Netflix Description: Four narcissistic friends run a Philadelphia bar where their juvenile behaviour brings situations from uncomfortable to hysterically horrible.
Episode run time: 22 mins (approx.)
Number of seasons: 9
My take: If you’re looking for some way to rid yourself of tension then look no further than It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an oddball comedy that takes the edge off everyday life and then lampoons it without mercy. It’s Always Sunny relies on a simple premise: set your protagonists a task, and let the chaos ensue.
…the gang is a chaotic group of well-crafted characters…
It’s Always Sunny revolves around the lives of ‘The Gang’, Mac (Rob Mcelhenny who also created, produces and writes), Dennis (Glenn Howerton who also develops, produces and writes), Charlie (Charlie Day who also produces and writes) and Deandra ‘SweetDee’ (Kaitlin Olson who is married to Mcelhenney in real life), a misfit group from Philly that together manage Paddy’s, a rundown Irish-American pub with a less than impressive number of regulars. As you might expect, the mainstay of the show’s comedy is based around these four with Frank (played by Danny Devito as the estranged father-not-father of Dennis and Dee (and possibly Charlie too)) thrown into the mix for a slightly leveller (yet often drug, sex and booze addled) perspective. Straight-faced, selfish, and utterly susceptible to each other’s winding up, the gang is a chaotic group of well-crafted characters for whom, believe it or not, you can’t help but find a deep affection – even in their most immoral moments.
The show itself, as already mentioned, runs on a very simple premise: set ‘The Gang’ a task, and let chaos ensue. With some other shows this can become repetitive and (as shown in any number of sketch-shows) ultimately restrictive, but Mcelhenney, Howerton and Day have managed to overcome this to craft a show that, whilst allowing for the erratic and random storylines from episode to episode, also maintains a consistency and continual reality that is often missed in this kind of programme. Throughout the run there are facts that remain relevant – plot details from early seasons that play a part in the later ones and characters traits that, though seeming insignificant at one point might become singularly important at another. Ultimately, in their writing, the makers of the show have managed to harness both an exaggerated hyperrealism and an utterly depraved realism that spark against each other and create moments of both stupendous disgust but also laugh out loud hilarity (fake baby funerals, dead prostitutes, and crack addictions to name just a few scenarios that, in any other forum, just could not work).
…who straddles the line between insanity and huggableness…
The thing that perhaps best anchors this show is the cast – there is undeniable chemistry between all five main members of ‘The Gang’ that means that you cannot help but love each one of them (no matter how horrendously tragic or debauched they become). Beyond character, the story cements it all and in total, Mcelhenney, Howerton, Day and everyone else involved have (so far) created 9 series that are sure to entertain. In particular look out for the episodes that focus on Charlie (who straddles the line between insanity and huggableness) and Frank – in these episodes and in their antics (the two are also roommates who share a bed) there is a subtly lovely bromance that rivals any other.
Watch for: A somehow lovable cast that can’t help getting themselves into the worst kind of situations.