“Anger Management” TV: Managing My Anger About It

According to IMDB, Charlie Sheen‘s new series on FX, Anger Management, is “(a) TV sitcom-version of the 2003 feature film about a guy sentenced to anger management counseling with an aggressive instructor.” It premiered last week with the episode “Charlie Goes Back to Therapy,” and, as expected, it drew tons of viewers.

In brief, his character, Charlie Goodson, is a former baseball player with anger management issues who’s now an anger management therapist—with—guess what—continuing anger management issues.

Because there’s a group therapy focus, many reviewers have compared Sheen’s show to someone else’s from way back when.

Variety: “‘The Bob Newhart Show’ with more sex jokes…”

Washington Times: “Goodson has a 15-year-old daughter he adores, a sassy ex-wife he lets push his buttons, and, in addition to the paying members of his therapy group (shades of ‘The Bob Newhart Show’), he also volunteers at a penitentiary to work with cartoonish hardened inmates.”

Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly:

The locus of most of this show’s comedy…is the therapy sessions Charlie conducts. Watching him referee a group of recalcitrants and oddballs, you recognize the true template for this series: The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78), with its bemused therapist surrounded by his wacky clientele.

But they’re not as vividly drawn as Newhart’s patients; you’ll find no equivalent to, for example, Jack Riley’s intriguingly furtive, insecure misanthrope Elliot Carlin.

Instead, the troubled souls in Anger Management are all less pleasingly complicated types, familiar to sitcoms current and past: the cranky old man (Northern Exposure’s Barry Corbin), the sarcastic gay man (Michael Arden), the sexpot (Noureen Dewulf), and a dope (Derek Richardson) who likes goading other people. Charlie also has a second group of patients – a group of prison inmates he counsels – but that’s a tonally strange, unfunny subplot that will either have to be dropped or drastically overhauled, since its humor in the first two episodes involve awkward jokes about murder, gay sex, or rape.

And it just gets worse. States a Chicago Tribune reviewer: “The funniest riffs come from perhaps the most contrived plot point. Charlie is best friends with fellow therapist Kate (Selma Blair), whom he is also having sex with. And in the pilot, they become each other’s therapists, putting off the physical relationship for about 30 seconds before getting frisky on her office chair.”

What the…?! They become each other’s therapists?! Where do I begin…???? The ethics against having sex with a client? The inability of a colleague-who’s-also-a-best-friend to be an objective-enough therapist? The no-way-can-your-client-also-be-your-shrink and no-way-can-your-shrink-also-be-your-client?

Apparently, here’s how this all develops: First, there’s Charlie’s realization that he needs his own therapy because of his still-unresolved anger stuff. The Washington Times:

‘Why do you need a therapist? You are a therapist,’ his neighbor asks.

Goodson responds this way: ‘Did you ever see a tow truck hauling a tow truck?’

Of course, Charlie being Charlie, there’s a problem.

‘There’s only one tow truck I trust,’ he sighs, ‘and unfortunately, I’m having sex with it.’

How ridiculous. A therapist actually believes he needs to have a developed and trusting relationship with his shrink before he starts therapy?!

Virginia Rohan, www.northjersey.com, adds that when Charlie’s neighbor then asks why this is problematic, he replies, “It’s unethical for a therapist to have sex with a patient. They teach that Day One. It weeds out half the class.”

Ha ha. Good riddance to them. Charlie, it’s not too late for you to weed yourself out.

David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun, who finds the show amusing, parenthetically notes:

(Memo to therapists: Save the emails about patients and therapists sleeping together. I didn’t say the series was enlightened. I wouldn’t go near Charlie or her if I wanted real-life therapy. But this is sitcom, remember?)

Yes. Yes, we do remember. But we’re sick and tired of it anyway, and we’re not gonna take it anymore! There are actually plenty other ways to make fun of therapy and therapists than to continually give the public the completely wrong impression that therapists may have sexual relationships with their clients.

“What would Dr. Melfi say?” This is asked by Mark Perigard of the Boston Herald, and it shows me that at least one critic is uncertain about Charlie’s doings. (Dr. Melfi was the shrink on The Sopranos.)

Better yet, Jace Lacob at The Daily Beast points out that Kate: “…willingly throws away her professionalism and morality to continue to have sex with Charlie, even as she ‘treats’ him. She’s said to be brilliant, but we’re shown no examples of her intelligence, just her sex drive.”

And, refreshingly, David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle, also aptly sums things up: “Two things are relatively safe bets about the new sitcom Anger Management…The ratings are likely to be strong, especially for the first few episodes, and Charlie Sheen probably won’t make the American Psychological Association’s short list to keynote its next convention.”

Thank you, guys. Thank you for your support. I feel a little better already.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.