[Written for Awards Picks, and can also be found at http://www.awardspicks.com/blog/2010/08/its-not-always-sunny-at-the-emmys/]
When friends tell me they have never watched an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, I immediately judge and pity them. I used to be one of those sorry jerks, until one weekend a few years back, stuck at home sick, I was faced with the first two seasons on DVD that I had borrowed from a friend. She pretty much force fed them to me, doing nothing short of promising that I would discover the meaning of life in those DVDs.
Within the first five minutes, my eyes were bulging out of my face as I watched the incredulous train wreck. The premise is simple enough. A few friends own a bar in Philadelphia. But no one knows anyone’s name in this dump. In fact, there aren’t really ever any customers, and if there are, they are usually quickly and maliciously driven away by the rude, ignorant, and cluelessly callous Paddy’s Pub gang. They make Jerry Seinfeld and friends seem like super nice people.
While watching it, you begin thinking that maybe a bunch of drunken friends got together, hijacked a camera crew, and blackmailed a basic cable network into putting them on the air. Which could easily be a plot of any of the depraved, sinful, and wildly shameless episodes. You get the feeling that they aren’t even trying to make you laugh at all, that they are spewing out this raucous comedy in a masturbatory display of outrageously offensive jokes that no none should ever laugh at. But you do laugh. You don’t want to, you feel badly for doing so, but that guttural hysteria takes over your insides, stings your tear ducts, and squeezes you bladder as you shake and hold your stomach and beg for more.
I wouldn’t recommend watching this show in front of your grandmother. As a cheery, Donna Reedish classic sitcom soundtrack innocently plays, plots about abortion, bed pooping, and a Virgin Mary shaped water-stain roll off the screen as flippantly as a marital spat would on an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Creators and show stars Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Charlie Day are sitcom cowboys who took a tired, trite, failing format and blew the borders right off with sparklers, gasoline, and devilishly smarmy smiles. Then throw in Kaitlin Olson, a string-bean vision of hilariousness, and the always loved, never can get enough of, grossly entertaining Mr. Danny DeVito, and a cult hit was born, like an abandoned dumpster baby waiting for us to take it home.
And for a show about a bunch of lazy, dopey, and morally bankrupt societal leeches, the actual actors themselves are fastidious workaholics. It wasn’t enough for them to become FX’s biggest hit comedy. They literally took their show on the road, on a mini tour of the outrageously popular musical episode “The Nightman Cometh”, which is about a man/boy (Glenn Howerton) getting raped in the night by a troll (Danny DeVito). I saw their performance at the Hollywood Palladium on September 25th of last year, and I was a proud part of the frenzy of euphoric fans hopped up on adrenaline from watching their favorite characters come to life on stage. The fans get it, they embrace it, and think whoever doesn’t marvel at the madness behind the rabid off-the-rails freak show is an uptight, humorless prick.
And while I whole-heartedly believe that this groundbreaking comedy about depraved blue-collar souls deserves all sorts of accolades and awards, I don’t know if it will ever turn the heads of Emmy voters. I can envision them secretly loving the show, but just completely unwilling to nominate an episode titled “Sweet Dee Dates a Retarded Person.” Although I do hope for this sunny day to come, if only to watch the gang take the stage, grab the Emmy, shout out “Wildcard Bitches!” and moon the cheering, awe-struck crowd.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Season 6 premieres on Thursday, September 16 at 10pm, on FX.