Hey, do you know what the longest-running live-action comedy in cable history is?
Well, after it finishes its twelfth season next year, it’ll be It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This will also tie it with My Three Sons for the second-longest-running live action comedy in TV history.
As the president of FX himself has said: ‘Not bad for three guys who shot a pilot 10 years ago for $200 and a few pizzas.’
Somehow this crass and transgressive show about awful, awful people is about to leap into the history books.
And it absolutely deserves to.
We at Pajiba are big fans of Mac, Charlie, Dennis, Dee, and Frank. Especially Dennis. It’s Always Sunny is one of the great examples of an iceberg show, as at first glance it just seems to follow a group of venal, amoral narcissists who get involved in preposterous schemes which invariably explode in their faces and destroy the lives of those around them, all while they yell over each like a troupe of rabid monkeys.
Crucially, though, all of that is amazingly funny. And that’s not an accident, because beneath the surface lies a fantastically sophisticated and well-oiled sitcom machine. The writers on the show (often the principal stars themselves) understand structure, tempo, and rhythm like the cream of their profession, and on top of that they aren’t afraid to tackle weighty themes, routinely and mercilessly skewering racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, greed, the class system, ignorance, and virtually every other possible human vice or bigoted viewpoint.
But all of this is well known and has been well discussed elsewhere. What I wanted to focus on today is a facet of the show that I think is often overlooked: its imagery. It’s Always Sunny is a richer show visually than perhaps many people realise, starting out in its early days with a deft understanding of a great sight gag and a skill for packing a pleasantly composed frame with resonant (or just vile) imagery, and only developing this more and more as time went on and budgets increased. Strange costumes; ruined backdrops; off-kilter symmetries; incidental and crucial details; negative space — It’s Always Sunny knows how to prepare a tableau.
So here then is part one (seasons 1-6) of a chronological celebration of the mad, gonzo imagery of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
‘Mac, you gotta come to my apartment right now, it’s an emergency!’
‘I’m just gonna mumble some guttural sounds, let’s do another take!’
‘Aww! Aww, did someone get addicted to crack?’
‘Hello fellow American. This you should vote me. I leave power. Good. Thank you, thank you. If you vote me, I’m hot. What? Taxes, they’ll be lower… son. The Democratic vote is the right thing to do Philadelphia, so do.’
‘If you’re not too busy showering in your brother’s urine or plotting your revenge against me, you mind lighting my cigarette?’
‘Come on, let’s get everybody out of the basement.’
‘God only knows what’s going on down there.’
‘HEY, FRANK! LOOK WHAT I FOUND!’
*’Riders On The Storm’ plays*
*Child Services arrives at the door*
‘I shall use this crossbow to pierce my broken heart!’
‘Make sure Charlie is the first to die!’
‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are Electric Dream Machine! Prepare to experience sexual magic!’
‘Crooked cops! Crooked cops!’
‘You’re the looks, I’m the brains, and Charlie is the wildcard.’
‘The car will explode, and our problems will be solved. In the meantime, I need you to do a popper.’
‘What’s the password?’
‘Barney, give this guy a cigarette.’
‘Laughs are cheap, dude! I’m going for gasps!’
‘How about a can o’ wine?’
‘I’m the Trash Man!’
‘And that is the key to winning any woman’s heart.’
‘You, Miss! Face down!’
‘Alright crack my back, can you crack my back please?’
‘I’m learning some great moves from this guy!’
‘Charlie, I do backflips every single day of my life!’
Ohh. She wears it well!
‘There’s countless examples of very classy actors doing blackface. We got the great C. Thomas Howell in Soul Man. We got the Wayans Brothers in White Chicks. That was a very tasteful example of reverse blackface.’
‘Any multiple numbers of sperms could have gone up there and eaten the egg.’
‘We just gotta figure out which one of these degenerates is the dad.’
‘Merry Christmas, bitches!’
‘Of course they’re starting to notice. There’s a grown man crammed inside of a couch for Christ’s sake.’