Charlie Sheen and Lionsgate — the company that makes “Mad Men” — made it official Monday, putting out the “For Sale” sign on a new comedy series starring wild-child Sheen as a guy with anger-management issues.
It’s the Practically Perfect Sheen Project.
First, the obvious: typecasting. The new comedy series will be loosely based on the 2003 flick “Anger Management” in which Jack Nicholson played an athlete turned counselor who has serious anger-management issues. This means any new TMZ fodder that Sheen gins up, onstage or off, during the run of the show can be written off as “research.”
On the other hand, Sheen will probably be better behaved now, based on his financial arrangement in the new series. He’s being paid very little upfront in the form of a salary. But he stands to make a lot of money in profit participation. That means he has to keep it together through at least episode No. 100 — the magic number of episodes it takes to give a show a viable “library” of episodes for syndication.
To that end, the project reunites Sheen with an actual adult — someone he has known a long time and with whom he apparently can work: Revolution Studio chief Joe Roth.
Revolution made the “Anger Management” flick and, therefore, is one of the principals in the new series. Roth, a former movie-studio suit, oversaw Sheen big-screen vehicles “Major League,” “Young Guns” and “Three Musketeers,” among others. That is why Roth got to say, in Monday’s announcement, “Who better than Charlie Sheen to tackle ‘Anger Management?’ ” Added Roth: “With Charlie’s incredible talent and comedic gifts, he remains the leading man of TV sitcoms.”
Sheen said he “chose” to do “Anger Management” because it “provides me with real ownership in the series, a certain amount of creative control and the chance to be back in business with one of my favorite movie producers of all time, Joe Roth.”
Interested networks will be getting a new sitcom that stars the guy who has for the past several years headlined the country’s most popular comedy series, CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” — until, that is, Warner Bros. TV sacked him a few months ago, citing, well, his anger-management issues, among other things.
Which is why Sheen’s so lucky that selling the show will fall to Lionsgate-owned operation Debmar-Mercury. That company’s co-presidents, Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, are the guys who sold Tyler Perry to TBS. And they’re using a similar model to sell Sheen.
Back when Perry was looking to do a comedy series with an African American cast — but TV network suits had something in mind with a blond-haired, blue-eyed neighbor and a redheaded freckle-faced best friend — Debmar-Mercury and Perry pitched a new kind of deal: A network had to buy and telecast only 10 episodes. But if those 10 episodes hit certain agreed-upon ratings thresholds, 90 more episodes would get ordered.
TBS landed “House of Payne,” and “Meet the Browns” followed, as well as “Are We There Yet?” and the upcoming “For Better or Worse.”
Debmar-Mercury is similarly pitching the maybe-hard-to-sell Sheen, who presumably understands that he has to get at least 100 episodes in the can — not just ordered. A 100-episode order just puts the bat in Sheen’s hand; if he flakes out at episode No. 62, it’s Game Over. It’s a lucrative model for Sheen, but it’s back-loaded.
In the Debmar-Mercury model, it doesn’t take four or five years to churn out those magic 100 episodes — it takes just 2.5 years. The network pays a smaller license fee than you might expect for a comedy starring the guy who was the star of “Two and a Half Men.” That’s because Sheen’s acting salary is modest and because the network is getting the series exclusively for a shorter window of time before viewers can also see it elsewhere, in reruns.
Which explains why Marcus and Bernstein said in Monday’s 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. It’s not every day you can roll out a sitcom featuring the star of the biggest TV comedy of the past decade.”
Even so, a deal with one of the Time Warner cable networks, such as TBS, is maybe a long-ish shot, given that Sheen has sued Time Warner’s Warner Bros. TV — and “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre — for $100 million over his ouster from “Men.”
But other networks might lap up the idea of buying a show starring a loose cannon who loves to rant. Take FX, whose “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter last week launched his annual naughty-language-Twitterpalooza against the TV academy, when that organization declined to nominate him, his show or his lovely wife, Katey Sagal, for Primetime Emmy Awards.
A Charlie Sheen sitcom might fit right in its wheelhouse.