It seemed inevitable that FX would renew Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management for another 90 episodes after its initial run this summer, which no matter how much I hated it, found an audience (though not as big an audience as the initial announcement of it seemed to suggest was necessary for a renewal). Now that it’s happened, I’m resigned and more than a little sad. But if FX is going to continue to make money off of Sheen, here are five interesting—and even a few redemptive—things it could invest that cash in.
1. A female anti-hero drama, preferably starring C.C.H. Pounder: Glenn Close’s legal drama Damages didn’t quite work out on FX, which has since retrenched its brand as a dude-heavy network, though its Cold War drama The Americans, starring Kerri Russell, should help a little on that score. If FX is going to go lowest-common denominator on content with Anger Management and give Sheen a continuing platform and advertising dollars to rehabilitate his public image, they should reinvest the profits in helping the anti-hero genre grow and giving a woman a similar platform and career boost. C.C.H. Pounder did amazing work for the network on The Shield. FX should consider bringing her back.
2. A show about a man trying to grapple with his abuse of women: One of the grosser things about Anger Management is the way it’s reduced—and so much of the show is a meta-reappropriation of Sheen’s real-life personality—Sheen’s mistreatment of women to cheating and callousness, smoothing over his record of physical violence towards them. In the run-up to Anger Management, FX suggested the show could be about a man grappling with his treatment of women. If the network made that show, made it about a man with a history of abusing, and genuinely confronted repentance, violence, and control, it would be a landmark show.
3. A Louie-style low budget show from a woman or a person of color: In the wake of Girls’ debut on HBO this spring, there was an enormous discussion about the absence of women and people of color as television creators. That conversation, as is often the case with these things, has died down somewhat, but it shouldn’t go away. “John Landgraf wanted to let you know that the door is open for you to come to FX anytime and do the same show Louie does in your own version,” FX’s press guru John Solberg told Chris Rock at the Television Critics Association Press tour this summer. “So you are welcome to come.” The network should get serious about that invitation, but not just to Rock.
4. A genre show: With Game of Thrones, HBO’s found an awesome story engine to put dragons and zombies on-screen—and also to stage big, long discussions about gender and violence. FX has looked at adapting the comic Powers, about two cops who investigate crimes involving superheros, for television, and if that doesn’t work, it should look forward with an eye towards the fact that genre shows aren’t just about the special effects—they’re about issues, too.
5. A story about a male-dominated culture from the perspectives of women: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with FX’s core brand being shows about masculinity, a theme that’s produced a lot of interesting television. But the secret of Sons of Anarchy is that the show is at its best when it’s exploring biker life through the perspective of its old ladies, Gemma Teller, Tara Knowles, and Lyla Winston. That’s a formula FX could use to keep its identity while moving female characters to the center of the frame more frequently. And done right, it could mean the network gets shows about how different masculinities affect women.