Charlie Sheen is back, people! And he is delivering Grade A (non-crazy) Prime Charlie to your TV set.
Which, in fact, is either a compliment or a slam, depending on how you feel about Charlie Sheen.
Personally, I don't care for Sheen and never thought anything about "Two and a Half Men" was funny. So his new FX sitcom, "Anger Management" (Thursday at 9 p.m.) doesn't do much for me either.
For better or worse, "Anger Management" is an awful lot like "Two and a Half Men" -- his character is even named "Charlie," just like "Charlie Harper" (Sheen must have it in his contract that he can only play characters named Charlie -- cuts down on the confusion on set, I guess).
The "Anger Management" Charlie is smarter, much better dressed, and has a smart ex-wife and a sweet daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) with OCD instead of a creepy brother and boorish nephew. And he's a former professional baseball player who is now a therapist specializing in anger management. He's Charlie Harper Lite, but still a shallow womanizer who speaks fluent Punch Line.
The first episode of "Anger Management" opens with meta references to Sheen's well-documented "Two and a Half Men" troubles, mercifully stopping just before we have to hear him say "Winning!" one more time. So we got that out of the way.
The rest of the show is very jokey and punch line-heavy, with what sounds like either an insanely over-the-top laugh track or some very enhanced live audience laughter. Some of the lines may be chuckle-worthy, but the audience falling into rolling belly laughs every 15 seconds is extremely off-putting. Mostly, episode 1 is a "getting to know you" episode where we meet all the stereotypes -- I mean, characters -- and hear all their best zingers.
The second episode has a plot that revolves around a "slump buster" from Charlie's past, who shows up in a group therapy session to try to win him over. (A "slump buster" is -- apparently -- an unattractive woman bedded by an athlete in the middle of a slump, in an effort to bust out of said slump.)
They refer to her on the show -- a couple of times -- as a "regular woman," because she's not the beautiful, sexy type Charlie usually dates. They then portray the "regular woman" as a gross weirdo (who makes tiaras for her cats, naturally). The "regular woman" is played so over-the-top because, I guess, there are two types of women in the Bad Sitcom World -- beautiful models and homely weirdos.
The difference between "Anger Management" and "Two and a Half Men" -- or the real Charlie Sheen for that matter -- is that this new FX Charlie is repentant and attempts to make things right with the "regular woman," so rudely thrust back into his world. So yes, there's an attempt at image repair going on here, but while still relying on the crutch of degrading women in the process.
Sheen himself is not bad at all. He looks good, he's sharp, he's doing everything right. But it's not a good show. It makes me think it would be interesting to see what a healthy, stable Sheen could do these days with better material.
"Anger Management" isn't trying to be great or groundbreaking, it's just another "Two and a Half Men"-style sitcom capitalizing on Sheen's notoriety and appeal.
And he does have appeal. His track record at CBS is proof of that.
Bottom line: If you liked "Two and a Half Men," knock yourself out.
"Anger Management" debuts with two new episodes Thursday (June 28) at 9 and 9:30 p.m.
Also stars: Selma Blair, Brett Butler, Shawnee Smith, Barry Corbin, and Michael Boatman.