Los Angeles: Charlie Sheen in a TV comedy about anger management. How can it miss?
That's what the actor and several established companies are betting with 'Anger Management,' a sitcom announced on Monday. What the show needs now is a network or syndication home, along with a more tranquil work history than Sheen left behind at 'Two and a Half Men.'
Sheen, 45, who was fired from the CBS sitcom by studio Warner Bros. Television because of his erratic personal life and public ridicule of the show's producer, will be answering in part to himself on the new series.
He will have a significant ownership stake in the series, producer Lionsgate Television said in a statement. He will also gain "a certain amount of creative control," Sheen noted in the release.
"I chose 'Anger Management' because, while it might be a big stretch for me to play a guy with serious anger management issues, I think it is a great concept," he said.
The series, based on the 2003 Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson movie, will be shopped to prospective broadcast and cable networks by Lionsgate subsidiary Debmar-Mercury.
Analyst Bill Carroll of Katz Media speculated that the series would start on cable for initial exposure and then move to cable and broadcast syndication. That's the model used by Debmar-Mercury on the Ice Cube comedy series 'Are We There Yet?' along with 'Tyler Perry's House of Payne' and 'Meet the Browns,' all of which air on TBS.
Despite Sheen's stormy final chapter with CBS and Warner, cable and broadcast outlets will have to give his new project "serious consideration" given his past success, Carroll said.
Pointing to Sheen's ownership position in the new series, Carroll added, "You have to assume that's going to motivate his focus on the show," Carroll said.
That was acknowledged, in similar words, in the announcement.
"Our sitcom model is all about building well-known brands around extraordinary talents like Charlie that, thanks to their large profit participation, are highly motivated to succeed," said Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein.
Sheen's former reported salary of $1.8 million an episode — among the highest for a TV actor — didn't deter him from derailing his relationship with CBS, Warner and, most explosively, with Chuck Lorre, the creator and executive producer of "Two and a Half Men."
After deriding Lorre as a clown, a loser and a "contaminated little maggot," Sheen's bosses in turn blasted him for his unpredictable behavior as a drug-abusing, reckless playboy. The actor didn't relent, keeping up his tirades in his media blitz and during a live concert tour that popularized terms including "warlock" and "tiger blood."
Sheen was fired by Warner in March and filed a $100 million breach of contract lawsuit against the studio and Lorre shortly afterward.
In May, Ashton Kutcher was announced to replace Sheen in "Men," TV's most-watched sitcom, which returns this fall for its ninth season with the remaining cast intact (Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones).
Sheen's new producer, Revolution Studios founder Joe Roth, has worked successfully with him before. Their five feature films together include "Major League," ''Young Guns" and "Three Musketeers." Sheen welcomed the chance to be back in business with Roth, whom he called "one of my favorite movie producers of all time."
The producers and distributors will be a key selling point for the new series, Carroll said.
"I have to assume what you're really buying is Joe Roth's ability to produce and deliver a show with Charlie Sheen ... and Lionsgate's track record and the ability of them and Debmar-Mercury to deliver shows. Whoever picks up the show is making a deal with them, not Sheen," Carroll said.
He sounded an optimistic note about the project, calling "Anger Management" a known concept. And he said Sheen's TV history as a whole should be taken into account.
"Two and a Half Men" was produced on a consistent basis for most of its run and Sheen has a track record of being able "to deliver, performance-wise," Carroll said.
No additional cast members or production start date have been announced by Lionsgate for "Anger Management."
In the film, a mild-mannered man is ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a therapist who needs anger therapy himself. The role Sheen will play in the series was not specified by Lionsgate.
Sheen has another TV obligation first: the target of a Comedy Central roast that will debut Sept. 19, the same night the revamped "Two and a Half Men" begins on CBS.