Fall TV: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
When we last saw "Philly": Thanks to his idiocy, Charlie offered Paddy's Pub as the grand prize in a radio station dance marathon. Despite his best choreography to "Take My Breath Away," Charlie ended up face down in his own drool, the victim of a cough-medicine spiked brownie. Sweet Dee was also left writhing on the floor, her knee shattered by a vengeful ex-priest callously nicknamed Rickety Cricket. Dance-off losers Mac and Dennis each had 25-pound kegs hung around their necks. And due to Frank's constant scheming, a homeless man ended up the grand dance champion and new owner of the gang's bar.
Background: While you really should catch up with the first three seasons of "Philly" -- Sunday's Best Buy ad has Seasons 1 & 2 at the ridiculously low price of $20 -- the brazen FX comedy doesn't follow a linear format. Sure, the McPoyle brothers are funnier if you know their history as gross-out foils to the Paddy's gang, but you can drop into any episode of the series and become an instant fan.
If you're expecting easy-to-stomach laughs though, look elsewhere. The Philly gang dishes out topical humor with an acerbic, uncomfortable twist. It's been lovingly called "Seinfeld" on crack for a reason. Truth be told, the crass, confrontational tone is more "Curb Your Enthusiasm" than anything, but its outright lunacy -- and the level of self-awareness for that lunacy -- is unmatched by any other comedy on TV.
Like "Seinfeld," "Philly" revolves around the twisted group dynamic of Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olsen) and Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito). All five are highly-flawed proprietors of Paddy's Pub in Philadelphia, but don't do anything except try to lazily outwit the system, constantly backstab each other for selfish gain, and of course, ruin countless lives in the process. Seriously, if you thought George Costanza was emotionally-stunted and deserved to be rotting in a jail cell at the end of "Seinfeld" ... well, these guys would be prime candidates for the firing squad.
Should you watch: With "The Office" past its expiration date, "Flight of the Conchords" on hiatus, and even "30 Rock" firing a few blanks last season, "Philly" is the funniest comedy on TV. The show gets away with a lot more by being on cable, but it really thrives because it's the brainchild of Howerton, McElhenney and Day. All three made the pilot for a mere $85. They've maintained creative control, brought DeVito on as a priceless addition at the start of Season Two, and have even employed Mr. Kevin Arnold himself, Fred Savage, as a director. Best of all, they refuse to water down the content or consider anything taboo.
It's high point, however, was last season's "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person" -- or quite simply, the funniest half hour of comedy I've ever seen. Yes, that even includes "Arrested Development," "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons" ... you name it. "Night Man/Day Man" officially put the Philly crew over the top. Not lying. We're talking tears ... after five viewings, even. From that point forward, I've made it my mission to tell everyone about this show. Well, anyone with a decent sense of humor.
Looking forward: Among the topics already covered: abortion, gun control, welfare, terrorism, slavery, incest, pedophilia, mental illness and Nazism. As for Season Four, the official "Philly" blog lists the following episodes:
Mac and Dennis: Manhunters
The Guys Solve the Gas Crisis
Mac and Charlie Die: Part One
Mac and Charlie Die: Part Two
Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life
Frank Buys a Billboard
The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition
Who Pooped the Bed?
The Night Man Cometh
The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell
Mac Dates the Waitress
Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack
Paddy’s Pub: The Worst Bar in Philadelphia
Oh, then there's this gem ...
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, firstname.lastname@example.org