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IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADEPHIA – SEASON 13 REVIEW

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADEPHIA – S13 REVIEW

Created by: Rob McElhenney

Developed by: Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton

CAST

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 Reboot which 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.

Mark: 9 out of 11

12 REASONS WHY ‘IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA’ IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST SITCOMS EVER!

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**

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1. CHARACTERS

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.

2. FEARLESSNESS

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.

3. DARKNESS

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.

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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.

5. WRITING

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.

7. SATIRE

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.

8. DIALOGUE

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

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9. CAMEOS

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.

10. PARODIES

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.

11. SONGS

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!

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: A RETROSPECTIVE

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: A RETROSPECTIVE

Hey-Oooo! Bitches!  With Season 10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia now catapulted from FFX onto Netflix I thought I’d look back at the previous nine seasons and pick out my favourite episodes of the series.  Thus, I have picked out ONE from each season PLUS a “Wildcard” too.

How would I describe the show to someone who has never seen it before:  imagine Friends but the polar opposite.  It has the most unlikeable, unattractive, insane, narcissistic characters who do all manner of god-awful things to themselves, each other and total strangers. If you haven’t ever seen this show then you should . It is frantic, sick, irreverent, disgusting, manic, hyper-real, cartoon-like, politically-incorrect, satirical and incredibly hilarious. Indeed, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is arguably the closest you would get to a live-action version of South Park.

Set in the dismal Paddy’s pub in Philadelphia it initially concerned four (in Season 1) then five (when Danny DeVito joined) individuals who are each in their own way complete fuck-ups and whose main existence generally aims to scheme and out-do the others for personal gain or egotistic one-up-man-woman-ship.

THE CHARACTERS

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RONALD “MAC” MCDONALD (ROB MCELHENNEY)

Mac is a delusional tough guy, bouncer and devout Catholic who thinks he’s hard but ultimately is a moral and physical coward. Occasionally he’ll come up with some words of wisdom but on the whole he is a brainless yo-yo obsessed with remaking Lethal Weapon.


DENNIS REYNOLDS (GLENN HOWERTON)

Dennis is the group’s amoral Ted Bundy figure: a vain, arrogant, would-be-handsome-if-he-wasn’t-so-psychotic-lady-killer. While not actually a murderer he is a low-life scumbag and arguably is the stupidest of the group because he thinks HE is the most intelligent.

CHARLIE KELLY (CHARLIE DAY)

Charlie is an idiot savant with the onus on the idiot part of that; notably in his stalking of “The Waitress”.  He is the most innocent and does all the dirty “Charlie Work” in the bar like unblocking toilets and killing rats. He is also the most unpredictable sniffing glue and dressing up as alter-ego Green Man!


DEANDRA “SWEET DEE” REYNOLDS (KAITLIN OLSON)

Dee is a failed actress and stand-up comedian and often ridiculed by the others for “big-bird” looks, lack of talent and her boyfriend choices.  Thus, she will often over-compensate and compete with the guys, especially her twin-brother Dennis, in an attempt to prove herself.  Her plans mostly end in humiliating failure and loss of dignity.


FRANK REYNOLDS (DANNY DEVITO)

Frank is Dennis and Dee’s father – or is he? – and joined the group in the 2nd series when he bought into Paddy’s Bar because the gang were broke AGAIN!   Frank’s great at making money  but eschews the corporate world  to live like a feral tramp at Charlie’s place revelling in the insanity of his new-found freedom

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THE EPISODES

**SOME SWEET SPOILERS BITCHES!!**

SERIES ONE – CHARLIE WANTS AN ABORTION

This was hilarious for a number of reasons as several storylines converge revealing the desperate lengths the gang will go to achieve their low-level goals. Charlie uses his “long-lost son” as a emotional bargaining chip to get closer to his obsessive love-target:  The Waitress. Meanwhile, Mac and Dennis use Pro-life/Anti-abortion rallies to try and score with women. Safe to say all of their plans blow-up in their respective faces.

SERIES TWO – MAC BANGS DENNIS’ MUM

In this wonderfully plotted episode the Gang basically does a low-rent version of La Ronde.  Precipitated by Mac sleeping with Dennis’ mum (Anne Archer) a series of sexual revenge schemes backfire with sick hilarity.  For once Charlie ALMOST gets the upper hand until the horrific pay-off; while the highlight is — much to his amazement — Dennis being turned down by Mac AND Charlie’s mum when he attempts to have revenge sex with them.

