The TV Column: FX rolls dice on Sheen’s new sitcom, ‘Anger Management’

January 15, 2012

— Picking up a series starring an apparently reformed hard-living warlock Vatican assassin without having seen a single script, much less a pilot, 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 the same name, will debut on FX in June.

It was an “excellent pitch,” Landgraf told TV critics on the final day of the tour. And Sheen, who was at the meeting, was “a very different Charlie Sheen” from the tiger-blooded 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’s hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men” so he could seek help for substance abuse and then sacked him from the show when he didn’t.


“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.” (Kristian Dowling/KRISTIAN DOWLING/PICTUREGROUP)

Landgraf noted the ratings threshold at which FX is committed to pick up a whopping 90 more episodes, under terms of its deal with the producers, is “a very, very high ratings threshold.”

“I don’t know whether it’ll sink like a stone . . . let alone whether it can sustain 90 episodes over two years,” he said.

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

At least one TV critic has expressed the opinion that Sheen should be banished from Hollywood for his history of abusive relationships with women, Landgraf noted.

This critic does not know much about how things work in Hollywood.

“If Charlie wants to get his house in order” via a new sitcom in which his character has “complicated positive relationships with women,” that can be a very good thing — not only for Sheen, but “for society,” Landgraf said.

That’s how things work in Hollywood — so long as the thespian’s most recent project was a hit.

And, to that end, the producers of Sheen’s new show have given his 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.” FX announced the project in mid-December and again in early January.

AMC’s cliffhangers

That long-delayed fifth season of “Mad Men” will debut with a two-hour episode on Sunday, March 25, the network’s programming chief Joel Stillerman revealed Saturday to the hotel ballroom’s worth of critics.

And “The Killing” returns for a second season with a two-hour premiere on Sunday, April 1. But, Stillerman hastened to add, despite the state of high knicker-knottedness among some of the same critics he was addressing, the identity of the killer from Season 1 will not — repeat NOT — be revealed until the end of Season 2. Which, he noted, is how it played out in the series’s original, Danish version.

“We want you to know we learned a lot from your response to Season 1 . . . we heard you clearly,” Stillerman told petulant critics, obsequiously, in re their outrage over the Season 1 finale’s non-killer-revealing cliffhanger.

We learned a lot, too. We learned that not all TV critics do enough homework, such as rereading their own Television Critics Association Press Tour transcripts from last January’s press tour, in which the showrunner told the critics there was no guarantee the first-season killer would be revealed by the end of that season.

“I can confirm the killer will be revealed in the Season 2 finale,” Stillerman told the critics one year later.

“Be nice!” he said when some members of the mob began to snarl.

Stillerman promised that AMC execs actually looked at the option of veering away from the original Danish series, in order to reveal the killer sooner, but realized it would be like pulling the thread on a sweater. And so the network decided — but only after “significant discussion,” he assured the critics — “to do justice to the story” they “fell in love with, resolving the murder at the end of Season 2.”

The mob sucked happily on that pacifier.

Meanwhile, AMC’s zombie drama “The Walking Dead” returns Feb. 12 — the same night the network premieres its new six-episode reality series “Comic Book Men,” Stillerman also announced. Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy”) is among the exec producers of the show, which is set in his comic shop.

The “Mad Men” debut date announcement puts the finishing touch on a months-long saga that began late last March, when AMC announced it had triggered its option with production company Lionsgate to telecast a fifth season of the tony period drama. At that time, AMC said the fifth season would not be ready in time for a summer ’11 debut because of a contract dispute with show creator Matthew Weiner.

Stuck working together

The first breakfast fracas of Winter TV Press Tour 2012 broke out early Saturday morning when Univision did its best to keep TV critics from putting questions to panelists Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony — hosts/producers of the network’s new music competition series “Q’Viva! The Chosen.”

If you want to get a mob of TV critics really worked up, schedule a 7:30 a.m. breakfast Q&A with America’s Most Famous Nastily Divorcing Pop Stars on the 11th consecutive day of their confinement at a conference hotel in Pasadena, Calif. Then start the clambake about 30 minutes late. And instead of letting critics have at AMFNDPS — this part’s critical — filibuster!

TV critics who’d crawled out of bed for the Q&A first had to sit through a panel discussion of Univision’s new fat-farm reality series. Then, when the Q&A with J. Lo and Anthony finally began, a Univision moderator began to “question” them until one veteran TV critic shouted at the woman to put a sock in it.

After which, critics got to put only two questions to the pair, who announced last summer that they were ending their seven-year marriage, before a sparkly eczema of super-hot dancers erupted on a makeshift dance floor in the room.

This went over, as Deadline correspondent Ray Richmond noted in conversation afterward, like a striptease at the Vatican.

Furious critics could not demonstrate their anger by storming out. Clever, clever Univision had erected the dance floor in front of the exit doors. And, as soon as the dancers called it quits, the network hustled J.Lo and Anthony off stage — while the Adele breakup anthem “Rolling in the Deep” played in the room.

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