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TV Review: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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There is something about FX’s comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that is just plain wrong — in a good way.

The show is produced by, and stars Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton, as Mac, Charlie, and Dennis, respectively. These three are ne’er-do-well friends who co-own a bar and constantly find themselves in trouble of their own creation. Along for the ride, as co-owners of the bar, and causing trouble themselves are Dennis’s sister, Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and father, but not biologically, to Dennis and Dee, and maybe, biologically, Charlie too, is Frank (Danny DeVito).

Just reading that last sentence ought to provide one with a pretty good idea about the show. It is a comedy where absolutely nothing, except common sense and moderation, is taboo.

The first episode of season 3, premiering Thursday September 13 at 10pm, is entitled “The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby.” Predictably here, the gang hears some crying coming from a dumpster and finds a discarded child. Rather than give the child to the authorities and have the child get lost in the “system,” they bring the baby back to the bar, and Dee and Mac decide to raise it.

The two eventually get the idea that the baby could become a child star and begin shopping it around to talent agencies only to find that the child is not ethnic enough. Not to worry though, Dee and Mac have a plan to fix this. The rest of the group is involved in various other shenanigans during the show, from pretending to be an environmentalist in order to avenge an insult, to turning into overly enthusiastic recyclers that sleep on the street.

DeVito was added to the show in its second season, and while the character fits in persona-wise with the other wretches on the show, it does smack of stunt-casting and feels rather forced. The four younger members of the gang do not seem the type to hang out with any father, no matter whose father he may or may not be. Even so, DeVito is game and appears not to mind the utter lunacy that his character continually spews.

The best thing that can be said about the show is that it finds humor in absolutely everything, from babies left in dumpsters to the death of parents. The show is neither for the high-brow nor the weak-stomached. It is, on other hand, far smarter than it may initially appear. It has a distinct point of view, and makes no bones about the fact that the characters are not role models. If one is trying to equate it with other things on TV, the most apt comparison would be that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is Seinfeld crossed with South Park. The characters are narcissistic and shallow, make a lot of poop jokes, and yet there actually sometimes seems to be a message or meaning behind it all.

Even so, there are many moments when the show does seem to defer to frat boy humor over a larger meaning or message. These are the times when the viewer feels dirty for ever having turned the show on, and they happen a little too often. By no means do all television programs have to have a message, but if It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia eschews giving an episode meaning, then all it is left with is a couple of off-color jokes about putting a dumpster baby in a tanning bed.

And that is just a little too wrong — not in a good way.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    The show was lining up the shark jump whan Devito joined the cast. But then, because he joined is why they got a second season….

  • http://tvandfilmguy.blogspot.com Josh Lasser

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States.