By David Chen
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Starring Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Danny Devito
Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 9, 2008
After a 7-episode first season and a 10-episode second season, the question hanging over the young actors of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was whether or not they could make the magic happen again for a whole 15-episode third season? Fortunately for fans of TV comedy, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia chronicles the adventures of four amoral young adult misfits, Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), Charlie (Charlie Day), and Mac (Rob McElhenney), as well as Dennis and Dee’s deadbeat father Frank (Danny Devito). Together they try and run a bar, Paddy’s Pub, although the business serves only as a setting for the various amounts of legal and ethical troubles they get into. Most episodes begin with one of the characters coming up with some plan for self-improvement or self-betterment (e.g., Mac and Dennis want to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles) and end with that plan going horrifically wrong (e.g., Mac and Dennis fail at tryouts, Dee ends up with her ankle shattered, and Frank accidentally shoots a player in the leg).
There are a number of elements differentiating Always Sunny from other sitcoms. First of all, a significant amount of the dialogue feels improvised, with actors occasionally talking over each other in a flurry of speech. This gives the show a spontaneous, anything-can-happen type feel, although the upshot is that some jokes can fall painfully flat. The show is also filmed mostly using handheld cameras, further accentuating this style. But perhaps the most significant differentiator is that Always Sunny uses its basic cable branding to tackle taboo topics that other sitcoms would never dream of touching. Pedophilia, incest, political corruption, serial murder, prostitution, drug use, Stockholm syndrome, mental disability, vigilantism, etc.; none of it is sacred but somehow the actors (many of whom also write and direct some of the episodes) make it work, directing the audience’s laughter at them and not at the subjects at hand.
In short, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of the funniest shows on television, deftly blending edgy comedy with an improvisational style that comes together wonderfully for this third season. Highlights of this season include “The Gang Gets Held Hostage,” featuring the wonderfully demented McPolye brothers, as well as the season finale, “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off,” which brings back many secondary characters in a hilarious dance-off storyline. I’ve watched this season multiple times and I still find things to enjoy. Even if the jokes aren’t as funny the second time around, the faux-camaraderie between the main characters, whose contempt for humanity is equaled only by their occasional contempt for each other, is always a joy to watch.
Commentaries – The gang offers commentary on two episodes: “That Gang Solves the North Korea Situation” and “Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender.” Hearing the actors chat with each other while not in character is a revealing experience, but feels as enjoyable as hanging out and watching the episodes with some funny guys. There are some cool behind-the-scenes stories here, as well as amusing reflections on some of the episode plotlines.
Meet the McPoyles – This is a 5-minute bizarre but amusing featurette containing interviews with Jimmi Simpson and Nate Mooney, who play the McPoyle brothers. Simpson puts on an exaggerated salesman caricature while answering interview questions while Mooney just looks shell-shocked the whole time. Good for a laugh or two.
Dancing Guy – This is 6-minutes of that frightening all-access cable TV show featured in the episode “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire.” It features shirtless and diapered grown men dancing. For six minutes. No more needs to be said about this featurette.
Sunny Side Up Vol. 2 – This featurette is 6-minutes long and chronicles some behind-the-scenes action of the show. The gang talks about getting picked up for a third season, hiring directors like Fred Savage to work on the show, and working with a team of writers. Interestingly enough, the three male leads are wrestling (?) the entire time they are giving interviews. Despite the wrestling running gag, this featurette does offer some good insights to the show, although it doesn’t really go deeper than a standard EPK.
Gag Reel – 5-6 minutes of bloopers. I always enjoy these as watching the actors try to maintain character in the midst of ridiculous lines is pretty hilarious.
Three Sunny TV Spots round out this set of special features.
Overall, this set of special features is pretty lackluster. In an EW interview, series creator McElhenney had promised that the DVD set that would be fairly packed, but this set offers virtually the same amount of special features content as the first DVD set, only the show was more successful this time around. Even commentaries for every episode would have made this a “must buy.” The DVD is definitely worth a purchase if you haven’t seen the show, but don’t expect great content apart from the episodes.