TV Review: ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ solidifies itself as one of the better long-running comedies of recent years

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV, Reviews
With cast members (from left to right) Kaitlin Olson, Charlie Day, Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" remains a gleeful feast of bad taste and social satire. (Image courtesy of FXX)

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is the kind of long-running show that never seems to find a stumbling point. After over a decade of one crudity after another, FX’s comedy about middle-class white jerks running a bar in Philadelphia is just as funny as it has ever been.

“Sunny in Philadelphia” stands in the same court as Comedy Central’s “South Park” as crass and politically incorrect programs go, somehow being able to be embraced by mainstream audiences and critics despite its low-brow humor.

In this new season, the gang (as the cast is most often referred to as) finds itself in a greater variety of scenarios than ever before. A visit to a local waterpark that ends with a bloody AIDs scare, a musical episode where the gang experiences prejudice firsthand as they inhabit the bodies of African-Americans and a main character coming out of the closet are just a few examples of the season’s insanity.

With the jovial fun-making came a few lapses in decision-making. An entire episode dedicated to the character of Cricket, a man whose life has been ruined time and time again from the exploits of the gang, comes across as a quickly slapped-together attempt at creating continuity between episodes. An episode titled “Wolf Cola: A Public Relations Nightmare” is a great piece of fan service, but most of the references aren’t going to stick with more casual viewers.

In fact, the only real downside of the season as a whole is that it assumes the audience already knows these characters well. Again, not unlike South Park, there are such a continuous flow of callbacks that it can be quite alienating to newcomers; that is, if Danny DeVito going down a waterslide with no water while screaming “It burns!” wouldn’t have done that already.

It is rare to see a show so willing to mock social movements but in the same breath, do something a bit progressive. While “Sunny” had frequently teased at the character of Mac being gay in ways that are often retrospectively less than commendable, it was nice to see him actually come out. Even more impressive is that it hardly changed the character of Mac at all. He is still Mac, and the rest of the character’s were happy for him finally confessing it.

This is, of course, not to say that “Sunny in Philadelphia” has softened its irreverence. For example, in the body-switch episode where the gang finds themselves in the bodies of African-Americans for a day, the assumptions they make about race and status are rather illuminating. What makes it humorous is that these particular characters, who are portrayed as moronic, make very ethnocentric assumptions about racial relations. It brings it more in line with the show “All in the Family,” where it is very clear the writers of the show are nowhere near as pig-headed as the characters on the screen. The humor is at the expense of characters who think narrow-mindedly and is not actually supporting those views.

It isn’t going to make any new fans, but the new season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” solidified its status as one of the better long-running sitcoms in recent memory. It isn’t for all tastes, especially not the easily offended, but it has the uncanny ability of saying absolutely nothing important in one episode to discussing something strangely profound in the next. Well, profound in a drunk-out-of-their-mind-frat-boy-kind-of way, but that is why “Sunny’s” fans love it.

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