It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Season 3, Episodes 5-9
When we last left the show, Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito), or The Gang, were knuckle deep in varying levels of chicanery. No one gave a damn about anybody else (including each other), everyone was only looking out for themselves, and to hell with the consequences or anyone who got in the way of their harebrained schemes. Since then, not much has changed. Except maybe that they are now elbow deep in the same pile they had create for themselves. Dennis has, incredibly, found a way to increase the level of his own vanity to an almost criminal level. And most times as a result, Sweet Dee’s self esteem couldn’t be any lower (see what she does in “The Gang Solves the North Korean Situation” for a rival bar’s microbrew recipe.) Charlie is still the group whipping boy, and unlucky in love. Frank still wants in on all the action. And Mac is steady-Eddie; just doing his thing.
In my last review I referenced the tagline that frequents the description of the show (“… Seinfeld on crack”) and also said that “… it found a way to push the boundaries of bad taste and political correctness…” These words are no less true now. It is also still true that with no major plotlines to recap, anyone can pick up at any time without missing a beat. And therein lies the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things about the show and moments that are ‘sit by yourself in the dark and laugh out loud’ hilarious. (Episode 9, “Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person” is the funniest show this season.) The problem is that now the writers and actors know this to be the case and have almost infected the show with a case of sequel-itis. That is, to take what was funny about the original, crank it up a notch, regurgitate it, and spit it out as something new, hoping that we will all be none the wiser. Well I am, and there are becoming too many times when I am ready to throw the BS flag.
As season 3 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia continues, I find myself very divided. There are times when the show comes so close to striking comic gold, and other times they are so painfully off the mark I lose almost all of my interest in the show altogether. In previous seasons, there was a displayed patience in their brashness. They were still over the top and crude, but there was a certain flow; almost a rhythm in the delivery. Now it’s almost like the bell just rang on Round 10 and they are coming with the haymaker on every punch. Dennis has taken his chauvinistic pretty boy act to a level that is, at times, just ugly. He has always been the instigator on the show, but it is getting to the point where he is almost too mean for his own good. Charlie has become more manic than ever — oftentimes screeching line after line of dialogue that registers as just a bit too much. Frank and Mac are the most consistent characters on the show. They have both found their place in the cast that is not overdone or underused; because they found a balance. The rest of the cast could take a cue from the two of them.
I have absolutely no problem with the off-color topics, language, or situations; none at all. If I am offended by anything, it is the increasing inconsistency. The show has always been a little hit or miss since Season 1, but the gaps between the good ones are getting bigger and bigger. The problem with using a tagline to describe your show that references Seinfeld or any other show considered to be one of the greatest of all time is the comparison to that built in greatness right out of the gate. Hell, even Seinfeld took a couple seasons to find their swing. But what got them there was the mythology they developed. The show was essentially about nothing, but it also existed in this universe the writers created that allowed them to be carried through the batches of weaker, or even flat-out bad, episodes relatively unscathed. The problem that is becoming apparent with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that they have yet to create that mythology of their own. They are relying on the shock value of the topics, language, and situations The Gang gets into rather that challenge themselves to dig deep and create a world where some of their supporting characters can absorb the blow of a bad episode.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is at a turning point. They can make some adjustments and go down as one of the shows that turned it around once the new wore off and it started to go sour. Or they can just go down — in a ball of flames. Both options seem equally likely at this point. But I am still rooting for the former.
And there’s the rub.