'Anger' EP Takes on Sheen

After break from the business, showrunner Helford dives back in

Why This Matters

Bruce Helford


Executive producer, FX’s Anger Management


Temple U. (two years)

Jacksonville U. B.A., Theater, 1975

Employment Highlights:

Family Ties
, writer, 1985

The Drew Carey Show
, creator and executive producer, 1995-2004

Norm, creator and executive producer, 1999-2001

Nikki, creator and executive producer, 2000-2002

The Oblongs, executive producer, 2001

Freddie, creator and executive producer, 2005-2006

George Lopez, creator and executive producer, 2002-2007

Current title since 2012


Born Jan. 28, 1952; wife, Jan; children Jason, 36; Schuyler, 21; Aven, 19

After a three-year break from television, Bruce Helford
was expecting to casually dip his toe back into the
crowded entertainment pool. But when the opportunity
to run Charlie Sheen’s new comedy, Anger
, came to the springboard, Helford
found himself diving headlong into the deep end.

Anger Management
, premiering June
28, is being produced under Debmar-
Mercury’s 10-90 model: If the first
10 episodes of a show perform well,
the network immediately picks up an
additional 90 episodes. The production
schedule was one of many things
Helford took into consideration after
meeting with Lionsgate, Revolution
Studios and Sheen himself, via Skype.

What the group pitched to Helford
was nothing more than a title—
plucked from Revolution Studios’
eponymous film that serves as the basis
for the show—and a conceptual character.
Helford then created a world in
which Sheen is an unconventional anger
management therapist with a family—
an aspect of the story line Sheen
was intent on adding—that included
an amicable relationship with his exwife
and a daughter with OCD.

Working with Sheen was not among
Helford’s concerns, but the rapport he
struck with the star was what Lionsgate
Television Group president Kevin
Beggs says made him stand out, in addition
to Helford’s well-known ability
to oversee multiple shows at a time.

“One of the considerations was that the
schedule is accelerated, compared to traditional
broadcast….Who had the temperament,
the experience and the ability
to organize, manage and delegate?” Beggs
says of their showrunner search.

The answer was Helford, who at one
point ran four shows simultaneously:
ABC’s The Drew Carey Show, Norm
(which he created in 1999), The WB’s
Nikki (which he created in 2000) and the quirky animated series The Oblongs,
which aired on both The WB and
Adult Swim in 2001.

The difference, Helford says, is that
with those four series, he had four
different staffs over
which the work was
divided. For Anger,
Helford says he “had
to be very careful
that I didn’t burn
them out.”

That whirlwind of
responsibility at least
partly explains why
Helford took a break
from the business. In
1995, he created The
Drew Carey Show
Carey, with whom he
became friends while working on NBC’s
short-lived sitcom The Good Life. Helford
calls creating Drew Carey, which ran for
nine seasons, “an adventure,” much like
the cross-country road trips Carey and
he took together between seasons.

Just as The Drew Carey Show aired its
final episode, ABC premiered George
, which Helford created in 2002.
The series ran for six seasons, during
which Helford remained as executive
producer—the maximum length of
time Helford thinks a creator should
stay on any series.

“After six years, a creator should step
out and let new blood infuse it,” he
says. He points to his time on Roseanne,
which he joined as a writer during its
fifth season.

“I came in with all this enthusiasm,
all these ideas and new stories to tell….
That whole season on Roseanne was a
great season. It won a Peabody, the
Humanitas and we swept the Golden
Globes. I’m really proud of that year.”

With all of that success behind him,
Helford received a reality check when
working with the late Bernie Mac on
a pilot in 2008. After Mac’s death in
August of that year, Helford decided
to spend time with his children before
they left for college.

“I wanted to make sure that I spent
good quality time with
them before I started
doing this again,”
Helford says.

Helford’s relationship
with his children
is a reflection
of his bond with his
own parents, who,
although “they didn’t
know what to expect,”
he says, “were incredibly
supportive” when
Helford moved to Los
Angeles in 1978 to
become an actor, which was a far cry
from where Helford had previously been
working—the family’s pet shop business.

And Helford came to the entertainment
industry being sure of the three
things he wanted in a career.

“My goal was to make a living where
I didn’t have to wear a suit. I also knew
that I didn’t want to do any traveling, so
I had to have a job where I was locked
down to a specific place,” Helford says.
“And the other thing was that I really
wanted to be able to say something.”

With Charlie Sheen as his new mouthpiece,
Helford can rest assured that
people will continue to listen.

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