Cabler has ordered 10 episodes and, per the syndie deal with Lionsgate-owned distribber Debmar-Mercury, an additional 90 episodes will be aired by FX only if the show hits a series of high ratings thresholds. Debmar-Mercury has a similar deal for Tyler Perry’s comedies, which air on TBS.
Production will begin early next year with a summer launch scheduled. Sheen, who is already a fixture at the cabler in “Men” reruns, will topline the skein that is based on the 2003 bigscreen Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson comedy.
The project was aggressively pitched around town a few weeks ago to a handful of broadcast and cable nets, including USA Network, Comedy Central and TV Land. FX bought the pitch based solely on Helford’s presentation. There was no accompanying pilot, nor anything put on tape.
Said Lionsgate TV president Kevin Beggs: “People thought this was going to be something gimmicky, but what Bruce came up with was a complex and multi-layered pitch.”
While FX has made its mark with original laffers — “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Louie,” “Wilfred” and “The League” — the net has seen a huge increase in its bottom line because of its syndie acquisitions, and the cabler feels it can get keep that momentum going with “Anger Management.”
Cost to FX wasn’t disclosed, but sources say it wasn’t close to the $1.5 million per episode that TBS paid in the recent syndie deal for “The Big Bang Theory,” nor what USA Network paid to land “Modern Family.”
Sheen’s popularity is difficult to gauge right now. He starred in “Men” for eight seasons on CBS, and for many years the series was the most watched comedy on television.
But after an embarrassing series of events that led to Sheen’s dismissal from “Men” earlier this year, the show has stormed back with strong ratings as Ashton Kutcher as Sheen’s replacement.
Following the “Men” brouhaha, Sheen also embarked on a standup tour that left many fans unsatisfied.
The deal for “Anger Management” gives Sheen a stake in the show, so it is now clearly in the actor’s best interest to stay sober. The majority of Sheen’s money won’t come until the 90 additional episodes are ordered.
“Besides for the one spectacularly public meltdown, Charlie’s track record in terms of hours on the job and work ethic is spectacular,” Beggs said. “There was a reason he ascended to being one of comedy’s top stars. There is nobody who has more to prove than Charlie. He is highly motivated and has been incredibly hands-on in meetings. … He’s betting on himself.”
If Sheen becomes medically unable to complete the 100 episodes, all parties have out clauses. Regarding Sheen’s history of instability and what it would mean to the show’s future, one source said: “It’s fair to say that everyone that has something invested in this has their eyes wide open.”
The initial 10 episodes of “Anger Management” will run as a weekly series next summer and then shift to a mostly daily release pattern — from early 2013 through September 2014 — if FX picks up the additional 90 episodes.
Cabler is planning on pairing “Anger Management” with both “Two and a Half Men” and “How I Met Your Mother.” “Men” continues to be a strong asset for FX, currently averaging 700,000 viewers an episode.
No pilot has yet been shot. Beggs said casting will likely begin after a handful of scripts have been written. Like “Men,” the three-camera show will be shot in front of a live studio audience.
As much as Sheen is the show’s drawing card, FX prexy John Landgraf and his exec team are relying on the producing skills of Helford to keep the show on course. Helford is a veteran comedy producer and knows how to balance both production schedules and disparate personalities. At one time about a decade ago he was juggling three shows on the air: “George Lopez,” “Nikki” and “The Drew Carey Show.”