September 13, 2007 | Comments ()

By Seth Freilich | TV | September 13, 2007 |


It’s no secret that us Pajiba folk generally loathe stupidity. That’s why we hold TV comedies like “Arrested Development,” “Weeds,” and “The Office” in high regard, while we heap disdain upon so-called “comedies” like “Two and a Half Men” and “According to Jim.” The comedies we love tend to use smart humor, rather than simply writing jokes for the lowest common denominator, and they often tie in a little bit of drama to act as a counterbalance to the humor, thereby accentuating the funny and causing it to hit just a little deeper. But I don’t think this makes us a group of elitist comedy snobs who poo-poo any and all “stupid” comedy — it just means we’re discerning. A so-called “stupid” comedy can be just as funny as a smart one; it just has to work a little harder because we’re less forgiving of any faults. Take “Entourage,” for example. I think this falls squarely in the stupid comedy category, but few had complaints about its early seasons (at least, I didn’t), because the thing was just so damn funny. But as the show has started to tire a little, the complaints have started rolling in, and I think this is largely tied to the fact that there’s no solid dramatic element to tide us over between the laughs, and thus, we notice when we’re not laughing.

There can be little doubt that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” falls squarely in the “stupid comedy” camp. I mean, the show has featured characters pretending to be crippled war vets or to have cancer just to get a date, and has had episodes with such classy titles as “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” and “Charlie Got Molested.” The four main characters (five, with Danny DeVito’s addition last season) are all despicable morons who never learn or change, who never get any redemption or real comeuppance. At its basest level, this show is about as stupid as it gets. And yet, through two brief seasons (the first season ran for a paltry seven episodes, the second for ten), it hasn’t mattered because the show has just been so damn funny. As much as I love a show like “Weeds,” I probably laughed louder and harder at any given episode of “Sunny’s” second season then I ever have at an episode of “Weeds.” So I have been anxiously awaiting the show’s expanded third season (15 episodes), which begins tonight on FX at 10 p.m. (with back-to-back episodes).

Right off the bat, it’s quite clear that the third season isn’t turning things down any, in terms of stupidity or offensiveness. I mean, the first episode is called “The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby,” which really tells you all you need to know (although it doesn’t tell you that the episode also features a character learning that their birth might’ve been a mistake because an abortion “didn’t take”). As DeVito has said about this season: “There’s a lot of very, very bizarre stuff going on on the show — it’s really lowering the bar.” Other episodes include such ridiculous plotlines as the gang being held hostage in their own bar and Mac temporarily becoming a part of the Philly mob. Of course, the plots and the characters only matter insofar as they facilitate the show’s ability to make us laugh. Which leads to the important question — can the show sustain the high level of comedic success it reached last year?

Four episodes in, the jury is still out, because things were a bit too uneven. I think the first episode (the aforementioned “Dumpster Baby”) is downright hysterical. The other three episodes are of varying levels of total hilarity, although each still had enough laughs to make it worth watching. (The only real disappointment, on a personal level, was that tonight’s second episode, “The Gang Gets Invincible,” wasn’t able to actually get my boy Donovan McNabb to appear, although they managed to use this to good effect in the episode — and the episode actually has one of my favorite moments of the first four, involving DeVito’s character on an acid trip.) Now, to be fair, y’all may see things differently — I read a review of these four episodes yesterday by a critic I’m generally in-synch with, and he felt that the first episode was one of the worst ever, and that the next three improved vastly on it. So your mileage on any given episode may vary, although it sounds like we both reached the same conclusion, which is that this season may not be able to be as solidly consistent as the last.

I’m guessing that the longer season has actually hurt the show a little, straining the writers to come up with enough good material and, perhaps, forcing them to be a little less discerning in what gets in and what doesn’t. In fact, they seem to be making the McPoyle family (you may remember them from “Charlie Gets Molested” and “Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass”) into quasi-staples of the show, as the McPoyles appear in two of the first four episodes. I’ve never liked these characters because they feel too over the top, even in a show that is itself ridiculously over the top. And their bits in both of the third season episodes they appeared in where my least favorite of the quartet of episodes.

But this is all nitpicking. As I say, while I may not have laughed as consistently throughout each episode, there were more than enough laughs to keep me coming back. I know many of you are already watching the show and to you I say, keep on keeping on. Those of you who haven’t seen it, try it out. Although, to be fair, “Sunny” isn’t for everyone. You need to not just have a good sense of humor, but you need the ability to laugh at really dark and offensive comedy. And from prior comment threads, we know that this is not a category within which all Pajiba readers reside — I mean, if you get offended when we use the word “retard” or suggest that Rosie will do anything for a cupcake, how are you going to be able to laugh at the notion of putting a white baby in a sun-tanning booth, “just to get a base,” so that it can look Latino? If you know that you’re the type with easily offended sensibilities, you’d only be wasting your time with this show. But if you like stupid, offensive and twisted, little fits the bill better than “Sunny.”


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Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He would like to point out that, for a show that usually gets Philly and Pennsylvania things relatively right, the writers blew it when they had a minister refer to the “State of Pennsylvania.” PA’s a Commonwealth, bitches.

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Brotherly Love is Overrated

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" / The TV Whore
Sept. 13, 2007

TV | September 13, 2007 | Comments ()



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