Nik Wallenda has nothing on Charlie Sheen.
Sure, the famed high-wire artist thrilled millions as the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
But that amazing feat lasted a mere half-hour, and Wallenda, had he lost his footing, would have been saved by a protective tether.
By contrast, hell-raising Sheen has tempted fate for decades without a net. There's been nothing to defend him from his death-defying appetites but tiger blood, Adonis DNA and endless bluster.
|» When: 9 p.m. Thursday|
|» Channel: FX|
|» Info: fxnetworks.com|
That is the tightrope Charlie Sheen cavorts on, 24/7, where at any moment he is poised to upstage everything else.
Now, never really gone, Sheen is back. He has a new comedy series, "Anger Management," which premieres Thursday on FX with a pair of back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m.
Nominally based on the 2003 Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson movie, the series has been tailored to fit Sheen's image and comfort zone. Once applauded as a talented actor, here he presents yet another version of the self-styled Charlie Sheen-esque character he played as Charlie Crawford on "Spin City" and Charlie Harper on "Two and a Half Men."
On "Anger Management," he plays a psychologist named -- wait for it -- Charlie Goodson.
Charlie is a former up-and-coming baseball player who, in a fit of rage during a game, tried to break a bat across his leg and messed up his knee.
What else could he do for a post-athletic career but become an anger management therapist?
With that, the series takes a step beyond the nonstop hedonism Charlie Harper championed on "Men." Along with enjoying good times, Charlie Goodson is trying to transform his motley clients, and himself, into less angry people.
In short, "Anger Management" displays a bit of heart, and surprisingly (since it's on the edgy FX cable channel, not CBS), turns out to be tamer than "Men."
Charlie 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.
"Anger Management" is an OK, if slight, sitcom with a big star at its center. But since that big star is Sheen, his show is impossible to judge out of the context of whatever off-script spectacle Sheen next makes of himself. Granted, after all this time he hasn't crashed to earth yet. But he is never quite balanced on his real-life tightrope, where, without warning, he's always liable to steal the show -- even from the TV series he stars in.