’s also just not that much to laugh at when your comedic leading man character is successful with women. At least on Two and a Half Men, they paired Charlie up with a polar-opposite loser. Also, pairing this show with something as different and ingenious as Louie does it no favors. So, as you can see, the score’s been lowered. Maybe I just resent the fact that one day there will be a box set of all seven or eight seasons of this series simply because it runs a rudimentary playbook.
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