"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is sort of an "indie" TV series. The pilot was shot by a group of actors for $200 bucks on a digital camera, then shopped around to networks, with FX deciding to pick it up. The pilot was then re-shot and the result is an interesting mix. The series is like a deeply politically incorrect, rough mix between "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Friends" and looks like it was shot with the low-key, low-tech feel of an Ed Burns film. Each week, the characters manage to find themselves in another situation where they have the choice of doing the right or wrong thing, and they often choose the latter, as, in their case, it's often also the profitable thing..and because they're jerks.
The show focuses on Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton), three pals who decide to open up a bar in Philadelphia in order to have a place to drink and meet women or meet drinking women. They're joined by Dee (Kaitlin Olson), the sister of Dennis who occasionally makes a slight attempt to be the voice of reason before being dragged down into the various schemes. The remarkable thing about the series is how it's successfully so twisted without seeming forced. It's all because these characters are truly, deeply who they are. They're self-centered, completely immature jerks who are not only proud of it, but unaware that there's any other way to be.
The show's writing is wonderfully demented, but it's the performances that make the series work as well as it does. McElhenney, Howerton and Day are priceless, which is rather surprising, as none of the three have much experience with comedy, aside from Howerton, who was one of the stars of the short-lived "That 80's Show". Danny Devito, playing Dennis and Dee's estranged father Frank, blends in well and gets some big laughs when he joins in season 2. Anne Archer also joins the cast as Frank's stuck-up ex-wife.
As for the plots, they seem to continue to get more wrong as the series goes on. The second episode, "Charlie Decides to Get an Abortion", has the characters playing both sides of the abortion debate at a rally to try and pick up women. The first episode, "The Gang Gets Racist", sees the bar accidentally turned into a gay bar, which the Gang isn't pleased about until they realize the bar's making more than it ever has. "Underage Drinking: A National Concern" sees the group opening the bar to underage drinkers to provide them a "safe haven" and Dee, Dennis and Charlie end up getting asked to the prom.
Second season episodes include "The Gang Goes Jihad" (when a new neighbor threatens to close the bar, the gang declares a holy war) and another episode titled, simply, "Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom". There's also, "The Gang Exploits a Miracle" (the group decides to make a profit on a water stain in the bar that looks like the Virgin Mary) and the self-explanatory "Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare".
Overall, "It's Always Sunny" is a pleasant surprise; this is a fast, witty, funny and deeply twisted comedy that I'm glad FX is keeping around for a third season.
1. 1- 1 1P01001 4 Aug 05 The Gang Gets Racist
2. 1- 2 1P01003 11 Aug 05 Charlie Wants an Abortion
3. 1- 3 1P01006 16 Aug 05 Underage Drinking: A National Concern
4. 1- 4 1P01004 23 Aug 05 Charlie Has Cancer
5. 1- 5 1P01005 30 Aug 05 Gun Fever
6. 1- 6 1P01007 6 Sep 05 The Gang Finds a Dead Guy
7. 1- 7 1P01002 13 Sep 05 Charlie Got Molested
8. 2- 1 1P02001R 29 Jun 06 Charlie Gets Crippled
9. 2- 2 1P02002R 29 Jun 06 The Gang Goes Jihad
10. 2- 3 1P02004R 6 Jul 06 Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare
11. 2- 4 1P02005R 6 Jul 06 Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom
12. 2- 5 1P02007 13 Jul 06 Hundred Dollar Baby
13. 2- 6 1P02003 20 Jul 06 The Gang Gives Back
14. 2- 7 1P02009 27 Jul 06 The Gang Exploits A Miracle
15. 2- 8 1P02006 3 Aug 06 The Gang Runs for Office
16. 2- 9 1P02008 10 Aug 06 Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass
17. 2-10 1P02010 17 Aug 06 Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad
VIDEO: "It's Always Sunny" is presented by Fox in 1.33:1 full-frame. Presentation quality is generally good and presents the low-budget material pretty well overall. Sharpness and detail are generally fine, although some scenes (especially a few interiors) can seem mildly soft. Some minor shimmering was spotted at times throughout the show, but the majority of the presentation appeared crisp and clean.
SOUND: The show's stereo soundtrack remained dialogue-driven throughout. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: We get commentary from the cast on a pair of episodes ("Hundred Dollar Baby" and "Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom"), a "Making of" featurette, scenes from the original pilot, bloopers, auditions for Kaitlin and a "Fox Movie Channel Presents" promo.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "It's Always Sunny" is a pleasant surprise; this is a fast, witty, funny and deeply twisted comedy that I'm glad FX is keeping around for a third season. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a good supply of bonus features. Recommended.