Thursday night will be an evening a comedy for FX, as the network is set to bring Wilfred and Louie back for a second and third season respectively, in addition to premiering Anger Management and Brand X with Russell Brand. Besides the fact that they're all comedies, the common denominator among these shows is the star power, with each series featuring at least one well known name to draw in viewers, but in terms of format and style, each series is really doing its own thing, so it should be interesting to see how the ratings shake out after tonight's (June 28) premieres. Will people tune in for the full evening of comedy, or will they pick and choose from the selection?
Anger Management - 9:00 and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT
Loosely based on the film by the same name, Anger Management is a multi-camera comedy, which brings Charlie Sheen back to the small screen in a starring role as a single father and anger management therapist. While I've always considered Sheen to be a great fit for comedies, I'll admit that I'm not, nor have I ever been a regular viewer of Two and a Half Men, and my appreciation of multi-camera comedies these days is somewhat limited. That applies here.
The style of humor and rhythm of the dialogue fits your standard sitcom mould, with lots of staged joke set-ups and deliveries, capped off with the laughter of the studio audience. That may be for the best as far as attracting Sheen's Two and a Half Men fan base, and Sheen is most definitely back to form in his new role as (another) Charlie. Of what I've seen of FX's full Thursday night line-up, Anger Management falls short of what Wilfred and Louie are bringing to the table. But the styles of these shows are so different that it's almost impossible to draw fair comparisons. That said, I think those who were drawn in by the appeal of Sheen and/or the promotions for Anger Management will get what they were looking for.
Wilfred - 10:00 p.m. ET/PT
Wilfred kicked off with a preview episode last week, but the season doesn't officially begin until tonight with "Letting Go." Based on an Australian series by and starring Jason Gann, Wilfred stars Elijah Wood as a man who, possibly due to depression, sees his neighbor's dog Wilfred (Gann) as a man in a dog-suit. In Season 1, the two formed a bizarre but amusing friendship, but things are now strained between Wilfred and Ryan. Season 2 picks up with Wilfred refusing to roll over and let Ryan walk all over him. It seems Ryan's going to have to bring a bit more to the table in terms of the friendship he has with the dog. It should be interesting to see how their relationship develops as the second season progresses.
Beyond the preview episode, Season 2 gets off to a good start as the story moves forward and we're updated on where things are for Ryan, including his work-life, and his feelings for Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), Wilfred's owner, and the status of her relationship with Chris Klein's Drew. There's nothing quite like Wilfred on TV, and not just because the show features a man in a dog costume. The series' boil kind of the humor and the dynamic of Ryan and Wilfred's relationship, which is almost that of a sad clown and his light-humored canine sidekick makes for some charming, clever TV.
Louie - 10:30 p.m. ET/PT
There are some comedy series that peak early, offering its best material in its first season and fizzling beyond the concept of its initial premise. Louie is not one of those shows. In fact, after devouring the first five episodes of the third season of Louis C.K.'s comedy series, I feel confident in saying that Louie not only continues to get better with each season, but it's one of the best comedies to air on television in the past decade. Playing himself in the series, Louie is a single father and stand-up comedian living in New York City. Despite his success as a comedian, Louie "the character" plays like your average man just trying to get by and figure the world out. The start of the third season seems to emphasize his need for companionship, as we see Louie in various dating and social situations. What's presented to us in the first handful of episodes is some of the best the series has offered.
This includes guest appearances by Gaby Hoffmann and Parker Posey, both of which contribute to the greatness of the new season. Resisting the urge to go into detail just what makes Season 3 so satisfying (so far), I'll simply state that Louis C.K. has once again managed to work his style of humor into the narrative of his series with subtle brilliance, creating scenarios in which to play out his views on relationships, whether that be with women, his kids or friends. What's funny about each scenario is as much in the way he reacts to things as it is in the situations themselves. That's what makes a great sitcom and it's what works so well for Louie. If you're looking forward to Season 3, you're in for a treat. The season starts with "Something is Wrong," a solid episode focusing on a bad day for Louie. Of the first five episodes, "Miami" is my favorite, but "Daddy's Girlfriend" Parts 1&2 are also top notch.
Brand X with Russell Brand - 11:00 p.m. ET/PT
Of FX's Thursday night comedy lineup, Brand X is the only series I didn't get to screen ahead of time, so I can't comment specifically on what's going to air tonight, however from what we've seen in the promos, it looks like an appreciation for Russell Brand's sense of humor will be a necessity to enjoy this series. That may be said for any comedian's series, but Brand does seem to have a very distinct style that some may love, while others don't appreciate. As a fan of Brand, his accent and delivery, and his off-beat way of looking at the world, I'll be interested to see how this show does. It seems like it might be a step closer toward late-night comedy for FX, given the time-slot and the nature of the series, but we'll have to see what Brand delivers as he shares his point of view on world events, politics and pop-culture. The promos made me laugh, so hopefully the series delivers.
Of FX's new Thursday night offerings, Louie stands above the rest, but Wilfred definitely delivers. Anger Management is a show that might grow on me in time, but I don't think I'm the audience for it. And that might be a fair way to assess of all of these shows together. There may be a general audience with a wide enough appreciation for humor to embrace all four series with equal or varying amounts of vigor, but stepping back and looking at what FX has bundled together for Thursday nights, it seems more likely that viewers will come for what they want and leave the rest. As there's certainly something to be said for variety, FX gets major points for its open mindedness when it comes to the types of comedy they showcase. There's really a little something for everyone here.