Monday, 11 January 2010
TV REVIEW: It's Always Sunny In Philidelphia Season 5
" I've never eaten a pear. They weird me out. Stickers I eat all the time."
Sunny may not be the best written show ever, it may not be the best acted show ever, it may not be the most consistent show ever, but fuck if it isn't awesome when it wants to be. The folks behind the show have kind of mastered the particular kind of dark, puerile, occasionally ingenious brand of comedy, and while it may not be to everyone's taste to me its always funny, often horrifyingly so, but for a sitcom that's all that matters at the end of the day. After all Two And a Half Men runs seamless and smooth, and draws maybe one laugh a year, but Sunny, for all its structural and scripting woes, will always be funny. There will not be an episode where you don't laugh at least twice, and for that its very, very difficult to criticize.
This fifth year was probably not its strongest, the third and fourth years looking like the pinnacle at this point, but what it did do was show ambition, in that Sunny tried to up its sticks from blackly comic farce, to blackly comic satire. And did so with mixed success. A couple of episodes really landed, most notably ' The Great Recession' in which the gang engage in some snobbery in regards to all these 'new poor' people floating around, and taking up the territory of the 'old poor', and some high-grade stuff involving the great Charlie and some crabs, and his big plan to get rich via crab meat. It was a rare moment that I was impressed with what the show was actually trying to say, rather then just reveling in the awesomeness of four ridiculous people's never ending suffering. There was some great old formula Sunny episodes this year too, my favorite of which was probably ' The gang hits the road', in which they attempt a Kerouac style road trip, destined for failure. But the problem is, once we hit the back-end if the already quite short 12 episode season, there seems to be a slight drop-off, and while there are still laughs, things become almost too much of a mess to continue to forgive completely. That being said I loved the ninth episode 'Mac and Dennis Break-up' simply for its quieter nature, and while the worst episodes of this show move best their best jokes at 100 miles an hour, this one was a bit more contemplative, which was nice to see.
But the show's strength comes from the performances, or more the characters. As you get the impression that everyone here is essentially playing themselves. Charlie, played by Charlie Day, is my favorite character on the show, and an awesome comic creation. While everyone else in the show are basically just selfish dicks, in a good way, Charlie is a legitimate weirdo, full of awesome improvised randomness that is so much better then anything anyone seems to write on this show. A selection.
" We'll live and die by the crab, and live off the fat of the sea." On the crabbing industry.
" Grain Alcohol + Jumping in front of a car = The Charlie one-two." On getting free parking.
" But we don't even play Nightcrawlers any more, Frank! " On crawling around his apartment looking for bugs.
"The amount of book learning I would have put in my brain and let it stay there" On college.
And many many more. Charlie has been my favorite since the beginning, doing crazy better then anyone else, and believe everyone does crazy a lot on this show, and while the other characters are far from weak links, any episode where Charlie is the focus becomes that little bit better. One only has to look at what might be the show's best episode to date ' The Nightman Cometh' for all the Charlie related goodness. Glenn Howerton as Dennis gets better as the show progresses, and he has gone from being perhaps the most forgettable to the best sans Charlie, and he was particularly good value this season, with a sick desperation creeping into his performance ever so slightly, I enjoyed his getting high on something called ritarall a great deal. Rob McElhenney took a bit more of a back seat this year as Mac, but I think I always enjoyed him best in a supporting role, as good as he is. The girl, Kaitlin Olsen in real life, does a thankless job on this show, getting absolutely no love from the male writers, often demeaned, always debilitated, but she manages to be funny in spite of everything. Perhaps the most thankless role on television. Danny DeVito for the most part is just game to be utterly repulsive at every turn, but I'd lie if I hadn't laughed at him on this show on a regular basis.
I think this was a slightly experimental year for Sunny, it tried some new things, not everything worked and undoubtedly failed to hit the hilarious heights of its previous season, but it remains a very original show, very cynical, very hateful and all the more fantastic for it. Its not Arrested Development, written to a tee, but for a show that does the simple good, with swearing, coz this is a cable show after all, you'd be pressed to find a more sadistically enjoyable show then this.