TV Review: ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

For three seasons, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has stood as one TV’s funniest shows AND the funniest show that most people aren’t watching. I’m glad to say that neither of the above will be changing anytime soon, if the fourth-season premiere (airing Sept. 18 at 10/9c on FX) is any indication.

That’s because more of the same is clearly in store: stomach-pain-inducing hilarity but not exactly the kind that would reel in an audience of, say, America’s Got Talent-ian proportions.

Season four kicks off in true Sunny fashion–which is to say politically incorrect and wholly unwholesome.

Simply put, the episode centers around human meat–with Charlie (Charlie Day) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) accidentally consuming it, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) hunting it, and Frank (Danny DeVito) having a hand in both storylines.

After Frank claims the meat Charlie and Dee are so blissfully savoring is that of a human being, they set out to prove him wrong by tasting real human flesh. So it’s off to the morgue with hotplate in hand. (See? Cannibalization humor’s not so mainstream-friendly, is it?!)

Meanwhile, Mac and Dennis are on a mission of their own: man-hunting. Their target, naturally, is their homeless frenemy Cricket (David Hornsby), but catching him turns out to be more difficult than anticipated when Cricket summons his cat-like speed and stuntman-like ability to climb up buildings. Plus, Cricket’s got an ally in Frank, who helps out by reciting John Rambo’s survival techniques.

It’s Always Sunny is, of course, absurd, in case the aforementioned plot didn’t make that abundantly clear, but creator/star McElhenney and Co. (several other cast members contribute to the writing) have got absurdity down to an art form–quite literally.

Above all, it’s just plain funny…if truly subversive comedy is something you can swallow. The cracked-out writing lays the groundwork, but these actors, with their rapid-fire, scatological, Clerks-esque back-and-forth–and kooky chemistry–are the show’s real asset. The core four are so well-schooled in delivering punch lines that laughing at a joke is often a twofold exercise–once for the delivery and once for the content/context.

And for his part, DeVito continues to be a necessary antidote to the young, manic energy of the others while still gamely keeping up with their brand of obscene humor.

Bottom line: There’s no need to preach to the Philadelphia choir, but for those who have steered clear thus far, now is the time to hop aboard, before you succumb to the glut of the soon-to-return conventional sitcoms.

Grade: A-