"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.
This is a series about being completely and utterly antisocial, immoral, rude and generally terrible to your fellow human - and it's deeply, utterly and sometimes even sublimely funny. In terms of being antisocial, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" makes "Seinfeld" look like "7th Heaven". In a time where many shows seem to be sanitized and diluted to make sure they're not offensive to anyone, it's amazing to see a series that looks like every third or fourth scene would get a note from network execs that, "Gee, you can't do that."
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 just short of evil. In the first episode of this season, two of the characters find a baby in a dumpster, then think about tossing it back when they find that it's too hard to raise it. When someone says the baby could be in commercials, they reconsider keeping the kid. If that wasn't bad enough, the characters somehow find a way to make the situation even more wrong on many levels once they meet the ad exec. As of season three, the series shows no signs of losing its ability to be incredibly politically incorrect, and then taking things even a few steps further.
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 since joining the cast in season 2.
Some of the highlights of season three include: "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby" (Dee and Mac decide to try and raise a baby they find a dumpster and Dennis tries to "go green"), "The Gang Gets Invincible" (Mac, Dennis and Dee try out for the Philadelphia Eagles, but things don't exactly go like the Mark Whalberg movie), "The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation" (the gang finds out that their spot on the city's pub crawl has been taken by the Korean restaurant down the street, who is offering "enhanced beer"), "The Gang Dances Their Asses Off" (Charlie inadvertently puts Paddy's up for first prize in a dance marathon) and "The Gang Sells Out" (a corporation offers to buy Paddy's, but the gang doesn't exactly know how to negotiate well.)
Overall, "It's Always Sunny" is a pleasant surprise; this is a fast, witty, funny and deeply twisted comedy that I'm glad FX continues to support and - at least if this third season is any indication - isn't trying to tone down.
The new season of the series starts on FX on 9/18. Check local listings.
18. 3- 1 13 Sep 07 The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby
19. 3- 2 13 Sep 07 The Gang Gets Invincible
20. 3- 3 20 Sep 07 Dennis and Dee's Mom is Dead
21. 3- 4 20 Sep 07 The Gang Gets Held Hostage
22. 3- 5 27 Sep 07 The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty McGoo
23. 3- 6 27 Sep 07 The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation
24. 3- 7 4 Oct 07 The Gang Sells Out
25. 3- 8 4 Oct 07 Frank Sets Sweet Dee On Fire
26. 3- 9 11 Oct 07 Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person
27. 3-10 18 Oct 07 Mac is a Serial Killer
28. 3-11 25 Oct 07 Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender
29. 3-12 1 Nov 07 The Gang Gets Whacked (1)
30. 3-13 1 Nov 07 The Gang Gets Whacked (2)
31. 3-14 8 Nov 07 Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City
32. 3-15 15 Nov 07 The Gang Dances Their Asses Off
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: Commentary from Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glen Howerton on "The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation" and "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender", "Sunny Side Up: Volume 2" featurette, "Meet the McPoyles" featurette, "Dancing Guy" featurette, gag reel and TV spots.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "It's Always Sunny" remains just as twisted, demented and hilarious in season three - 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.