The Charlie Sheen TV sitcom version of Anger Management is somewhat like David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman show. (Remember that? It seems like it’s been a long time.) It’s getting a lot of coverage but may never actually happen. With Wonder Woman, at least they had someone to write it and a network that ordered the pilot; with Anger Management, all the studio has is Sheen. No one has agreed to write it for him yet, and they don’t have a network for it yet. Though eventually they’ll find somebody who needs the work and is willing to work with Sheen, and since the studio has a long working relationship with TBS, they’re probably going to be taking some meetings with that network, even if it doesn’t wind up there.
It’s Lionsgate as a TV studio that’s marginally more interesting to me than the show itself. Though Lionsgate has mostly shed its Canadian origins, it remains something of an outsider in U.S. entertainment, one of the more successful independent studios and one of the few semi-independents that’s in the TV business. The constant, highly public negotiations over the future of Mad Men are reminiscent of the kind of brawls that used to take place in the ’80s, when networks would battle it out with the smaller companies that produced their shows. They offer the usual combination of shows that are prestigious – Weeds, Mad Men, Nurse Jackie – and shows that are not, like this one. But some of the business strategies involved with their shows are a bit pleasantly outside-the-box, which is necessary when a studio doesn’t have its own network to sell stuff to.
The strategy involved with Anger Management, if they can sell it, is the same that Lionsgate (or its subsidiary Debmar-Mercury) developed for Tyler Perry shows. It’s sort of a combination of cable TV distribution and the old syndication method of producing 65-episode seasons. They make a regular-sized cable season, then if it works, they pick it up for a season of 90 episodes, enabling them to sell it into syndication right away. This system requires that the episodes be made really cheap, really fast, and really bad.
Whether Sheen could work that fast is another question, but if it works out, they’ll have lots of episodes of an inexpensive sitcom with a washed-up sitcom star looking like he’s just doing it for the money. Like I said, it’s kind of an ’80s throwback.