Produced by: Andrea Berentsen Ottmar, Dyveke Bjørkly Graver
Cast: Kristine Kujath Thorp , Eirik Sæther, Fanny Vaager, Henrik Mestad, Andrea Bræin Hovig, Steinar Klouman Hallert, Fredrik Stenberg, etc.
Cinematography by Benjamin Loeb
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Human beings are capable of incredible acts of compassion, creativity, kindness, artistry, charity, care and beauty. But I have to admit there is a flaw, and in some people a sickness, which makes them narcissistic, selfish and image-obsessed with the constant need for attention. Indeed, with the advent of mobile phones and social media anyone with an internet connection can drop a video on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok or Instagram and get instant gratification. Not to mention the plague of TV talent and reality programming which showcase the epitome of this “me-me-me” generation.
Maybe society has always been like this, full of attention seekers desiring to become actors or singers or comedians or artists. But now there is a constant platform for the talented, untalented and arguably mentally unbalanced to post their wares online for an ego hit, likes and if they’re lucky, to “go viral.” But it’s just a bit entertainment isn’t it? A bit of a laugh? Getting a bit of attention and maybe even becoming famous. But there is a dark, horrific side to social media and reality show attention. The internet is replete with stories about people who have killed themselves having found “fame” this way. Sometimes too much attention becomes too much for some.
The Norwegian black comedy, Sick of Myself (2022) written and directed byKristoffer Borgli, darkly explores the themes of narcissism, art and attention-seeking through the twentysomething characters of Signe and Thomas. The couple live somewhat regular lives in Oslo. Signe is a coffee shop server, while Thomas is an aspiring artist. Two excellent scenes introduce their characters succinctly. Thomas, who it is revealed throughout to be a kleptomaniac, initially gets a hit stealing an expensive bottle of wine from a posh restaurant. While Signe gets a massive adrenaline punch from the attention she receives when assisting a bloodied customer savaged by a dog. These fascinating narrative strands are the foundation for a series of funny, cringeworthy and horrific scenes expertly developed by Borgli.
The film is very much delivered in a believable and realistic style as, Sick of Myself (2022), develops its character and thematic analysis with understated direction. But the actions of the characters are anything but understated. Signe diverts attention away from Thomas’ growing fame in the art world by resorting to more extreme ways to get people to notice to her. The initial comedic situations, such as Signe faking a nut allergy to interrupt Thomas’ speech in a restaurant, give way to constant lying and actual self-harm, as her personality is blighted by undiagnosed Munchausen’s syndrome. With echoes of DeNiro’s and Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983), Signe is a grotesque creation reflecting a dangerous side within our society. But whereas Rupert Pupkin had a goal to become a famous stand-up comedian, Signe, as portrayed with muted and natural brilliance by Kristine Kujath Thorp, has no such career desire other than to just be constantly noticed. She is a tragic character, like many in society, who desperately need psychological help.
Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds Rob McElhenny as Mac Kaitlin Olson as Dee Reynolds Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS, BITCHES!**
The thirteenth season of one of my favourite sitcoms arrived on Netflix in early January. With a mixture of joy and sadness I eagerly binged another ten episodes of the most scurrilous and offensive comedy shows of recent years. The sadness was mainly due to the fact that Glenn Howerton’s Ted Bundyesque character, Dennis, had seemingly been written out of the show. However, it turned out he was in many of the episodes so joy soon prevailed.
If you haven’t seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – THEN WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! No, seriously, it is one of the darkest, funny and absurd shows I ever seen. It is the anti-christ of sitcoms and a black anathema to the Friends template. It concerns five individuals who congregate a bar in Philadelphia called Paddy’s and basically follows them as they fuck each other and those around them over. It may not sound like it but it is comedy gold. Further, it’s also pretty smart in satirising zeitgeist issues relating to race, gender, politics, friendships, sport, addiction, crime family and sexuality. It is quite often shocking but not just for shock’s sake. There is a mean streak of intelligence running throughout the show.
I would have to say that Season 13 did not hit the heights of prior seasons. The main reason is that Glenn Howerton’s appearances, while very funny, seemed to impact the consistency of the show. There was an uncertainty and feeling he was only available for a certain time during filming and this was felt in the season as a whole. Also, one could argue the writing was not as sharp as prior seasons. Nonetheless, the show had some brilliant and pointed episodes. My favourites were: The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Rebootwhich both called back to a prior “drinking game on a plane” episode and satirised the drive by Hollywood for all-female ensemble remakes such as Ghostbusters. The Gang Gets New Wheels episode was also brilliant. Here the status symbol of car ownership was mocked as Dee finds herself elevated socially due to her new vehicle. Safe to say her new found popularity is ruined by her own narcissistic and obnoxious character choices.
