Anger Management: Season 1
To err is human; to forgive, divine. At least that is what an old adage would press us to believe. There is a kernel of truth contained in this simplistic sentence. If you are a member of the human race you are inherently prone to making mistakes. If you happen to be a celebrity than the constant scrutiny of the tabloid press is certain to be there, camera in hand to fully document every transgression persevering it for the ages. When you consider a common personality traits of celebrities makes them susceptible to self-destructive behavior. Stars such as Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Charlie Sheen have had more than the usual share of outlandish actions spread around the globe at the blazing speed of the internet. Both Cyrus and Lohan took the mea culpa route with self-deprecating appearances on the Vox Populi platform ‘Saturday Night Live’. As for Charlie Sheen his fall from grace was surrounded by what could only be described as sheer insanity. Shouting about tiger’s blood, porn star goddesses and winning the comedians had a field day as their material wrote itself. After a banishment from his hit television series, ‘Two and a Half Men’ he proceeded to go on a one man show that flopped badly. Coming from Hollywood dynasty sheen was not to go quietly into popular exile. He leveraged his notoriety into a half hour sitcom on the F/X network, ‘Anger Management’. Very loosely based on the 2003 film featuring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, the series’ premier made it one of the most what opening episodes for ant sitcom. F/X is arguably best known for intense dramas such as ‘The Shield’ of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ both show such as it’s always sunny in Philadelphia’ has paved the way for mature themed humor. Admittedly when I received a Blu-ray copy of the first season to review I had some trepidation. I sat down to watch it with my best friend and after a few episodes we were in agreement; not only wasn’t it as bad as we feared it held an amazing degree of potential. F/X was a good fit for this series affording it an opportunity to delve into less family oriented humor, the main stay of Sheen’s bad boy persona.
The first choice that Dr. Charlie Goodson (Charlie Sheen) had for a profession was to be a catcher in pro baseball. Unfortunately his perchance for spontaneous outbursts of anger quickly derailed that while still in the minor league. The good news he had the foresight of getting an education up to a doctorate in psychology. Now he has a lucrative practice in Los Angles. Right off it is only natural to view this as a back handed sequel to his ‘Major League’ series of flicks distances by changing his position from pitcher. You will also notice rather significant nods to Sheens well documented and publicized melt down but gratefully the show runners manage to get most of the references out of the way early in the season. This laid a reasonably solid foundation for a sitcom; the presence of sheen was sufficient to skew the humor to the adult venue. One element that a lost point with me is the presence of a laugh track; not only completely unnecessary but exceptionally annoying.
The series focuses on two major aspects of his practice; a therapy group held in his home office and pro bono works in a prison. Both involve the main focus of expertise, anger management. He has held his problem in check for several years but the next uncontrolled explosion is lurking just beneath a thin veneer of civility. His paying group consists of the typical rag tag assortment of quirky personalities common in the sit com. The difference here is the bizarre personality traits are based somewhat on conditions listed in the DSM IV. There is Ed (Barry Corbin) the grumpy older man with a firmly set range of prejudice, Patrick (Michael Arden), Patrick (Michael Arden) and finally Nolan (Derek Richardson) whose anger issue is the lack of displaying anger. In the initial episode another patient was added, Lacy (Noureen DeWulf). She was court order to attend therapy after shooting her cheating husband in the testicles. Most of the men in the group instantly begin hitting on her; unsuccessfully. The main characters in the prison group are Ernesto (Aldo Gonzalez) and his cell mate/spouse Derek (James Black) also known as Cleo. Typically they offer an odd vantage point and advice for Charlie.
Adhering closely to the sitcom construction manual Charlie’s home life is the source of much consternation. Charlie is divorced from his ex-wife, Jennifer (Shawnee Smith). She has primary custody of their thirteen year old daughter, Sam (Daniela Bobadilla), although Charlie does retain visitation rights. She is frequently caught between her parent’s ongoing dramas but is resilient and intelligent. Charlie’s best friend is fellow therapist Dr. Kate Wales (Selma Blair).They are friends with sexual benefits both contentment with the lack of messy emotionally attachments to spoil the energetic sex. The premise of the show is expanded early on when Charlie comes close to a violent outburst when one of Jennifer’s boyfriends belittles the effectiveness of therapy. After almost hitting him with a lamp Charlie realizes he has to go back in therapy. The therapist he trusts is Kate but that whole not having a sexual relationship with a patient threatens to prevent it. With a quick justification based on the letter of the rule they decide to continue having sex while Kate takes on Charlie’s therapy. The final character mandated by the sitcom formula is the neighbor, Michael (Michael Boatman). There is also Brett Butler as the sarcastic bartender in Charlie’s favorite bar.
The series work, it is funny and entertaining distinguishing itself from the every grown sea of sitcoms. In typical F/X fashion this show is definitely not intended for family viewing. The concentration of sexual themes, rage issues and mental illness as the basis of the comedy earns it the TV-MA rating. The primary reason for the degree of success is undoubtedly due to the talent of the cast, no matter what you think about his erratic and seriously pathological behavior the man has a natural ability particularly when it comes to a humorous portrayal of the bad boy archetype. The supporting cast is excellent. Ms Smith might be currently associated with her involvement in the torturous ‘Saw’ film franchise but prior to that she had a delightfully zany role in the CBS sitcom ‘Becker’. Blair is not well known for television work but years of taking on a wide variety of roles in Indy films and mainstream movies has honed her skills that allowed her to excel in this part. The first season was ten episodes but apparently the network has committed to 90 more certain the series will properly continue to develop.