Charlie Sheen opened his new FX sitcom Thursday night with a soliloquy that referred directly to his personal story — the one about how he got fired from “Two and a Half Men” and then publicly imploded.
Sure, he didn’t mention “Two and a Half Men” by name, but there was no doubt what he was talking about when “Anger Management” began with a closeup of Sheen’s face, as he spoke directly into a camera. His first words: “You can’t fire me. I quit!”
Sheen’s infamous implosion, in which he ranted in a series of radio and TV interviews about “winning,” “tiger blood” and prodigious drug use all took place in February and March 2011, for the most part, and in the months since then, Charlie stayed out of the public eye (again, for the most part) while, evidently, plotting a comeback.
The centerpiece of the strategy was, and still is, this new sitcom called “Anger Management,” based supposedly on the 2004 movie of the same name.
But it’s really all about Charlie, even the titles: Episode One was called “Charlie Goes Back to Therapy” and Episode Two, also seen Thursday night, was titled “Charlie and the Slumpbuster.”
“Think you can replace me with some other guy? Go ahead — it won’t be the same!” Charlie continued in his opening scene on “Anger Management,” referring obviously to “Two and a Half Men” producer Chuck Lorre replacing him with Ashton Kutcher.
"You may think I'm losing but I'm not!" Charlie declares, just before the shot widens to show him addressing three men who are sitting in his living room to undergo group counseling for their anger issues. It turns out that Charlie's soliloquy, punctuated by Charlie punching an inflatable clown, was meant to demonstrate how they might use the clown, Bobo, in their therapy together.
You see, in this show, Charlie’s an anger therapist. Ha ha — get it? And like the work he did on “Two and a Half Men,” Sheen gets to amble amiably through his scenes, apparently charming everyone he encounters. That seems to parallel the public appearances he made this past week to promote the show. It’s all part of the Charlie Sheen comeback tour, in which he sheepishly shrugs off his past behavior with a “What was I thinking” attitude.
We saw him do this on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” this week. “What was I talking about?” Sheen asked Fallon (in the clip you can watch, above), referring to the 2011 implosion. “I’d lost my children, my job, my money, and my stature, my mind … What was I ‘winning’ about?”
Fallon seemed enthralled by him. And later in the week, Sheen took a similar approach when he was interviewed on “Nightline” by Amy Robach, who seemed utterly charmed as she smiled and beamed at him. Among other things, Sheen said he’d give Chuck Lorre “a hug” if the two ever came face-to-face now. Last year, Sheen threatened to beat the living daylights out of Lorre, or worse — threats that helped trigger Sheen’s dismissal from “Two and a Half Men.”
In introducing the “Nightline” segment, anchor Bill Weir called Charlie “the remodeled rebel,” playing nicely into the p.r. campaign currently underway to restore Charlie’s image. Will it all work? Judging from past experience with Charlie Sheen, probably.
“Anger Management” airs Thursdays at 9/8c on FX.