The return of veteran FX comedies It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (starting its ninth season) and The League (starting its fifth), along with the noteworthy Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell (in its second season) are actually not returning to FX. The network has moved them to its new sister station FXX, which will have more of a focus on the 18-34 year old viewer market. While this trio of shows will anchor the new channel, the rest of the schedule (for the time being) will be filled with comedy reruns.
As for the new seasons though — which return September 4th at 10 p.m. – hit the jump to find out more on how they are holding up in their old age, and why you need to start watching Totally Biased.
The ninth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will be the series’ second-to-last, but the show still has plenty of steam. There were a few meandering years when it kept its audience of invested fans, but many would agree it had lost some of its shine. Last year though, the show made a real comeback, and its ninth season begins with similar zeal. In fact, the opening episode, “The Gang Broke Dee,” might end up as one of the best the show has ever done.
The hallmarks of Sunny are all there, but there’s a little less yelling this time, along with a fun meta-awareness of their schtick in an episode titled, “The Gang Tries Desperately To Win An Award.” The show is sticking to a lot of meta themes (regarding the show and pop culture), bringing back characters from former seasons and encouraging the personality changes that have evolved slowly over the years (Fat Mac aside, Dennis continues to become more of a psychopath, and Charlie remains illiterate and huffing spray paint). Sunny is at its best when it subverts its own tropes (like when they “break” Dee, or try to make Paddy’s a legitimate bar), but no matter what the episode tackles, so far with its new season the show seems to not be able to do any wrong.
Like Sunny, The League returns to its roots in its fifth season by getting back to what made its first two seasons great. After wandering away from the focus on Fantasy Football (its raison d’etre), the series seems — for now — rededicated to its original purpose. The new season picks up with Ruxin as the recipient of the Sacko (again), which makes him want to quit the league. Meanwhile, last year’s never-before-seen winner Ted (Adam Brody) is at last revealed, becoming a part of the group for what turns into their draft -slash- Andre’s destination wedding.
In its first two new episodes, the show also balances out its ensemble better than it has done in the past. There’s less Pete, more Ruxin and Andre, and a good Rafi / Taco balance (another improvement). There are also some NFL player cameos — like JJ Watt – that do more than just have the cast point at a player and repeat over and over “oh my God, it’s JJ Watt! That’s JJ Watt standing there!” The group fights, makes up, and excludes Andre. It’s largely the same as it ever was. But for fans who have been disappointed in the lack of fantasy football and insider-jokes in the show from the last few seasons, this year might have some changes in store.
The real surprise of the trio though is Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. Like many, the show wasn’t on my radar last year. But FX believes in Bell, and his late-night show will now air four times a week, with a “mixed tape” of the best clips on Sundays. Totally Biased, which comes from executive producer Chris Rock, combines plenty of typical late-night elements: sketches, man-on-the-street interviews, celebrity guests and musical talent. But the vibe is much more relaxed than other similar shows, and Bell as a host is friendly and accessible, especially when tearing down absurd news stories a la The Daily Show.
Bell’s nightly guests and featured musical talents also tend to be under the radar or off-beat, and his “biased” view is unequivocally race-oriented in a way that that is refreshingly not polarizing. Of course, the best thing that can be said about Bell is that his show is truly funny. It’s smart, perceptive, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. Do yourself a favor and tune in. While Sunny and The League are known quantities that are producing what fans expect to see (which is a good thing) Totally Biased is doing something very different. And it’s also a very, very good thing.
The new season of It’s Always Sunny will air on FXX September 4th and 10 p.m., followed by new episodes of The League at 10:30 and Totally Biased at 11.