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TV Column
Posted at 02:29 PM ET, 01/15/2012

Winter TV Press Tour 2012: FX prez: Charlie Sheen show ‘roll of dice’


“Anger Management” executive producer Bruce Helford with Charlie Sheen (Kevin Winter - GETTY IMAGES)
Picking up a series starring an apparently reformed hard-living warlock Vatican-assassin, without having seen a single script, much less a pilot episode, is not a “cynical publicity stunt” — it’s a “roll of the dice,” FX president John Landgraf insisted Sunday at Winter TV Press Tour 2012.

“I go into the process as optimistically as you can without having seen scripts,” Landgraf said cautiously of his decision to buy Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom “Anger Management,” adding “it’s a very inexpensive series.”

Then, remembering FX’s bad-boy brand, Landgraf also mentioned, “We’re a network that likes to take risks.”

“Anger Management,” based on the 2003 hit flick of same name, will debut on FX in June. And, mindful of Sheen’s successful starring gig in CBS’s “Two and a Half Men,” “AM” will be packaged with “Men” reruns, Landgraf told TV critics attending the final day of the press tour.

In late October, FX won a bidding war to air the new Sheen project, agreeing to the somewhat unusual arrangement in which the network orders and telecasts 10 episodes. If those episodes hit an agreed upon ratings threshold, the network is immediately on the hook for the 90 more episodes needed to get it ready for off-network syndication. Those episodes all would be produced lickety split – none of the usual waiting around to find out of the network is picking up another 13 or 22 for the next season. It is, some TV industry navel lint pickers have insisted, the Practically Perfect Production Plan for a show starring the erratic Sheen.

Nonetheless, Landgraf confided to the critics Sunday, “I walked into the pitch as skeptical as you would imagine.”

But, it was an “excellent pitch,” he said, and Sheen, who was at the meeting, was “a very different Charlie Sheen” from the tiger-blooded warlock brained F-18 who entertained us and kept TMZ in copy for months when Sheen went on a tear after Warner Bros. shut down production of CBS hit sitcom “Men” so he could seek help for substance abuse and then sacked him from the show when he didn’t.

Besides, Landgraf noted, the ratings threshold at which the FX is committed to pick up a whopping 90 more episodes is “a very, very high ratings threshold.”

And, Landgraf told critics reassuringly, he’s seen outlines for 15 episodes, and the show is being run by veteran showrunner Bruce Helford.

That said, Landgraf acknowledged, “I don’t know whether I’ll sink like a stone…let along whether it can sustain 90 episodes over two years.”

“Everything we do is a roll of the dice. Sometimes it comes up the number you want – sometimes it does not.”

He noted that at least one TV critic has expressed the opinion Sheen should be “banished to Siberia” for his history of abusive relationships with women. This critic does not know much about how thing work in Hollywood.

“I’m all for giving him the opportunity to turn things around,” Landgraf said.

And the storyline for the sitcom embraces Sheen’s checkered past.

“If Charlie wants to get his house in order, and that encompasses his issues with substance abuse and his issues with his own family” via a show in which he, “as an actor, has more complicated positive relationships with women” that can be a very good thing – not only for Sheen, but “for society,” Landgraf said.

To that end, the producers have giten Sheen’s character a 13-year-old daughter.

Meanwhile, FX’s six-episode test of a late night show starring Russell Brand will be called “Strangely Uplifting.” “We have to start small,” Langraff said of the netowrk’s big-toe dipping into the crowded late-night unscripted series pool.

FX announced in mid-December that it had ordered six episodes of a Brand-hosted late-night show, as duly reported in The TV Column.

FX liked the announcement so much, it announced the pick-up again on Jan. 9, and The Post reported it again elsewhere. We are deeply committed to keeping you informed each and every time FX announces it has ordered its Russell Brand-hosted late night TV show.

By  |  02:29 PM ET, 01/15/2012

 
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