On Thursday night, the FX sitcom "Anger Management" returns for its second and, in a sense, final season: After an initial run of 10 episodes, the next 90 (yes, 90) will run more or less uninterrupted over the course of the next two years. (They'll likely take a week off for the start of the NCAA basketball tournament in March.)
The deal allows FX to purchase a relatively inexpensive property, guarantees production company Debmar-Mercury syndication dollars starting in 2014, and hands star Charlie Sheen some walking-around money. The mercurial actor has a reported approximate 40 percent stake in the show, including the syndication profits.
Chuck Saftler, executive vice-president of FX and the man responsible for greenlighting episodes 11 through 100, was aware that the program -- with its laugh track and three-camera setup — has little in common with the network's edgier fare, like the critically acclaimed "Louie" and "Justified." "Prior to 10 p.m.," said Saftler, "we have 'Two and a Half Men,' "How I Met Your Mother,' and the best movie portfolio on the air. When you look at how 'Anger Management' plays with 'Two and a Half Men,' or movies like 'Iron man' or 'Taken' or 'Avatar,' it’s a very traditional fit."
"Anger Management" has more in common with "Avatar" than with "Louie" — it's the only original show on FX, said Saftler, not produced in-house. But since it's not airing in the network's signature hour — "when we focus on FX originals which have a distinct tonality to them and an originality to them" — it doesn't need to be as suffused in sensibility. Saftler indicated that the other option to fill airtime would have been to bid on second-run programming like "Modern Family" or "2 Broke Girls," a far more expensive proposition. ("Modern Family" sold to USA for approximately $1.5 million an episode, per reports.) "The pricing of the show — in essence, bulk ordering — is significantly lower than any other piece of programming we could buy," said Saftler.
As for maintaining the audience that made "Anger Management" the No. 2 comedy in cable in the prized 18-49 demographic last year and staving off the attrition it suffered at points during its summer 2012 run: "It's going to be a really interesting experiment and a learning experience for all of those producers out there that have 10-90 models in their heads."
And what about Sheen, whose last sitcom experience, on "Two and a Half Men," was marred by his erratic behavior and denunciations of his showrunner? Saftler said the actor had been consistently on-time and considerate, and noted that "he's a consummate professional, and one of the best in the world at being a sitcom star."