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It’s Always Sunny In Philadelpia - Season 3
Created By: Rob McElhenney
Starring:Rob McElhenney, glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, RCharlie Day and Danny DeVito
Airs: Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on FX
When it comes to being politically incorrect on television, most would say that South Park has that market cornered. While other shows might tread dangerously close to the boundary that separates what we’re allowed to laugh at and the topics that are off limits, South Park has regularly crossed that line, diving deep into subjects that shouldn’t be funny but somehow, probably due to the context they’re presented in, they are. There is another show that’s been doing this for two seasons already but has not achieved the ratings success that South Park did in its first few seasons. I’m talking about FX’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
I’d seen the commercials for this show when watching episodes of Rescue Me each summer. Two seasons have aired and I’ve only just now finally crossed “See if that Danny DeVito show on FX really is as funny as it looks in the commercials” off my mental TV-To-Do list. What I’ve concluded after watching the first four episodes of season 3, is that this show is hilarious if you’re the kind of person who can find humor in even the most serious subjects.
The show is about a group of people who own and run a bar. All of the main characters are disturbingly flawed. They all exist within their own reality, ignoring or perhaps being totally blind to how their behavior might affect the people around them. The only time other people matter is when they’re in the way of whatever it is these characters are trying to achieve. It’s probable that the only reason they can even stand to be around each other is because of their shared indifference for things like manners and sensitivity. In that sense, they reminded me of the Bluth family (Arrested Development) except these guys aren’t rich or famous so their schemes aren’t nearly as well funded or publicly acknowledged.
Here’s a little background info on the characters:
Danny DeVito plays Frank, a vein, overconfident little man and supposed father of Dennis and Dee. Frank learned that he was not actually the father of Dennis and Dee at the end of season 2. Dennis and Dee are twins who are extremely shallow and like the other characters, totally insensitive when it comes to other people (though completely sensitive when it comes to themselves). Dennis (Howerton) is well dressed and is fairly successful with the ladies. Dee (Olson) is just one big sack of emotional issues. For example, she has bad memories of having scoliosis when she was a kid. Her insecurity over constantly being made fun of and being treated like the ugly duckling (even by her own mother) comes out every now and then but most of the time, she seems totally in love with herself.
Then there’s Mac and Charlie. These two guys are childhood friends and now co-own the bar along with Frank, Dennis and Dee. Mac (McElhenney) comes off as an asshole and in some ways, he kind of is but he means well. Charlie (Day) is the dumb guy of the gang. He’s also pretty poor and does a lot of the grunt work at the bar.
These guys lie, cheat, steal and are willing to step over each other to get whatever it is that they want at the time. At the end of the day though, they’re like a family – a really dysfunctional family.
In the first episode of the third season (which aired Thursday, Sept 13), titled “The Gang finds a Dumpster Baby,” the gang – well… finds a dumpster baby. Rather than addressing the real issue at hand, which is that, someone threw a baby in the trash, Dee and Mac try to use the baby for their own personal gain by getting it into show business. When the talent agent tells them “white babies aren’t selling these days” they coat the baby’s face with shoe-polish in the hopes of convincing people that the baby is Hispanic.
In next week’s episode, titled “Dennis and Dee’s Mom is Dead,” Frank and Dee are so enraged at being left out of Dee’s mom’s will that they pretend to be a couple in the hopes of tricking Dee’s biological father into giving them the inheritance.
The plots in the episodes are ridiculous and unrealistic but I don’t consider that a flaw. It seems that, like South Park, each episode of It’s Always Sunny centers on some kind of serious issue or topic, be it political, religious or social. Then rather than addressing it in a realistic way as other TV shows might, they use the extreme natures of the characters to mock the issue. I think what makes this tactic work is that the characters are such messes that you can actually laugh at them and at the same time, find yourself rooting them on occasion, even if what they’re doing is morally abysmal.
In terms of how the show is filmed, everything from the theme song, to the way each scene is shot to how the lines are delivered to the font in the opening credits has the feel of an old-school sitcom. The only thing that’s missing is the laugh-track (and I don’t blame them for leaving that out). The series seems like a parody of your typical American situation comedy except in this case, the humor is so raw at times that it clashes with the sit-commy atmosphere. I consider that a good thing as I suspect that this subtle irony is what they were going for when they decided to film the show this way.
In order for a show like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to be funny to viewers, people need to be able to feel like its ok to laugh at serious issues. On a personal level, I don’t think abortion, dumpster babies, dead mothers or most of the other stuff the gang deals with at some point throughout the series are laughing matters – in reality. But this is television. TV can be a great escape from reality. So while I might have genuine, serious thoughts on the issues they’re making light of, I can certainly appreciate the kind of humor Always Sunny delivers, based on what I’ve seen so far. You just need to be prepared to let go and enjoy the humor for what it is.