FX Welcomes Sheen Back To TV, But Will Viewers?

Charlie Sheen will return to television in Anger Management Thursday night on FX. Until last year, Sheen was the lead on CBS's Two and a Half Men, the most popular TV sitcom. His erratic behavior forced CBS to fire him. Critic Eric Deggans, of the Tampa Bay Times, asks will people want to watch more Charlie Sheen?

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Tonight, one of the most famously dysfunctional Hollywood stars is coming back to television. Charlie Sheen's new sitcom, on FX, is called "Anger Management." Last year, he was the star of "Two and a Half Men," but his erratic behavior led CBS to fire him. TV critic Eric Deggans says the big question is whether people really want to watch more Charlie Sheen on the small screen.

ERIC DEGGANS: My best tip for enjoying Charlie Sheen's new show?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANGER MANAGEMENT")

CHARLIE SHEEN: (as Charlie Goodson) I want to talk about what happened yesterday.

DEGGANS: Start with seriously low expectations.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANGER MANAGEMENT")

SHEEN: (as Charlie Goodson) You all witnessed what we, in therapy, call a train wreck.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)

DEGGANS: No kidding. The big joke here is that Sheen's new character, Charlie Goodson, is an anger-management therapist with a temper. He ruined a promising career as a baseball player by blowing up in public.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANGER MANAGEMENT")

SHEEN: (as Charlie Goodson) The point is, anger took away something that I really loved, and I'm here trying to keep that from happening to you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (as character) Hey, can I watch that again? I want to see if I still don't care.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)

DEGGANS: In between the clunky punch lines, producers sprinkle "Anger Management" with nods to its star's infamous, hard-partying past. It's about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The first joke in the first scene of the first episode, is a serious flashback as Charlie Goodson shows his patients how to vent their frustrations.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANGER MANAGEMENT")

SHEEN: (as Charlie Goodson) You can't fire me. I quit! 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 - anyway, you get the idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)

DEGGANS: Jokes like this also feel weird because the last time many of us heard from Charlie Sheen, he sounded like this...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SHEEN: I - I - I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen. Um - it, uh - it's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body. Um - too much.

DEGGANS: Ah, the days when Charlie talked of tiger blood, warlocks, and beating up the executive producer of "Two and Half Men." No wonder he was finally kicked off the highest-paying job on TV's most successful comedy. On NBC's "Today" show earlier this year, even Sheen admitted he may have gone a bit too far.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TODAY")

SHEEN: In - in - in looking at - at- at a lot of the stuff, I kind of went eww, whoa...

MATT LAUER: Why?

SHEEN: ...can't put that back out.

LAUER: It bugs you, to look at it?

SHEEN: It was a little cringe-able, yeah.

DEGGANS: Now, "the Sheenius" wants to get back to what he was doing before - phoning it in on a cheesy sitcom that winks at his outlandish personal life.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ANGER MANAGEMENT")

SHEEN: (as Charlie Goodson) I slept with you because you were drunk and easy, and you smelled like pie.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)

DEGGANS: Seems there's not much difference between the lowbrow wisecracks on "Anger Management," and the lazy comedy of "Two and Half Men." Because it's on FX, the jokes are a little saltier. And when Sheen is in bed with a woman, his shirt's off. But he's really just trying to reset the clock; asking fans to forget that barrel of crazy he cracked open last year, and accept him again as the lovable rogue with an expansive off-screen lifestyle.

I say, it's time for a fan intervention. We know the star of "Wall Street" and "Platoon" can do better. So let's avoid acting as Sheen's enablers, and pass on watching this string of thinly written punch lines with a laugh track turned to 11. In the end, we may be the only ones left who can save Charlie Sheen from himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.

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