You see, this once grand television show—much like anything that moves beyond a 5th or 6th season—has started to decline in quality and hilarity with each passing episode. Gone are the days of Kitten Mittons, love-letters to Chase Utley and spray-paint huffing inspired musicals about the Dayman; Instead, we’re left with elaborate, sleepy flashback episodes about Frank (Danny DeVito) running a jazz club in the 60’s and an ongoing, rambling storyline about Dee’s (Kaitlyn Olson) pregnancy.
To be fair, it’s not that the jokes are worthless, or all traces of what made the show great are gone, however.
In season 7 finale “Frank’s Pretty Woman,” guest star Alanna Ubach— brilliantly slurring her way through the role of a haggard, drunken prostitute– offers up criticism that a jacket she’s trying on is “tighter than dick-skin,” and later tells someone, “shut up, baby-dick.” And I know it doesn’t SOUND groundbreaking, or even all that funny, and maybe it’s one of those “you had to be there things,” but that’s kind of a succinct encapsulation of the show itself: On paper, it sounds like a nightmare of cartoonish impropriety, but when the talented cast tackles the material, it stews into something magical.
You know, usually.
It’s Always Sunny… began as a short film written by Rob McElhenney (the bearded, perpetually sleeveless Mac) and Glenn Howerton (the egotistical, handsome Dennis) and they shot it with their friend Charlie Day (the clinically bizarre Charlie). After taking the “pitch” (simply the pilot episode on DVD) to several television networks, the show was picked up in 2005 by FX, who was in the middle of a rebranding effort of sorts.
The show—once described in FX promotional materials as “Seinfeld on crack”—follows the often macabre, inappropriate and depraved lives of siblings Dennis and Dee, their father Frank, and their friends Charlie and Mac. The gang runs Paddy’s Pub, a decrepit Philadelphia bar scuzzy enough to make Bukowski blush and they frequently find themselves engaged in some monstrous misadventure due to stupidity, shallowness, or sometimes (often times) a combination of the two. And as one might expect, harebrained schemes abound.
With early episodes sporting titles like, “Charlie Wants an Abortion”, “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare” and “Charlie Got Molested,” the show was an instant cult classic. Self-righteous critics lampooned the show for being outrageous for the sake of outrageousness, and the fans said, “so? It’s hilarious. Did you see the episode where Dee dates the white rapper who may or may not be retarded?”
The show built its legacy off of easy, crass plotlines and murdered the viewer with awkward, uncomfortable gags centered around molestation, drug addiction, racism, incest, and enduring mysteries about who pooped in the bed.
It was simple, and great and hilarious.
But like its drug-free predecessor Seinfeld, it slowly evolved.
Seinfeld, which went from a show that truly WAS about nothing (even though some insist that this wasn’t the case, waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant or getting lost in a parking garage is as close to nothing as one gets), became an absurdist foray with intricately crafted plotlines that relied heavily on coincidence.
It’s Always Sunny… isn’t as smart as Seinfeld—no program is or possibly ever has been, to be fair— but it still feels different these days, nonetheless. Though the plotlines haven’t changed drastically, nor have the dick-jokes abated, it feels a little tired, perhaps. It’s not wearing out its welcome, exactly, but it isn’t doing anything new and exciting, either.
Perhaps there’s a desensitization happening at the viewer level, but that kind of thing inevitably happens with any long running program.
Perhaps it’s neither of these things.
Maybe it’s just that this show has been on since 2005 and after seven years of balls-out crazy-person humor, the well runs dry.
This season will probably be a pivotal one, and despite my reservations, I’m eager to see what they have in store.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premiers Thursday at 9PM CT on FX.
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