I’d heard a little about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia when the second season premiered. I think I had seen an interview with Danny DeVito, possibly on The Daily Show, and was intrigued by the clip, but I never made an attempt to catch the show. Possibly because it was on FX and I was already swamped with shows to watch that season, but I knew at some point I’d check the series out. And, as with another FX show (Rescue Me), I’m very glad I did.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a hard show to describe. I could best put it in the vein of Seinfeld, with the humor styling’s of The Office, only with humor less subtle and more in-your-face. The way the series is shot, rather low-budget, gives it a slight documentary style feel, although it’s obviously not one (at least one would hope not). Regardless of the way its shot, the way it’s written is brilliant and there wasn’t a single episode on this set that didn’t have me laughing within the first few seconds of it starting.
One thing you’ll notice as you watch the show is the characters aren’t necessarily the most caring or smart, which only ads to their charm. While the characters all act relatively the same throughout the first six episodes (the first season), the second season takes a noticeable change immediately. I actually came into the show thinking DeVito was in all of the episodes, so it wasn’t the addition of his character, although it added a new dynamic to the show; it was just that something had changed. It was until “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” did I realize it: the shows humor had gotten much, much darker. The way the episode ended had me slightly bewildered at first before I started laughing at it, but the darker trend continued over into the third discs “Hundred Dollar Baby.” Oddly enough, these two episodes were the only two with commentary on the entire set—not even the pilot has commentary.
Although there is a sense of continuity of the show (major plot points carry over into the next episodes), there isn’t a sense of it in the characters personalities. In particular, Dennis goes from being a normal, rather caring guy to a complete jerk; yet in the next episode he’ll be kind again. It’s nothing I have a qualm with, it’s just the writing style of the series—the characters attitudes are so flexible that the changing from one character attitude to another is completely acceptable to the audience.
While watching the series I definitely enjoyed the first season more than the second; the show changed ever so slightly in the second season, but I’m not saying it did so for the worse. DeVito is wonderful and he adds so much to the scenes he’s in and I question how long the four-character dynamic from the first season could have lasted, so it’s good that it was mixed up a bit. The show got a bit goofier in the second season, but there were plenty of great episodes to be had as well. One thing that didn’t change between seasons though were the great cold opens, where what the gang would discuss within the first minute of the episode would directly relate to the episode title; my personal favorite was the opening of “Mac Bangs Dennis’s Mom”, where Mac’s line (“Oh s—!”), after seeing Dennis’ mom naked, times up perfectly with the words “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” as they flash in big letters on the screen. The openings are always a highlight of the episode.
Overall the series, now airing its third season on FX, is a wonderful one that I won’t tire of soon. There’s plenty to love about the show and I can’t wait to start watching the third season. Highly Recommended.
For the shows first DVD release 20th Century Fox has combined both first and second seasons into one, three-disc release. Packaged in a bright yellow box with two thin-paks inside (one a dual disc, another a single), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will certainly catch your eye on the shelf and one hopes it sells a few more copies. The floating heads from the front cover are repeated on the thin-pak’s cover and disc art. Menu’s are a similar sunny yellow shade, which is curious because these particular bursts of yellow are never used in the series itself.
The video and audio for this release is solid for a TV show. Considering how small the shows budget is, the video is nothing amazing and at times the grain and interlacing can become irksome. The 5.1 audio is mostly front-focused and I don’t remember a single instance of hearing the surrounds used. There are chapters placed after the openings of each opening, which, even though it’s short, is welcome once you get to the second disc of the set.
As I mentioned above, there is commentary on this DVD and they’re on the two episodes “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” and “Hundred Dollar Baby.” Both are fun to listen to and the writers (who are also the actors) really show off how much they enjoy working on the show. While there is some back-patting going on in the commentaries, they’re informative for the most part and are worth a listen.
On the first disc of the set are clips from the original pilot that Rob McElhenney made on his own. The scenes here were slightly re-worked and used in later episodes of the series itself. One neat thing from these scenes is seeing that Morena Baccarin, Inara from Firefly and Serenity, was originally a character in the series. Though she was later replaced by another actress to play the transsexual “Carmen”, it was cool to see her in something else. Hopefully they can work her into the show itself as another character.
The rest of the special features are located on the third and final disc of the set. The “making-of” featurette is great to watch, just to see some clips from the original pilot and to learn who is behind the show. I always find it interesting when the actors are also the writers of the show (ala The Office) and discovering that Rob McElhenney, who plays “Mac”, is the creator of the show was cool. Lots of good material is in this extra and it’s very well made, quickly cutting to scenes from the series, but never overextending them so it feels like you’re watching episode clips for most of the featurettes run time.
Two more featurettes left on this disc and the first up is the “Kaitlin Audition Featurette.” This featurette covers how Kaitlen Olson, who plays Sweet Dee in the series, was hired; while it’s touched upon in the making-of featurette, it’s gone into more detail here. Her audition tape as well as discussion from the cast and crew is included. The second featurette is a “Fox Movie Channel” bit, which, while these are usually little fluff pieces, actually shows a fair bit of cool footage from the set of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The final extra is a blooper reel, lovingly called “The Gang F*#!S Up Outtakes”, and despite what you’d imagine, is a short reel. The show is obviously a riot to work on and the four minute outtake reel only gives a very brief glimpse into that. Still, it’s a great extra and I love blooper reels and there are some really funny bits here, including an alternate letter read from “The Gang Runs For Office.”
Overall the set is a solid release and while it sucks to not have the original pilot that McElhenney made, hopefully we’ll get to see it on a future release. Highly Recommended.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 1 & 2 is now available on DVD.