SERIES THREE – SWEET DEE’S DATING A RETARDED PERSON

This is awesome because we get a peak at Charlie’s  crazy musical ‘talent’.  Plus, Dennis sends Dee into a spin by casting aspersions on her new rapper boyfriend — a dopey version of Eminem — by saying he is mentally backward.  The episode stands out for the awesome song Dayman — based on a dream — which Charlie wrote while sniffing spray paint. Later, Charlie and Dennis getting heckled off stage when performing it live is a particular highlight. Personally, I think the song rocks!

SERIES FOUR – WHO POOPED THE BED

The gang does Agatha Christie-meets-Sex-in-The-City style in this well structured yet disgusting episode. Indeed, Dee tries to become more classy with her girlfriends and the others attempt to discover who pooped Frank and Charlie’s bed.  The two stories intertwine as Dee’s theatrical friend Artemis eventually ditches Dee finding the “poodunnit” more interesting.  Highlights include: The Waitress falling off the wagon and laying violently into Dee plus Artemis’ final Poirot-esque summation in determining the suspect. An episode that’s full of crap — but in a fun way!

SERIES FIVE – THE DENNIS SYSTEM

Dennis just goes full “Ted Bundy” in this one with a breakdown of the system he uses to score with women.  It is a disgusting litany of dehumanizing manoeuvres which sums up Dennis’ scummy character and satirises brilliantly the sexist masculine “pick-up” industry.  Moreover, it is just hilarious as the gang both ignore AND follow his “expert” advice with a succession of dreadful dating endeavours.  As a fan of Acronyms I also admire the malice aforethought and linguistic logic of the system too.

SERIES SIX – THE GANG BUYS A BOAT

Often the episodes will find the gang will do something mildly normal — like buy a boat —  but their various actions will splinter into events which completely undermine the plan. Indeed, in this episode Dennis suffers his usual delusion of grandeur, with Mac in tow, believing owning a boat will help him achieve greater social status. Meanwhile, Charlie, Frank and Dee attempt to clean the boat but ultimately work against each other culminating an explosive end result.

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SERIES SEVEN – FRANK REYNOLDS LITTLE BEAUTIES

Frank’s energy for money-making schemes knows no bounds but it backfires when he decides to put on a beauty pageant for kids without realising the pitfalls surrounding such events.  Thus, Frank spends the whole episode keen to point out he’s NOT a paedophile and with face-paint troughed on by a funeral make-up artist he resembles the living dead.  At the same time Dee and the others attempt to live vicariously through the kids to make up for their own personal show business failures.

SERIES EIGHT – THE GANG GETS ANALYZED

Even though the Gang generally screw each over with their many schemes much joy can be found with their altercations with a variety of third parties notably:  Lawyers, Government officials, Doctors, Police, Health and Safety Officers and the general public.  In this one they visit a Dee’s Therapist  and end up being individually assessed as the group has broken down over who should be doing the washing-up.  Charlie and Frank’s analyses are off-the-chart funny but I loved that Dennis, believing himself to be an equal with the Therapist, is proved to be just as nuts as everyone else.

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SERIES NINE – THE GANG BROKE DEE

Dee’s failure as a performer due to suffering stage-fright is a delight because having done a bit of comedy myself it’s great seeing someone else crash and burn at that artistic endeavour.  In this episode she gives up completely on life and her act. Then, incredibly she has a major breakthrough as a comedian and the episode delights in sending up the nature of stand-up and how you climb the ladder. The final twist in the tale is also a joy and sums up the lack of compassion the group have toward Dee.

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WILDCARD – SERIES FOUR – E13 – THE NIGHTMAN COMETH

In tribute to the “Wildcard” Charlie I’ve picked this episode as a little addition because it is packed with ridiculous music and humour.  The gang put on a rock opera/musical for no reason at a proper theatre to boot!  To say it is bizaare is an understatement and the joy in seeing them perform a series of weird songs in amongst the insane story is a treat.  Charlie parodying the stressed director/artist is hilarious as he takes it all far too seriously. Let’s just say Stephen Sondheim need never lose sleep.  Unless he’s dead:  is Sondheim dead?