If you’re easily offended, I’m gonna go right ahead and say that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is likely not the sitcom for you. As a series, it is basically four people (later five, following the curious addition of Danny DeVito) arguing, disagreeing, and ultimately shouting at each other for twenty-or-so minutes. They manage to get themselves into absurd situations, and their inherent ineptitude and obnoxious self-importance only makes everything worse. I love it, myself, and this is an opinion shared by millions.
In the first minute of the pilot alone we catch a glimpse of Mac’s racism, which follows throughout the episode, interspersed with a smidge of homophobia for good measure. It’s a decidedly bold move in a pilot episode, tackling subjects like these straight off the bat, though I’m pleased to report that the Always Sunny team pull it off wondrously. Something about the group’s dynamic is instantly appealing, and the stark opening of the series without any sort of formal introduction to the characters agrees with me as a viewer. I like the sense that we’ve just been thrown into a day in the life of these four people as an onlooker, a voyeur who has yet to get to know the quirks and traits of the people that we’re watching. Three of these mystery personas are immediately branded “weird” by Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), though, which does set the tone somewhat for the rest of the series. These are some rather weird people.
Also agreeable is the distinct and often intentionally obvious lack of laugh-track; awkward moments made awkwarder by the palpable silences that arise. All it takes is a slip of Mac’s slightly bigoted tongue and we’re left cringing silently in our seats for a few seconds. It’s inspired.
Then, suddenly, the title sequence. Essentially just a bunch of shots of Philadelphia, cobbled together and then coupled with a queer and rather jazzy little number. Not quite what you’d expect from an FX sitcom, and I like that too. It’s different, and it’s refreshing. I also like the juxtaposition between the night-time shots of Philly and the title of the programme itself; maybe it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia after all.
After this rather cute title sequence, we’re faced with our four friends, along with Dee’s new friend Terrell, talking amicably around a table. All of the awkwardness seems to have dissipated, until suddenly Mac puts his foot in his mouth again and yes, all the awkwardness is back like a tide. Does it ever really leave?
The pilot also introduces us to Charlie’s love interest, The Waitress – somebody who could not reciprocate his affections less, but he doesn’t allow himself to be disheartened. Indeed, any interest that he shows in Janell is merely to prove to The Waitress that he isn’t racist, would that she might change her mind and finally decide she likes him (as if). My personal favourite development, though, has to be Dennis. He’s a straight male, and he knows to be so, but his ego is so inflated, so overstated, that he allows a stream of homosexual men to flirt with him. This even gets to the point where he dresses and acts differently, to make himself most aesthetically pleasing to them. His ego is relishing this…right up to the point where he’s hilariously duped into believing that he’s “spent the night” with two gay men.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a true riot – it crosses lines that other sitcoms wouldn’t dare breach, and it absolutely makes it work. Each character has their own charm, if you could call it that, and they bounce off each other in hysterical ways each week. This is definitely a programme that I would recommend to someone who doesn’t take their life too seriously.