I was apparently one of four people on the planet who could not bear to watch Seinfeld. No matter how funny the episodes ever were, I’d end up rocking back and forth on my couch, wailing, “You could stop all this trouble if you’d just tell the truuuuth!” I could never shake the nagging horror that these awful, awful people could move in next door or show up in my office. I’ve learned phrases like “master of my domain” or “close talker” or “Festivus” in self-defense, but Jerry and Friends just aren’t people I can spend time with.
You may be suprised, then, to learn how excited I am about tonight’s return of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, another saga about nothing focusing on terrible, terrible people. With the pride it takes in using stock footage and music and the fact that its pilot cost $200 (or less!), Sunny might be viewed as nothing more than a low-rent Seinfeld. And yet, I can’t help it–I love them so much I want to sew their sweatshop dresses and have their dumpster babies. The story of three guys who own a Philadelphia bar, the twin sister of one of the co-owners, and the twins’ father, the show is essentially about what happens when deeply stupid people are overly competitive. The tall, beautiful twins (Glenn Howerton–yes, he was in Serenity–and Kaitlin Olson) have only recently come to the realization that Danny DeVito is not their biological father, a fact you’d think they might have tumbled to earlier. Episodes have focused on staging fires in an effort to break into the news industry, the artisitic benefits of paint huffing, and finding the aforementioned dumpster baby and, rather than calling the police, trying to make money off the kid. Which is about what you would expect of a group where one member’s ghastly accident teaches the others that faking physical disabilities could open new and exciting doors for them. These people are very, very wrong, and the show is very, very funny.
I don’t really have an explanation. My best guess is that the Philadelphia characters are so ridiculous, so over-the-top, that they’re living cartoons. I don’t fear that Charlie‘s going to show up at my place of business and start stalking me (unlike the show’s unlucky barrista, who is married to Charlie Day in real life). I’d cringe at the idea of George or Elaine popping up in the next cubicle, but there’s no chance of Dennis and Dee doing the same–they’re far too busy getting hooked on crack in order to cheat the welfare system to do anything as pedestrian as, you know, work. They’re so audacious that we’re freed of expecting social mores to apply to the characters, which lets us laugh at them. Or maybe it’s just the singing (“Rock, flag, and eeeeeeeagle!”). Tonight’s season premiere is two episodes for the price of one, with Mac (co-creator Rob McElhenney) and Dennis taking advantage of Charlie and Dee’s newfound taste for human flesh (I don’t know either) by hunting the most dangerous prey of all–man! And I can’t wait. Premiere tonight and episodes every Thursday at 10pm Eastern/Pacific on FX.