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FX network's big risk with Sheen

By David Bauder
AP Television Writer / January 15, 2012
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PASADENA, Calif.—The head of the FX network said Sunday he still hasn't seen a script for Charlie Sheen's new sitcom "Anger Management," which is due to premiere in June.

That's a little late, conceded John Landgraf, FX president and general manager. It illustrates the grand gamble made by the cable network, one with a potentially big payoff.

FX usually produces its own series, and Landgraf said he's never ordered one without seeing a pilot episode, much less a script. "Anger Management," loosely based on the 2003 movie about a troubled therapist who disrupts his patients' lives, is produced by Debmar-Mercury, a subsidiary of the Lionsgate production company.

Landgraf said he has faith in Bruce Helford, former producer of "The Drew Carey Show" and the creative force behind the new series.

The executive said he's met with Sheen, and is confident the actor is trying to pull his life together following the drug-fueled meltdown that led to his firing from CBS' "Two and a Half Men."

"Charlie has 30 years of incredible professionalism under his belt," Landgraf said. "He was respected by the crew of `Two and a Half Men.' Then he had probably the most epic meltdown in the history of television. But he really cares about the quality of his work."

Successful television executives need to bet successfully on the right people to go into business with, and also the right time to go into business with them, he said.

Sheen wants to do a show where he is navigating a complicated relationship with his daughter, much like he is doing in real life, Landgraf said. He said he wouldn't be interested in the show if Sheen did not exhibit some self-awareness of what he's gone through in life.

"I believe in redemption," he said.

FX has ordered 10 episodes of "Anger Management," and will pair it on the schedule with reruns of "Two and a Half Men." It expects a strong debut for curiosity reasons. If it does well after that, FX will consider ordering 90 more, which would put FX in the lucrative business of being able to sell repeats of the show in syndication to other networks.

It's all a bet, Landgraf said.

"Could I be spectacularly wrong about this bet?" he asked. "Yes."

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