Charlie Sheen has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past week or so, just as his new series, Anger Management, is getting ready to hit the marketplace, probably later this week, with cable and even some broadcast networks potentially getting pitched. Gone is the disheveled look, the chain-smoking, the crazy talk of tiger blood and warlocks and the insults thrown at his former Two and a Half Men employers. They have been replaced by a clean-shaven, charming and remorseful Sheen who seems completely normal again. That is exactly what buyers would want to see as committing to doing a show with a star who has had drug problems is never a 100% safe bet. Over the past 2 months, since Lionsgate TV announced in July that it plans to produce a sitcom starring Sheen based on the movie Anger Management, Sheen has undergone a process of image rehabilitation that included some time away from the limelight followed by his reintroduction as a reformed man this past week. And it seems Lionsgate TV and its subsidiary Debmar-Mercury, which will handle the selling of Anger Management, have timed the shopping of the show perfectly.
1. Catch the wave of popularity: After an initial surge, Sheen’s mad persona shtick from the spring started to quickly wear off, relegating the actor to pop culture’s B-leagues. Now, with the Comedy Central Roast which aired last night and its massive publicity campaign, Sheen is relevant again and back in the zeitgeist. What’s more, his new persona is the epitome of a classic sitcom star — likable, self-depreciating and no longer divisive and controversial. With Sheen hotter than he has been in a long time and sporting a new clean image, this is a great time for Lionsgate to shop him to networks.
2. Lock in an experienced showrunner: After an extensive search, Sheen and the series’s producers went with veteran comedy showrunner Bruce Helford, who has a solid track record in creating star vehicles with The Drew Carey Show and George Lopez. Helford’s deal for Anger Management is expected to close shortly, just in time for Lionsgate to take the project out, capitalizing on Sheen’s renewed popularity.
3. Clear legal complications: Sheen’s ongoing litigation with Warner Bros. TV was considered a liability for Anger Management — it is not easy to sell a show when your star is embroiled in a legal battle with one of the biggest TV studios in town. Now Sheen’s dispute with WBTV is nearing a settlement, also just in time for the shopping of his new show. As for potential suitors, Comedy Central is considered a logical place to pitch Anger Management as the cable network already has a relationship with Sheen through the roast and it also had been interested in the Debmer-Mercury model of accelerated comedy series production. The network bought a Will Ferrell-produced comedy under that template a couple of years ago but it didn’t go beyond the initial order.
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