Get used to seeing more of Charlie Sheen on your television. A lot more. Or, at least, get used to other people having a lot more opportunities to see Charlie Sheen on their televisions.
Sheen’s new FX show, Anger Management, has an unusual deal with the network; if its first ten episodes hit a certain ratings threshold, it gets another 90. (Tyler Perry has a similar deal for his sitcoms.) And at FX’s presentation day at the Television Critics Association, network head John Landgraf said that, while no decision was yet made, it was “very likely” it will get the “back 90″ order. (Landgraf, who’s known for unusual candor for a network exec, said he’s creatively satisfied against the show—though he says it should fairly be compared not against FX’s other comedies like Louie but traditional network comedies like, well, Two and a Half Men.)
Sheen, who came out for his show’s panel immediately after, carried himself like a guy whose show was a success—despite the ratings falling off from its big premiere—and who felt validated by it. He was joking, he was proud (“I don’t think 90 is going to be enough!”), he was wearing no pants. (Plaid shorts, actually.)
Asked about the public drama/meltdown/firing he went through last year with Two and a Half Men and whether he’d changed since then, he first demurred, “I don’t want to bore any of you here with any details about this stuff.” (Bore us! Bore us!) But he went on, sounding more glad it was over than regretful or sorry for anything in his past: “It was a crazy time, and it was like a runaway train I couldn’t get off of, and I was the conductor… I’m not insane anymore.”
Sheen wasn’t the only FX star getting good news today, though; Landgraf announced a fourth season for the very deserving Louie, whose numbers have improved this season. (Partly, it’s likely, from the Anger Management lead-in.)
It was a densely packed session, FX cramming Landgraf and six shows into four hours. Some other highlights:
* Though Landgraf only announced a renewal for Louie, he had other love to spread around: he expects Wilfred to have several seasons on the network, and Justified “at least six.” The network will shoot a pilot for The Bridge, based on a Scandinavian detective drama. (The Killing, evidently, did not put them off.) The superhero drama Powers is still alive and writing more scripts, though its pilot will need to be recast and reshot if it’s picked up.
* Prize for most erudite references of the TCA tour goes to Russell Brand, who used the term “Brechtian,” said his ideal guest would be myth scholar Joseph Campbell, and answered one question with a ramble about Renaissance artist Caravaggio’s having murdered someone. “Today, people go ‘Oh, you’re an artist,’ like you’ve got asthma, but they used to go out and fucking kill people!” He also stepped in potential trouble with his very last comment, about Sarah Palin: ” People want to fuck her, don’t they? That’s why you tolerate the other stuff.” Then he turned to FX publicist John Solberg, standing at the podium: “John, you could have had me out of here before I said that!”
* FX also previewed its upcoming talk show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. I haven’t yet seen the test show, so I can’t yet comment on it, but it’s described as a comedic commentary on the news, and is produced by Chris Rock. Asked for his take on the state of the media today, Rock observed: “In our lifetime, we will see boobs on the news.”
* In other Anger Management news, in the likely event of a renewal, Sheen’s real-life dad Martin Sheen will be joining the show as, of course, his character’s father.
* Louis CK appeared by satellite from Albany, where he was visiting his daughter at sleepaway camp. He had, as usual, several insightful things to say about his rule-breaking show, such as why he breaks Louie up into shorter- and longer-than-usual story lengths for a TV comedy: “It’s weird to say that every story you tell should be exactly 22 minutes long.” Also: The first thing he does each season is has the music written, then he listens to it to inspire him as he writes. But maybe the most interesting thing was his location, apparently a law office, with bound volumes reading LAWS OF NEW YORK on the shelf behind him. Also, he apparently is, actually a fan of Project Runway. (“I like that Tim Gunn guy. He’s got a good work ethic, he’s a great teacher.”)
* FX paneled the new comedy Legit, starring comedian Jim Jeffries, though it doesn’t debut until January. The pilot is a bumpy ride—some obnoxious-antihero stuff that feels too familiar from Eastbound and Down or Wilfred, but an excellent, even moving resolution and a great performance by DJ Qualls, who plays a severly paralyzed man. On a more serious note, Qualls talked about the bout with cancer that gave him the distinctively slight frame he still has. (In the panel, Jeffries cracked, “It doesn’t take much makeup to make DJ look paralyzed.” DJ: “Heh heh. Fuck you.”)
* Finally, the network brought out Sons of Anarchy, still its highest-rated show ever. FX just got us the first two episodes of the new season, which I’ve been to busy to watch, though I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you in any case. But if you’re caught up through the end of last season, it’s no surprise that the new season opens with Jax dealing with his new power in SAMCRO. Among the cast this season: Harold Perrineau and Jimmy Smits. As the show goes into its fifth season, creator Kurt Sutter says that—although he’s said he intends the show to play out over seven seasons—”this is the first season I’ve started writing with that endgame in mind.” Also, while Clay survived the end of last season (to no small controversy among viewers), all Sutter would say about characters’ future survival prospects is that he sees the show ending with Jax still in the story. Everyone else? Keep your eyes on the road.