What with our TV schedules being awash with American sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, etc, it’s long been a source of frustration/confusion/anger that ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ has never crossed the pond and made it onto British television. But with the recent DVD release, the sitcom (the first series anyway) is finally widely available for UK audiences.
For those not familiar with the sitcom, it’s described with the tagline as ‘Seinfeld on crack’ which is fairly apposite. Our three main protagonists Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McIlhenney) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) are the owners of a rundown bar in Philadelphia with delusions of grandeur and frequently become embroiled in far fetched get rich quick schemes. The characters all subscribe to an image of themselves that’s long faded since high school as they struggle to deal with the reality of their situation. The first series sees the gang deal with one social issue at a time as they tackle the altogether delicate subjects of race, abortion, underage drinking, religion, gun laws, etc.
However, unlike most of the American imports that make their way over, the characters of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are morally reprehensible. They’ve taken the ethos of Seinfeld (No Hugging, No Learning) to a whole ‘nother level as the characters are forever on the precipice of betraying each other for personal gain. They’re cruel, vindictive, scheming, rude and most importantly very very funny. The show doesn’t so much as deals with taboos as smashes them apart (in the most recent series, the gang fake the death of a baby) However this isn’t a programme designed to court controversy and despite all the overtly malicious things they do and say, the characters are intensely funny, incredibly watchable and surprisingly likeable.
Much of the humour of the show derives from seeing how the various ridiculous plots and plans they concoct will fail and how the conclusion of all the narrative strands will tie in together. It’s a must watch for any aspiring sitcom writers, as it’s an absolute masterclass in narrative construction. Creator and writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, Graham Linehan is a big fan of the show “What they used to say about Seinfeld, that the characters were horrible people — well, the ones in Always Sunny really are terrible. But they keep you coming back despite that.” And that in essence is the shows strength.
I implore you all to seek it out and watch it whilst it’s still cool and niche so you can retain a smug air about yourself as you recommend it to others. Which in retrospect might’ve been the driving force behind this article.