The season takes joy in referencing the #MeToo and Time’s Up furore, the Eagles Superbowl win, Gay Pride, Escape Rooms, Sex Dolls and lampooning films such as: Home Alone and Inception. The latter becoming a hilarious meta-textual delight in the episode, The Gang Does a Clip Show. By the thirteenth episode, Mac Finds His Pride, I had thoroughly enjoyed the scatter-gun chaos of the season. Yet it was still not enough to prepare me for the incredible final sequence, which found Rob McElhenney performing a contemporary dance sequence of some skill and beauty. While it did not necessarily make me laugh it, like the show as a whole, kept me hooked and surprised throughout.
12 REASONS WHY IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST SITCOMS EVER!
With the new season now up on Netflix I thought it advisable to revisit my awe and admiration for the clever, crazy and scurrilous comedy show that is: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I have reviewed it in the past here, but rather than simply do another glowing evaluation of Season 12 – which I loved by the way – I thought why not consider its disgusting genius as a whole. So, here you go! 12 reasons why the crazy gang from Paddy’s Pub completely rock!
**CONTAINS SPOILERS BITCHES**
Any successful comedy and drama show lives and dies by the characters who inhabit the storylines and world. In the show we have a rich differentiation of people collectively known as ‘The Gang’; who all work collectively within the comedy as a highly dysfunctional family. Charlie is the idiot youngest child; Dennis and Mac are the insane older brothers; Dee is the incompetent and much maligned sister; while Frank is the wayward father and the mother is, well, there is no precise mother but a random set of insane surrogates. What they have in common is that they are all deluded-self-serving-narcissistic-insane-lunatics all seeking to undermine each other in turn. Thus resulting in some incredibly hilarious episodes and seasons.
To me political correctness is a fair way to behave and make judgements within everyday life, but sometimes it can go too far and is used as a weapon to demonize behaviour meant as humour. Moreover, in life the unwritten and written laws of society deem it necessary – for upstanding citizens that is – to abide by a certain set of rules. Those same rules don’t apply to the characters in this show. Indeed, behaviour such as: doing drugs, blacking up, stalking, pretending to be gay, arson, selling fake cola, luring women into bed under false pretences, black market surrogacy, faking own deaths, blowing up cars and generally attacking and verbally abusing people around them, should get them locked up. However, the punkish and illegal shenanigans allow the viewer to both live out vicariously such bad behaviour; not so much shock for shock sake but as an attempt to drive the humour down very dark avenues for comedic impact.
The characters inhabit a world where it’s dog-eats-man-eats-woman-eats-dog; and in some ways this reflects the darker aspects of society. I mean we have become a selfie-taking-blogging-wait-until-you-finish-talking-culture only interested in getting one-up on each other. While of course there is much humanity and charity too in life, It’s Always Sunny is not a cosy or safe world where everything ends up great at the end. No! Dead dogs fall out of children’s coffins; tramps have anal sex under the New Jersey boardwalk; Frank exploits Vietnamese people in sweatshops; people pretend to have cancer; the long-suffering Cricket had his face and existence burnt off; characters laugh when others fall flat on their face or try to kill themselves etc. Today, and quite rightly, we should strive to respect each other so the show is a terrible role model for life and lurks in a world far away from and the warm hearts of other benign TV shows.
4. FORMAL BRILLIANCE
Throughout every season of It’s Always Sunny there is always an attempt to present episodes in an imaginative form and structure. For example, in Who Pooped The Bed we get a Rashomon-style-split-perspective murder investigation into who crapped in Charlie’s bed. While in The Gang Go On Family Fight, the humour is structured around the gang appearing on a classic gameshow. In addition to the hilarious historically anachronistic flashbacks in The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell, in Season 11’s Being Frank the whole episode was shot from Frank’s POV. In the current superb 12th season one episode is presented from a supporting characters dream perspective; while the most impressively detailed form presentation is in Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy. In this Dennis sets up a series of CCTV cameras in Mac and Charlie’s Mum’s abode and becomes a god-like TV director; editing their everyday lives into a bizarre but hilarious reality show/situation comedy. This intelligence and thought keeps the show fresh and funny in presentation and delivery.
As well as the impressive formal structuring all twelve seasons of It’s Always Sunny the plots are always pretty tight and logical in a twisted way. Of course some of the storylines can become quite convoluted for humorous purposes but the writers use pace and a plethora of plot twists to great impact. I especially loved the episode The Gang Breaks Dee which finds Dee finally hitting it big as a stand-up comedian only to find it was the Gang who set her up with a massively elaborate practical joke. Dee again was at the centre of a big mystery in Season 6 where she gets pregnant and tries to make money out of surrogacy. This plot became a classic arc for the season and the episode Who Got Dee Pregnant is brilliant twisted as each of the Gang debate as to whether it was them or not; including even Frank and Dennis! So essentially rather than being just a litany of abusive characters being horrible many of the narratives are tighter than a wrestler’s nut-sack in Speedos.
