EXCLUSIVE: As the traditional broadcast pitch season is winding down, one of the most talked-about projects has hit the broadcast/cable marketplace. Star-producer Charlie Sheen has been out in full force pitching his new series Anger Management along with producer Lionsgate TV and distributor Debmar-Mercury over the past two weeks. There has been a healthy level of interest in the project, with a number of networks taking the pitch. I’ve learned that the list included broadcasters NBC, Fox and ABC as well as cable networks FX, USA Network, Comedy Central and TV Land and streaming company Netflix. I hear Sheen was present at all the meetings, which were held on both the East and West coasts. “It was a great pitch, very polished,” a person who has seen the presentation said, with Sheen described as “very buttoned up and passionate.” What is being pitched is a series version of the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie Anger Management about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson), with Sheen playing a version of Nicholson’s character and The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford writing/executive producing.
Word is cable networks FX, USA, Comedy Central or sibling TV Land are a possibility, along with Netflix. Getting meetings with broadcast networks was a coup for the producers, but they were always considered a long shot because of the type of deal Debmar-Mercury is seeking for the series: a trial 10-episode run that, if ratings guarantees are met, triggers a 90-episode pickup. (According to sources, the sizes of the orders in the two stages are not set in stone and Debmar-Mercury may be open to tweaking them, but the commitment is expected to remain very significant, especially for a broadcast network.) There had been talk about Fox possibly teaming with FX and NBC with sibling USA for such an arrangement, but that appears highly unlikely. The only pairing that seems possible is one between Comedy Central and TV Land, both part of MTV Networks Entertainment Group headed by Doug Herzog. Comedy Central, of course, has an in with Sheen as it did the Roast Of Charlie Sheen last month. Given its success, Comedy Central seems like a natural home for Anger Management — though, according to an industry source, Herzog had been joking privately that he wants the bad Charlie Sheen, not the nice one, a reference to Sheen’s recent image rehabilitation as he dropped the rants of warlocks and tiger blood, adopted a conciliatory tone towards his former employers at Two And A Half Men and settled his $100 million lawsuit against them. But while bad boy Charlie Sheen has entertainment value, even cleaned-up Charlie Sheen is probably difficult to insure, and the off-the-rails one last spring is certainly impossible to.
Viacom has the advantage of two possible networks, Comedy Central and TV Land, which has been aggressive in its expansion into original comedy series. Meanwhile, USA too is making a big push in comedy and wants to have an original half-hour series on the air by the fall 2013 launch of its high-profile off-network acquisition Modern Family. (The network recently greenlighted its first half-hour pilots.) FX too has been active in comedy, and it is the cable home of Sheen’s previous series Two And A Half Men, which has done very well there. As expected, TBS, corporate sibling of Two And A Half Men producer Warner Bros TV, is out of the picture despite being the only network to successfully implement Debmar-Mercury’s 10-90 model with Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne and Meet The Browns and Ice Cube/Joe Roth’s Are We There Yet? Roth is also producing the Anger Management series as he produced the 2003 feature. As for Netflix, they have been on the prowl for original series, but their recent troubles stemming from a botched price increase have been a distraction.