russell-brand

FX seems to be the home of second chances this week!

Yep, after months of hype and speculation the cable network will be unveiling the new Charlie Sheen sitcom Anger Management on Thursday night, giving the former CBS star a chance to redeem his soiled reputation. My prediction – Management will launch big and then fall fast. I just don’t know that there’s that big an audience out there desperate for a new Sheen sitcom.

But Charlie isn’t alone. You see FX will also be launching another show on Thursday night – and this one with a lot less hype. The series – Brand X, is essentially a talk show vehicle for Brit comedian and Katy Perry’s ex, Russell Brand. But again I have to ask – was anyone really crying out for a Brand talk show? And how did the former big screen star end up on TV so quickly?

Well actually the answer to the latter question is pretty simple – I think Brand missed his moment. Since breaking out in the US in 2008 in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the Brit comic has essentially done little but spin his wheels, playing the same character over and over to ever decreasing effect. You know the Brand ‘brand’ – the alcoholic, debauched, over-sexed ‘rock star’ who deep down has a heart of gold. Sort of.

I’ll be honest – it was funny in Sarah Marshall, where Brand appeared as Aldous Snow, the quirky comic relief who essentially stole the show. But then Russell repeated the role a couple of years later in the atrocious Get Him To The Greek, a movie so underwritten I’m not sure they even had a script in the first place. Placing Aldous front and center in a movie was clearly not a smart move and the film quickly descended into endless drug and drink ‘hijinks!’ Greek did have one brilliant scene – but it featured Damages star Rose Byrne in a hilarious take off of filthy music videos…. That was it.

Greek underperformed at the box office but Brand still stuck with his schtick. He played a spoiled playboy in the Arthur remake – which also bombed – and then pulled out the rock and roll persona once again in this summer’s Rock Of Ages (another flop – though to be fair it wasn’t just Brand’s alone).

Meanwhile in TV appearances and in real life, Brand continued the delinquent persona – creating a mini-scandal in the UK for cruelly insulting a comic actor on his radio show, getting into fights with the paparazzi, hosting award shows with some truly feeble material. And then there was Brand’s moralizing following the death of singer Amy Winehouse. Russell blamed the press for glorifying her drug and alcohol abuse – pretty hypocritical for someone who’s based his whole career on doing just that!

In many ways Brand reminds me of Sacha Baron Cohen, a similarly ‘outrageous’ Brit comic who likes to push boundaries and specializes in shock. But in my opinion Cohen has made better choices over the last few years – sticking to his ‘shock comedy’ roots in films like Borat, Bruno and The Dictator while also stretching into musicals (Sweeney Todd), animation (Madagascar), and Oscar territory (Hugo and the upcoming Miserables). On the way is an upcoming biopic of Freddie Mercury that could prove a real game changer for Sacha as an actor. I’m not a huge fan of Cohen myself but I can certainly respect his willingness to try new things.

Russell Brand on the other hand continues to exploit the same old brand. I can already imagine what Brand X will be like – an ‘outrageous’ monologue at the top of the show, ‘daring’ celebrity and political interviews, real people ‘stunts’… so basically like Graham Norton but not as funny!

The fact is people are already tiring of the Russell Brand schtick. His recent movies haven’t fared well and there’s hardly any buzz for Brand X. The very fact that Russell is working on a TV show at what should be the height of his movie career is telling in itself.

But we’ll see – maybe Brand X will turn into a late night staple like Real Time or The Daily Show… but personally I think it’s time Brand showed a little more range and gave up the rock and roll boozer schtick… you with me?