By a time a show reaches its fifth season, it’s in an awkward place. It’s established what made it popular but if it keeps using that established trait, then the show gets stale, it dies, and too many shows avoid this natural selection by either indifferent audiences who don’t want any evolution in their show or by networks who are too scared to replace it with a new show that may not even build up an audience in the first place.
So where does “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” go? We know it’s meaner than hell, features the most unlikable cast possible, and pushes its characters to unbelievable stupidity. Well, as it turns out, they can perfect all this and then up their game by having the actors announce that they’ve just mastered comedic performance. Hit the jump to find out why the newest season of TV’s meanest comedy may be its best yet.
I wish I could say that there’s some way to adjust to “It’s Always Sunny’s” brand of humor; humor that is ill-served by such weak adjectives like “revolting”, “raunchy”, “lewd”, “shocking” or “soul-crushing”. Basically, if you haven’t seen all of the deadly sins practiced in some way during the 30 minute span of an episode, then you got a light episode. Step in whenever you want because it’s just gonna get mean and starting with tonight’s episode, “The Gang Exploits the Mortage Crisis”, it doesn’t let up.
FX sent me a screener of the first four episodes and while I’ve been a fan of the show from its beginning, they really have taken their game to a whole new level of dark comedy. It’s not just a matter of screwing over other people, but they’ve just become so much more at ease with their massive egos, boundless stupidity, craven opportunism, and complete lack of self-awareness that it never seems forced. These are five despicable human begins and the show isn’t trying to say “Hey, aren’t these guys despicable!” as much as it’s trying to punish them not with one big lesson at the end, but by abusing them as much as possible and having no lesson stick. If these characters ever develop, they’ll be ruined.
“It’s Always Sunny” remains refreshing because it knows all the conventions of the sitcom and does the exact opposite but in a manner that feels shocking because you didn’t realize they would take it that far. For instance, in the episode “The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention”, Dee and Dennis talk about their gross cousin. In a conventional sitcom, she would return all hot and Dennis would try to sleep with her even though she’s his cousin ha ha ha. But with this show, she shows up and I’ll just put it this way: she makes the McPoyles look like a family from a Norman Rockwell painting.
But what really raises my hopes for the new season are the performances of Charlie Day (Charlie), Kaitlin Olson (Dee), Glenn Howerton (Dennis), Danny DeVito (Frank), and Rob McElhenney (Mac). It’s not just a matter of completely understanding their characters by this point, but the small idiosyncrasies and character tics that they’ve added. Watch their hand movements or how they look in the background of a scene and you will start wondering why you haven’t seen them more often in feature comedies. Their characters on the show may be disgusting but their comedic talents have become kinda brilliant.
Fans of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” should put all fears about the new season aside except the fear about what new depths these horrible characters will reach. But then your fear will subside as you remember that the lower they go, the funnier they get.
The 5th season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” premieres tonight at 10pm on FX.