IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: THE COMPLETE SEASON 8
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Charlie Day as CHARLIE
Rob McElhenney as MAC
Glenn Howerton as DENNIS
Kaitlin Olson as SWEET DEE
Danny DeVito as FRANK
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Created by: Rob McElhenney
BY KEVIN CARR
There are different reasons to watch television. Some people want to live vicariously through the characters, finding adventure and excitement. Some people want to weep with the characters as unending challenges face their emotionally-driven lives. Some people just want to laugh.
Over the years, with dramas coming and going to varying degrees of success and sometimes-forced situation comedies struggle to keep the laughs coming, there has been a handful of shows that consistently entertainment. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is one of those shows.
The charm of this series is that it is like the nasty-ass honey badger. It just doesn’t give a shit. In fact, it is so interested in not giving a shit that it often offends with its mere subject matter. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is the kind of show to watch so you can develop a thicker skin over your hot-button issues. Rather than getting incensed about whatever you end up seeing on television – whether it’s our imperfect legal system, bullying or even the dreaded cancer – learn to not take things so seriously.
In this sense, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is a public service. It allows people to look at the often morose hand that life deals us and have a laugh about it.
This show hit its stride around season four, once Danny DeVito found his way into the cast and settled in. The key to the show is that none of the characters are remotely likeable as people, but they are wonderful to watch act out. It’s the kind of series that makes you feel better about yourself simply by watching terrible things happening to terrible people with hilarious consequences.
Season 8 keeps the characters grounded in their awfulness and refuses to allow them to grow. In fact, they often do the opposite, and that’s where the magic lies.
This season continues the gang’s inability to function in normal human society, hitting on some social issues (like the push for recycling, the worth of psychological counseling and the corruption of the justice system). However, this show is not a political one, demonstrating that the extremes on an issue are often fraught with hypocrisy and problems.
For example, in the series finale “Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense,” Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) are in a legal battle over Dennis’ right to eat cereal while driving and Dee’s plight of having milk spilled in her car. This isn’t a reaction to any specific case in recent history. It’s not trying to make a specific point. Instead, it demonstrates the problems in the system by blowing them up to ridiculous proportions.
Similarly, the episode “The Gang Gets Analyzed” doesn’t indict psychoanalysis per se. Instead, it shows that some people are likely beyond help, and a trip to the shrink isn’t an immediate cure-all for anti-social behavior. It also is there to make you laugh… which it does… a lot.
Like some of the recent seasons, the success of the show allows for some higher production values, particularly in early episodes like “The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre” (in which an apparent zombie outbreak threatens the lives of the Gang) and “Charlie and Dee Find Love” (in which we get out of the bar and into some grander locations). However, these larger sets and higher exposure serve the story rather than to make things look bigger and more expensive.
In the end, Season 8 continues the long tradition of a funny show, with only ten episodes so as to not let the series run out of steam too quickly. It’s one of the funniest things on television, and if things continue for a few more years, there will be more than 100 shows with plenty of funny episodes to fall back on in a pinch.
The two-disc DVD set comes with all ten episodes, plus a nice assortment of special features for a seventh DVD release. These features include commentaries on select episodes, deleted scenes and a gag reel. There’s also a retrospective video “Fat Mac: In Memoriam” as well as in-series character jokes like Frank’s late-night TV commercial “Frank Reynolds’ How to Be a Warthog” and “Lady House: The Lost Premiere,” featuring Charlie and Mac’s mothers in their own sit com.