6. RUNNING GAGS
Throughout all the episodes there are a plethora of running gags such as:
Charlie is a perpetual glue or paint sniffer.
Charlie ‘loves’ and stalks the Waitress.
Frank and Charlie are garbage scavengers.
Frank always tries some underhanded money-making scheme.
Dee is a terrible stand-up comedian.
Dee has terrible taste in men who all suffer at her hands.
Dee is mocked for being a bird.
Cricket’s life and body is destroyed by the Gang.
The McPoyle family are the Gang’s sworn enemies.
Dennis thinks he’s the most intelligent but is just as dumb as the rest.
Mac thinks he’s a brilliant bodyguard with great fighting moves but isn’t.
Everyone thinks Mac is gay but he doesn’t know or admit it!
The Gang ALWAYS destroy Dee’s cars.
Dennis is a committed “lady-killer” with sociopathic tendencies.
Charlie does all the dirty work!
The Gang will promote ridiculous products such as: Kitten Mittens, Wolf Cola and Fight-Milk!
The Gang ALWAYS dumbfound and conflict with figures of authority including: Police; Lawyers; Health & Safety; Doctors; Therapists etc.
These and many more provide the spine for the show and give it a depth and wealth of humour throughout.
Similar to South Park many people who haven’t seen the show may think that It’s Always Sunny is just a gross and base comedy show. However, many of the episodes show the Gang attempting to resolve a national or international capitalist crisis. Usually led by Frank’s desire to screw someone over or simply because they prefer ill thought out and hair-brained schemes to actual proper work these episodes successfully satirise the world today. My particular favourites include: The Gang Runs for Office, The Gang Solve the Gas Crisis, The Great Recession and The Gang Recycles Their Trash all demonstrate a finger-on-the-pulse of political and social satire; albeit from a completely ridiculous angle.
In some respect the dialogue is some of the most disgusting words ever committed to TV. In fact I’m amazed there isn’t more controversy for some of the episodes. However, like the characters it remains on the fringe of the TV schedules remaining cult viewing. Here are just a few of their classic quotes:
“Hey-o! What’s up, bitches!” Mac
“Wildcard, bitches! Yee-haw!” Charlie
“I browned out that evening.” Mac
“You keep using this word “jabroni. It’s awesome!”Charlie
“If you’re in my room, you’re always being filmed.” Dennis
“I’m not fat. I’m cultivating mass.”Fat Mac
“Your mom doesn’t know dick! She’s a dumb, fat cow!” Sweet Dee
“Fight Milk! The first alcoholic protein drink for bodyguards!” Mac
In the latest season there is a wonderful cameo from Scott Bakula where his 1980s character Sam Beckett is shown to have jumped into the body of an old black man. Bakula features throughout with a wonderful hang-dog desperation as to how he ended up in such a crazy situation. Other cameos include: filmmaker Guillermo Del Doro and Games of Thrones writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss who have actually written the Flowers for Charlie episode and guest-starred in one two. Other guest stars include: Josh Groban, Sinbad, Puff Daddy, Dax Shephard, Tom Sizemore and my personal favourite Sean William Scott as Country Mac. I think the appearance of said celebrities is not enough to get the laughs, but the writers often use them parodically and the actors really get into the craziness of the show.
Like many great contemporary comedies including South Park, Father Ted and The Simpsons many of the shows episodes are clearly influenced by the makers love of music, movies, TV and radio. Episodes parodying musicals, 1980s ski/sex comedies, gangsters, Reality makeover shows, animated kids programmes, horror films, detective and cop shows and many more. In Season 11 they parodied Oscar winning Birdman (2014) by filming the show in one-take to a jazz score and in Season 12 But the show doesn’t just mention or take plots from certain genres it mocks but it pays tributes to specific films too. For example in Season 9 they even made Lethal Weapon 6 with hilarious results.
Believe it or not the rag-tag-weirdo-idiot-boy Charlie (Charlie Day) is a songwriter of some ill-repute. The best examples of his music can be found in the legendary episode The Nightman Cometh where he gets the Gang to stage a musical for no apparent reason. It is complete and utter insanity but somehow actually works and the songs are pretty catchy too. Season 12 also finds the Gang stuck in The Wiz and having to sing their lines involuntarily. This is absolutely hilarious too as they attempt to find the rules of the parallel world they are trapped in.
12. LOW BUDGET
Incredibly the very first pilot episode was shot for $200 and ever since that the Gang and creators have stuck to the lower budget ideals of the debut season. In fact that is the strength of the show as they must use their writing and acting abilities to come up with ideas which do not need massive budgets or special effects. Indeed, the lo-fi charm of the show remains as it is from the first season. Okay, the Gang have got older and Mac got fatter and gayer but the same theme tune and credits play out in the current season as they did in the first; and that is very comforting to me, BITCHES!