Sheen's new FX comedy ''Anger Management'' may be his ticket to redemption

By James Hibberd
Updated June 22, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Robert Downey Jr. did it. So did Mike Tyson and Rob Lowe. But will Charlie Sheen be able to pull off a celebrity comeback this summer? ”The first question is always ‘What’s Charlie like?”’ says Bruce Helford, exec producer of Sheen’s new FX comedy Anger Management. ”And then it’s ‘Is he clean?”’ Helford insists the actor was a ”champion” during Management‘s frantic production schedule, with 10 half-hour episodes filmed over five weeks this spring. ”When Charlie first spoke to the crew, he said, ‘I’m not going to blow this up.”’ Experts in the image-maintenance-and-rehab industry agree that Sheen can improve his public image, but how long it’ll take is up for debate. Henry Schafer, executive VP of the Q Scores consumer-appeal measurement company, says 48 percent of adult Americans have a negative impression of Sheen. Turning around ratings like that, he adds, usually takes years. But celebrity crisis expert and Damage Control author Eric Dezenhall counters that the public’s tolerance for scandal has evolved. ”Many people see anything that results in attention as being a manifestation of success,” he explains. Of course, the former Two and a Half Men star has proved more bulletproof than most. ”We’ve known who Charlie Sheen is for 25 years,” Dezenhall says. ”When he gets into trouble, it’s not a scandal, it’s a brand extension.” Overall, the best strategy for Sheen to make a comeback is the same as ever: Do good work, and don’t act like a moron. If the ratings for Management‘s first 10 episodes are high enough, FX has agreed to order 90 more, so the actor (who declined to comment for this story) has a big incentive to keep his act together — just like he did on set. Helford recalls one moment when Sheen was having trouble performing a lengthy speech, and he halted the take. ”Charlie said, ‘I need a minute to gather my thoughts,”’ Helford says. ”I went over to him, and he said, ‘That’s as bad as it’ll get.”’