By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The first episode of Charlie Sheen's new comedy "Anger Management" opens with the actor hitting a punching bag and shouting: "You can't fire me. I quit!" It ends with his character jumping into bed with a hot chick.
That behavior may look and sound like the character on his old TV show, hit comedy "Two And a Half Men," as well as the real-life Sheen. But the Hollywood bad boy who was fired from "Men" last year in a public dispute with its makers, insists that "Anger Management," which debuts on the FX network on Thursday, is different.
"Anger Management" creator Bruce Helford agrees.
"It's a really interesting evolution for Charlie Sheen, as well as for the character," Helford told Reuters.
Sheen's character on "Men", Charlie Harper, was a boozing, womanizing bachelor who had failed to grow up. The new Charlie Goodson on "Anger Management" has a teenage daughter and is fully aware he needs to deal with his anger.
Sheen, 46, has said in a YouTube promotion that Goodson is "really smart, really funny. I think it's going to be refreshing for people to see this character, unlike a guy (Harper) who has two moves - drunk and drunker."
"C'mon," he quips as he walks away unscathed from an explosive train wreck in another video promotion for the new series, "everyone deserves a 24th chance."
But if Sheen's fans tune in on Thursday, they will be right to think that both Charlies - the thrice divorced actor and one-time cocaine addict with a penchant for call girls and the skirt-chasing TV character Harper - sound a lot like this new creation.
Indeed, "Anger Management" therapist Goodson is divorced and sex mad - at least initially.
"Charlie and I both agreed that for the first couple of episodes, people are going to be watching largely because of all that craziness last year. So we thought, let's have some fun with that," Helford told Reuters.
"But by episode three, it's got to be about the show and the characters. Charlie has moved on from that. He is trying to prove himself, make amends," Helford added.
BAD BOY MAKES AMENDS
In a recent interview for the July issue of Playboy magazine, Sheen called the weeks and months after his March 2011 firing from "Men," a "psychotic break."
That period included bizarre rants on YouTube in which he boasted of having tiger blood in his veins and his live stage show, "My Violent Torpedo of Truth: Defeat is Not an Option," that initially bombed with fans.
During his years on "Two And a Half Men," Sheen would admit sharing some common traits with Harper, but Helford said Goodson - a former minor league baseball player turned anger therapist with more problems than his patients - was "way more mature" than the old character.
On "Men," Helford said Sheen had little influence in terms of character and plot. "He was a hired gun. He was there. The show had been created. They didn't run the stories by him."
So when the two men sat down to discuss "Anger Management," Sheen was keen to make a contribution - and change direction.
"He really didn't want to play that juvenile guy who was just chasing girls all the time and who was kind of a joke. He is a much smarter, more complicated, more sophisticated character," said Helford.
And the actor was keen to make amends. One of Sheen's ex-wives - Denise Richards - appears in a guest role on "Anger Management," and Sheen's dad, "The West Wing" actor Martin Sheen, portrays his father in one episode.
"Charlie wanted to work with Denise and he wanted to work with his dad. He gets to do a lot of wish fulfillment," Helford said. "Now, we are all waiting for America to tell us if they like it."
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant)