Do I foresee It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia ever getting a justly deserved Emmy nomination for writing or Best Comedy? Yes, because in my mind, things happen the way I want them to. But realistically, it's a longshot, which is a shame. Few shows have stayed as consistently hilarious, and fewer still have actually built upon and tightened their own art of storytelling. Shorter-than-network seasons and rapidly rising pop-culture reconnaissance are the formula that will keep Sunny on the air for years to come, and I'm a pig in shit about it. Because I'm happy, not incontinent.
It's the fifth season of the FX Network's initial home run into the comedy world. And after five years, it's still hard to pin down in a mature way exactly what makes this show work. Five characters, all personalities and no souls, jump into labyrinthine contrivances aimed for material splendor, engaging in all things non-splendorous along the way. Following the Larry David school of cyclical plotting, episodes are packed with avarice, arrogance, ignorance, and malevolence. Also, there's cursing; I'm pretty good about not laughing at dirty language used for its own sake, but Glenn Howerton delivers a "son of a bitch" that holds a candle to Sam Jackson's flame.
There are 12 episodes here, and none of them have anything to do with "Day Man," but you know what? That's okay. Because we get Flip-Flip-Flipadelphia, Hugh Honey and Vic Vinegar, Kitten Mittens, Roddy Piper, a road trip, and...wait, why am I giving everything away in that one sentence? Maybe I just get that giddy.
The gang (writers and director) displays a large amount of imagination within the loose constraints of "disastrous build-up towards ironic conclusion," but episodes tend to fall under widened classifications. Like the ones at the bar, or the ones where they screw people over for money, or the ones with the waitress, etc. Certain expectations come with these types, and one is that it'll be embarrassing and funny and awesome. That's just one.
Under Frank's (Danny DeVito) guidance, Mac (Rob McElhenny) and Dennis (Howerton) "exploit the mortgage crisis" (ep. title) by "flipping" (slang) houses as the aforementioned good realtor/bad realtor team of Honey and Vinegar; meanwhile, Dee exploits her womb to make money as a surrogate. As the initial episode of the season, it would work as someone's introduction to the series. The cold open could stand alone as a definition for how these characters relate to one another. As Mac posing as bad realtor Vic Vinegar, Rob McElhenney performs as I love him best: flippantly angry, delirious with testosterone.
In "The Gang Hits the Road," every actor is at their absolute best when a trip to the Grand Canyon takes numerous unfortunate detours. It has classic written all over it; the writing is near perfect, from the haggling to the hitchhiker. Another one I found to be particularly gut-wrenching is "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System," in which Dennis displays his failproof technique of treating girls like shit so that they'll love him more. The first half, as he explains himself, is funny enough, but once everyone attempts their own fragmented interpretation of the system, it doesn't let up.
Mac and Dennis attempt to emulate the brand-specific currency plan, as inspired by the named-so-often-it's-a-cameo Dave and Busters chain of restaurants. Charlie attempts to brand Paddy's Pub with Kitten Mittens; the Charlie-made commercial for this was an internet smash, as are many show clips. Roddy Piper comes in as Da Maniac, an inner-city wrestler who agrees to work in a match put together by the gang to benefit the return of the troops from overseas. Dennis, Charlie, and Mac fight disguised as bird-men, and the entrance theme they write is unforgettable. Frank's incessant drinking and drug use comes under fire when the gang brings in a professional for a haphazard intervention that promotes wine in a can. The gang attempts to get legal retribution in court for their catastrophic attempts to make it to Game 5 of the World Series.
Every episode is a treat. The episode titles alone are enough to let you know what each show is about, making my synopses irrelevant, but still... The waitress gets engaged to an ex-boyfriend of Dee's, turning Dee into a jealous, vengeful mess. Inspired by Dennis and Dee becoming extras in a film, Mac and Charlie pen an absurd pitch for a script about a scientist not named Dolph Lundgren, played by Dolph Lundgren, who can smell crime before it happens. Dennis and Mac realize they spend too much time together and break up. It may or may not be representative of all male-friend relationships. And then the season ends on an extremely high note as the gang ruins a fellow bar-owner's life because they're not allowed to compete in a Flip Cup drinking game competition. Flip-Flip-Flipadelphia. Howerton and DeVito shine as their characters begin over-using an ADHD prescription drug.
All right, so describing each and every episode isn't exactly clever or inspiring, but they're all worth mentioning. That's my defense. Episode direction is split up between Fred Savage and Randall Einhorn. I'll be honest, I can't tell much of a difference, because I'm not looking for it. These guys know exactly how to showcase the cast. I didn't even mention DeVito yet, whose recurring trash-eating never gets old. I'm almost certain there is no possible way any of these five actors could make this show any funnier, and it's never more funny than when all five are on screen at the same time, yelling throwaway obscenities over each other, getting nothing accomplished. It's not a far cry from classic comedies of the early twentieth century; I hope it's recognized as such before it's too late.
These DVD sets are never amazing, but there's a decent amount of supplemental material here. It's a no-brainer that it's worth the purchase based on replay value alone. It's Always Sunny is one of those shows whose first viewing holds a power to it, as if you've stumbled upon something intended only for you. I guess a lot of people enjoy watching people act like an asshole, as long as it's with someone else.
Half the episodes of this three-disc collection have commentaries recorded for them, including the talents of McElhenney, Howerton, DeVito, Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, and Dr. Drew. For the most part, they're goofy and show-centric. Not too many amazing stories going on, but they're worth a listen.
There are deleted, but mostly extended, scenes, all of which have a few extra jokes that didn't make the aired episode, so obviously they're good. A cheesy feature called "The Gang's Dating Profiles" sits Dee, the waitress, Dennis and Mac, and show-harlot Artemis in separate video entries for a matchmaking company. Brief, but amusing. Not as brief, and less amusing, is "Kitten Mittens Endless Loop," which has the commercial tune laid over countless shots of kittens wearing, and trying not to wear, mittens; cuteness turns on itself. The blooper reel is slight, but heavy on chuckles. And the most intriguing feature is called "23,573 Photos in 5 minutes: Schewp Dream Sequence Montage," which takes that number of photos taken in quick succession during different parts of production, and runs them all together as if they were stills from a film reel. It's pretty cool, as simply complicated as it is.
There you have it, bozo. (It's a new thing Dennis is doing, calling people bozo.) The wait between seasons of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is treacherous, worsened two-fold by single nights with doubled-up episodes, and the fact that the DVDs don't come out until the next season starts. Boo on those things, but I'll take them. I hope this show never ends.