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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Anger Management

FX, June 28, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


The Warlock is gone. Charlie Sheen, the comic actor with a squint in his eye, gravel in his voice and sarcastic toxicity seeping from his marrow, has resurfaced-and he’s probably smart enough to know that Anger Management, his first show since last year’s chaotic departure from Two and a Half Men, is bad. It’s not even as funny as the self-mocking ads he did for Fiat and DIRECTV. But it’s a sitcom, and for Sheen that’s terra firma. He plays a therapist, Charlie Goodson, who specializes in anger issues-yeah, yeah, we get the cheap irony-and in the premiere we meet the patients in his group. They’re neither threatening nor funny, and Sheen barely seems interested in them. They could be lichens in a jar. There’s greater potential for Sheen’s deadpan humor in Charlie’s sex life: He’s not a rancid playboy like Men’s Charlie Harper, but there are comic tensions in how he handles relationships that include a friendship with his ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) and a weird romance with his therapist, sullenly beautiful Selma Blair. For now, it’s a mess.


MTV, June 28, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT |


One of MTV’s best-reviewed shows in years, the high-school comedy starts season 2 with heroine Jenna (Ashley Rickards) still not totally sure she’s in love with a boy named Jake or one named Matty. This is conventional enough, but Awkward-which began season 1 with the student body mistakenly thinking Jenna had tried to kill herself-plays like a lower-budget Suburgatory: snarky, silly. If it doesn’t have the ABC sitcom’s satiric sheen, it captures some of those glum patches that strike in adolescence. And adulthood. The most pathetic characters are the grown-ups, especially Jenna’s mom (Nikki Deloach). You sense she’d give anything to relive those unhappy days of awkward youth.

The Newsroom

HBO, June 24, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


TV and film writer Aaron Sorkin thinks big. Probably too big. The West Wing, a classic, was about the political establishment. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a failure, was about the TV industry. His latest, falling somewhere in between, is not only about the news business but its role in a democracy. Here’s a show the Founding Fathers (if no one else) would DVR. Jeff Daniels is Will McAvoy, a complacent cable anchor who suddenly snaps and becomes a liberal firebrand, roaring his disdain for talking heads, politicians and journalists who fail to report the truth as he sees it. He’s Keith Olbermann in IMAX. Daniels is great, biting clean through clotted dialogue that’s twinkly yet sanctimonious. But having to speak Sorkinese defeats just about everyone else, including Emily Mortimer as a producer.