It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

North American critics and viewers have called It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia “Seinfeld on crack.”

The show follows the exploits of “the gang” – Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Frank (Danny DeVito). They own Paddy’s Pub in a rundown section of Philadelphia, and rather than drawing in a crowd, they spend most of their time drinking their supplies and cooking up get-rich-quick schemes.

From incestual relations to underage drinking to dumpster babies, no subject seems too taboo for the crew. The gang can be surprisingly topical, too, covering the recession in season five and animal rights in season six, but in their own hilarious, morally skewed way.

I first saw mention of this show in the Arrested Development forums on The Internet Movie Database. The two shows share similarities, being filmed in a mock-documentary (mockumentary) style with heavily dialog-driven scenes, subtle puns, and self-referential style.

I’m Hooked

From the very first episode, I was hooked. Each episode follows the same format: a cold open where the gang sets the stage with a scheme, at which point a text card chimes in (along with a light-stringed musical theme) with titles like The Gang Exploits a Miracle, Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom, Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare, and a personal favourite of mine, Underage Drinking: A National Concern.

During the latter episode mentioned, the gang forgets to card high school kids at the door. Rather than simply righting this wrong and doing their jobs, they decide that it’s best to provide a safe haven for the kids in which to “experiment.” All the while, the gang ends up regressing to their high school selves, as they see opportunities to be popular with the “in” crowd, even though they’re now late 20-somethings. As Charlie (my favourite character) states in this episode, “This isn’t a morality contest.” That sentiment may very well sum up the show as a whole.

Though Sunny has a strong ensemble cast as a whole, Charlie is arguably the strongest. He’s illiterate and a few shades shy of being homeless; one minute he can be surprisingly insightful, the next he spouts phrases like “monkeys are nature’s human.” He produces epically ridiculous songs: one is Nightman, which turns into Dayman, which inspires a screenplay called The Nightman Cometh. It is his polar jumps from being a moron to being brilliant that keep me coming back for more.

Do yourself a favour and give this show a try. If you’re a fan of laugh-track-free comedy, fairly clever writing, and you’re not easily offended, this will suit your palate, not unlike Charlie’s favourite dish: “milk steak, boiled over hard, and your finest jelly beans…raw.”

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has spanned six seasons and a Christmas special, with a seventh season to follow in fall 2011. Catch the show on Comedy Central or order the DVDs on Amazon.

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