Anger Management. Because titling it Generic late-1980s Sitcom Where We Can Say “Pussy” was too on the nose. Three episodes in, and I’m wondering why the FX executives thought it necessary to hole themselves up in a vent-less room being primed and painted as they made their creative decisions about this show. I’m also in major wonderment over Charlie Sheen’s possible inability to act comedically without a laugh track assuaging his worries. Maybe it’s something he should see a psychiatrist for. But not one on this show.
Tonight’s wackier-than-wacky premise involved Charlie putting his therapy group through sleep deprivation with hopes of reaching sodium pentothal –levels of inner truth sharing. It’s inspired by ex-wife Jennifer, who is so tired when she drops their daughter Sam off, she allows Charlie to take her upstairs for a nap, where she blithely confesses to such things as trying to trick him into getting her pregnant because she thought it would save their marriage. When I’m tired, my erroneous decisions usually include falling asleep in an armchair, not admitting to the armchair that I almost bought an ottoman because I wasn’t comfortable enough. (From the Dept. of Terrible Analogies.) This is being nitpicky I suppose, but this plot makes me think of how shitty Charlie’s usual therapeutic methods are to reach illusions of epiphanies in something as unscientific and untrustworthy as sleep deprivation.
So how does the group take to these tactics? (This group, beyond Ed’s general curmudgeon-ness, seems to have far more self-image issues than anger issues.) Everyone piles up in Charlie’s living room for a 36 hour cameras-on no-sleep-cycle before the actual session begins. (Notice how the lame-ass “Who gets the couch?” jokes are made irrelevant by successive shots of different people sitting on the couch as the episode goes on.) Nothing new or lasting is established here. Nolan, more child-child than man-child, wants Lacey, who wants little to do with him romantically. Patrick is entirely focused on falsifying emotion for the cameras. And Ed is just kind of there, playing Wii Bowling, sometimes under a blanket where it looks like he’s masturbating. This is FX, where masturbation jokes are shoehorned into scenes that don’t already contain similar visuals.
The plot culminates in mostly predictable ways, and with a lot of yawning and people having tired eyes while saying, “Boy, I’m tired.” The young, sultry Lacey eventually just can’t keep her mouth off of Charlie’s. (Sidetrack: In the 88 Minutes segment of the How Did This Get Made? podcast, the panel discusses how odd it looks when young women are throwing themselves at the rapidly aging Al Pacino. I draw parallels here.) She actually tells Charlie, “I’m going to get a tattoo of you somewhere special, and if you grow a beard, it’ll be perfect.” Gross. She skankily uses scantily-clad metaphors as her session input, and Nolan realizes she’s a slut. And of course, she apologizes to Charlie the next day and all is well. Nolan really has no purpose in this show. In other news, Patrick doesn’t manage to realistically tell the story of his mother’s faux death. And Charlie gets to have his own breakthrough when he yells at Ed and accidentally calls him “Dad.” This is treated as if it’s monumental, since Charlie made so many references to the molded penny his dad made for him at Carlsbad Caverns, and will probably go back to it in future episodes. Schlock.
What the fuck am I watching? There aren’t three sequential moments in this episode where a character acts anywhere close to how a normal person would act. Kate would have no business hanging around Charlie’s house unless they were sleeping together, which is supremely obvious, but then Jennifer takes it upon herself to vocally assume that Kate is gay. Ed mentions getting personal discounts from the person who tortured him at the “Hanoi Hilton” back in his Vietnam days. This already isn’t funny, but it descends further when Lacey remarks disparagingly, “That’s what you get for staying at a Hilton.” This is both ignorant on a historical level, as well as on a hospitality level. Have Hiltons superseded Super 8s and Motel 6s in the world of hotel humor? (I ask this as both a Hilton employee, and someone who enjoys laughing when things are funny.)
The only line I laughed at was when Charlie asked Sam if she understood why a container full of baby teeth in her pocket, used as a good luck charm, might creep guys out. And then there were twenty more minutes of writer’s room garbage.
If this were CBS or ABC Family, I wouldn’t be judging the show as harshly. Probably because I wouldn’t have watched it in the first place. Its presence on FX connoted, if not cutting-edge humor, at least humor juvenile enough to transcend simple criticisms. But this heaping pile of shit, like The Killing on A&E, is the odd man out with the asterisk next to its name. There is no way this show can be saved. It is not winning.