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20th Century Fox presents
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Seasons One and Two (2005-2006)

Frank: There is nothing more threatening to a man than a woman who is smart and attractive. We have to pretend you're both.
Dee: Wow, you're a horrible father.

- Danny DeVito, Kaitlin Olson

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: October 19, 2007

Stars: Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson
Other Stars: Danny DeVito, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Anne Archer
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, sexuality, explicit humor)
Run Time: Approx. 380 min.
Release Date: September 04, 2007
UPC: 024543444169
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB+ B

DVD Review

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is populated by perhaps the most vile sit-com characters of all time. It's like someone watched a few episodes of Seinfeld and thought, eh, that's a pretty good show, but the characters are too likable. It's another show about nothing, with lead characters that are reprehensibly self-centered, but it is utterly without a conscience, with boundary-pushing humor that often makes Curb Your Enthusiasm look like According to Jim.

It's about three friends, Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), and Charlie (Charlie Day), who co-own a bar in Philly. Dennis' twin sister Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) is the bartender. They aren't very good at running a business, so it's usually empty, except for when they get one of their great ideas to drum up customers, like inadvertently turning it into a gay bar, or a hangout for underage drinkers, or a Vietnamese Russian Roulette parlor. Because nothing is quite so funny as a good Russian Roulette joke. This is easily one of the most brazenly offensive shows on television save maybe South Park, but those kids get a pass because they're animated. It's harder to watch when real people make fun of child molestation than little paper cut-outs do it.

And make fun of child molestation they do. That and everything else, from abortion, to the elderly, to anti-smoking campaigns, to all flavors of religion, to horrible diseases. The entire series, in fact, was born out of a short scene McElhenney (who writes most of the episodes, often with help from the other main actors) wrote about a guy who goes to borrow sugar from a friend. He finds out the friend has cancer, and pretends to care when really all he wants is his sugar (the scene was expanded into episode four, Charlie Gets Cancer). Like the Seinfeld gang, they care about themselves to the exclusions of all others (including one another). What is it about amoral jerks that makes for such good TV? I don't know, but they've populated my favorite TV shows, most recently making the filthy rich look not all that wonderful on Arrested Development (this show makes the working class look a hell of a lot worse).

But, uh, I kind of love the show, and all the characters. As much as you can love someone you find deplorable. Dennis, I love his epic narcissism—in the gay bar episode, he's at first horrified by the attention he gets from men, but quickly strokes his ego by dressing in a tight muscle shirt; speaking of shirts, his most common solution to any problem is to offer to "pop [his] shirt off." Mac thinks he's a womanizer but is really just a delicate little girl (as evidenced by his clinginess following the title event in Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom, certainly a series highpoint). Sweet Dee, with her misplaced moral superiority and tortured past (you can take the girl out of the back brace, but you never take the back brace out of the girl). And poor, possibly manic depressive Charlie, prone to fits of rage matched only by unexpected bouts of sweetness; we laugh at his unrequited love for the coffeehouse girl (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) who hates him, and at the fact that he can't read. In season two, Danny DeVito joins the show as Frank, Dennis and Sweet Dee's father, and we no longer wonder where they got it.

The plots are outlandish and usually unpredictable... to a point. Basically, you can always assume the characters are going to do the worst thing, but otherwise, everything is up in the air. In Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom, for example, the act leads to a complex game in which Charlie tries to manipulate Dennis to sleep with Mac's mom, Dennis popping his shirt off in an attempt to seduce Charlie's mom, and an unfortunate bystander accidentally sleeping with Frank, resulting in the memorable line "because just like you, I like my sex old and ugly." Poor Danny DeVito.

In Charlie Gets an Abortion, Mac and Dennis play both sides of the issue, disagreeing over which side offers the best chances of scoring (certainly women who have lots of abortions are easy, Dennis thinks, while Mac is attracted to that right-to-life fervor in the eyes of guest-star Autumn Reeser. Later on, the gang discovers the gym teacher from their middle school days has been accused of naughty touching with a student, leading them to conclude that Charlie Got Molested because he hated gym. Mac is also angry that he didn't get molested himself (wasn't he cute enough?).

This isn't what I'd call satire, but it has a fearlessness that I find kind of brilliant; not every show could get away with scenes in which the leads encourage players in a youth basketball league to gouge each other with pins in order to settle a bet between siblings (The Gang Gives Back). Not every show would turn the paralysis scene from Million Dollar Baby into a sight gag (Hundred Dollar Baby) Or, maybe, literally piss all over the Virgin Mary (or at least her appearance in a questionable water stain (The Gang Exploits a Miracle).

The show has an improvisational feel (resulting in an unfortunate tendency toward scenes of multiple characters shouting at each other at once, which usually occur at least twice per episode), and that, coupled with the pitch-black, mean-spirited humor, will put off a lot of viewers. And it certainly isn't for the easily offended, because being offensive is kind of the point. If I met any of these people in real life I would punch them in the neck, but they are more than welcome on my TV screen for as long as they want to keep making fun of the disenfranchised, or people in pain.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Shot in full frame and on the cheap, It's Always Sunny looks passable on DVD, but the source material reveals its limitations. Many shots show heavy grain, particularly during darker scenes, and some entire episodes appear very grainy throughout. It's not too much of a detriment, considering the series' quasi-improvised feel, but don't expect a clean and crisp presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 surround audio is fairly good, with clear dialogue, nice presentation across the front mains, and support for music and sound effects in the rear channels.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 85 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by cast members Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny DeVito
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Gag reel
Extras Review: For a fairly low-profile release, It's Always Sunny includes a surprisingly strong compliment of extras behind that rather obnoxious cover art.

Sunny Side Up (17m:00s) is a making of featurette that actually manages to be interesting (it's been quite a while since I've seen one of those). Creator Rob McElhenney (who also plays Mac), talks about how he came up with the idea for the show, shot a short pilot for a few hundred bucks (two clips of which are presented as separate bonus features), and shopped it around. He and other cast members discuss the work it took to cast Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee (she turned them down, and more than once), how Danny DeVito saved the show from cancellation, and how episodes are written and filmed (with thoughts on the "bad taste" factor). It ends with McElhenney's plea that you not make illegal copies of the DVD, lest you endanger his wealth.

The haphazard shooting of the second season is the focus of the Making a Scene featurette (08m:51s) originally aired on the Fox Movie Channel. It seems that without Danny DeVito's involvement, there would have been no second season of the show. But... the actor was only available for 20 days. That meant all his footage from an entire season of episodes has to be shot back-to-back, creating behind the scenes havoc. All 10 scripts had to be ready at once, all the costumes had to be pre-selected, and the filming meticulously planned. We hear from the wardrobe, makeup, and continuity experts who made it all possible. Very informative and entertaining. Also, hard to believe they actually pulled it off!

Kaitlin Audition (05m:45s) tells a little different story of how Olson joined the show. The piece also includes her original audition tape. There's also a gag reel full of flubbed takes, with the delightful title The Gang F***s Up.

The gang also provides chatty commentary for a pair of episodes. Not much insight, but lots of amusing banter.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

If you liked Seinfeld but thought the characters were just too darn sympathetic, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the show for you. Oh, but you also have to find AIDS, poverty, racism, child molestation, incest, and lupus funny. You do, right? So do I.

 


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