Why his new FX show, Anger Management, will probably be a hit.
When Mel Gibson's dark drama The Beaver premiered last March, the actor was turning himself in on charges that he had assaulted his ex-girlfriend. The film was widely praised, and Gibson's performance was called "the best of his career." It grossed just $970,816 at the box office. After Russell Crowe was charged with assault for throwing a phone at a hotel concierge in 2005, it took almost three years—and three flops— for the actor to regain box-office clout with American Gangster. Charlie Sheen is coming off one of the most tumultuous meltdowns in modern celebrity history. His next vehicle, Anger Management, however, is likely to be an unmitigated hit when it premieres on Thursday.
When it comes to disgraced celebrities, TV audiences are far more forgiving than movie audiences. Occasionally, TV fans even reward a star's bad behavior. When FX announced that it was picking up a new sitcom starring Charlie Sheen just six months after the star's tiger-blood-fueled year of debauchery, lunatic-speak, and all-in-all self-destructive behavior got him fired from his job as the top-paid actor on the highest-rated comedy on TV, critics thought the network was crazy. The "potential for catastrophe" far outweighed the "promise of dollar signs," said Kevin Yeoman at Screen Rant, responding to the deal which would force FX to order a whopping 100 episodes of Anger Management if the first handful received high ratings. But the "potential for catastrophe" is likely overstated: If television audiences' history of embracing falling stars is any indication, there's going to be a whole lot of Sheen in our future.
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There's the oft-cited notion that there's no such thing as bad press, but that's just not true. It's quite common for stars whose reputations are tarnished by embarrassing scandals to be completely rejected—at least for a while, and often for a long time—by moviegoers. There's the examples of Crowe and Gibson. There's also Winona Ryder. She seemed initially unscathed by her 2001 shoplifting arrest when her first post-scandal film, Mr. Deeds, grossed over $100 million, but that was on the back of box-office star Adam Sandler. Since, she's popped up in extremely small roles and hideously grossing movies, and only recently with a cameo in Star Trek and supporting role in Black Swan has her career taken off again. After Woody Allen's affair with Soon-Yi Previn broke in 1992, it took another 20 years for one his films to match the box office success of hits like Hannah and Her Sisters and Manhattan (though critics and the Academy continued to embrace him). From Eddie Murphy to Meg Ryan to Lindsay Lohan, the list of recent film flops is populated by a bevy of stars whose off-screen behavior doomed their chances at box-office redemption.