It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Six on DVD and Blu-ray
by Jared Scott Stroup
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The “rags to riches” story of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is an inspiring one for the future of independent television. FX gave unknown Rob McElhenney an unprecedented level of support by green-lighting his series with no recognizable talent to carry the weight. If that wasn’t enough, McElhenney was billed as Executive Producer from the start. After season one, TV veterans Danny DeVito and Fred Savage joined the show, adding credibility and generating interest to pull the series up from mediocre ratings. Since then, the series has taken on a life of its own, becoming one of the most successful and oft-quoted TV shows on the air. It also became an antidote to the lackluster programming on network television, making its competition look tame and uninspired in comparison.
Season six is the first season to have a multi-episode narrative arc, as well as the first season to switch to HD to accompany the transfer, making it the most overtly distinguishable season of the series so far. Adding to this, it was also the most divisive season of the series so far, managing to turn off a portion of their ever-growing fanbase while achieving their highest ratings yet.
The season begins with a two-parter that explores the characters’ feelings about marriage, and right off the bat we’re in familiar sitcom territory. Mac is bummed that “the Tranny” (his ex-boy/girlfriend) married a man after getting a sex change and vows to disrupt the situation, Dee begins a relationship with a married man, Dennis marries someone he hasn’t seen in years, and Charlie and Frank file for domestic partnership to reap the potential benefits. Maybe it’s not familiar sitcom territory after all…
It’s all too common for lead characters in sitcoms to tie the knot, but historically it’s been a momentum killer and often becomes a “jump the shark” moment (see: most popular sitcoms as examples). What’s fascinating about season six of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that it’s largely composed of “jump the shark” moments, but done Sunny-style so as to undermine the viewer’s familiarity of those moments. The resolve of each of those marital situations is both unconventional and immediate; by episode three, none of the lead characters are remotely associated with marriage.
The arc of the season kicks in about midway through, when the gang discovers that Dee is pregnant. Again, this is a “jump the shark” moment for many sitcoms, but the way this unfolds is highly irregular and even manages to avoid derailing the future seasons of the series. It starts with a Rashomon-style episode where the gang attempts to piece together mismatched memories to decide who got Dee pregnant. This is one of the highlights of the season, not just for the narrative technique, but also being the only episode with appearances by the seductively nauseating McPoyle brothers.
Another character highlight worth noting is Rickety Cricket’s appearance in this season, further chronicling the decline of the once prosperous man of the cloth. He’s grown ever more tattered due to perpetual homelessness and a newfound throat (and dog) problem, after being struck in the neck by Frank’s trashcan the previous season.
As usual, the strongest aspects of the show are the performances by the central—as well as supporting—cast, who continue to shine with each season. They inject a subtlety and energy that the scripts sometimes lack, which balances and deepens the comedy and rewards repeated viewings. The lack of network interference allows for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to remain fresh and unconventional, reminding embittered television viewers that there is a light at the end of that reality show tunnel. Rob McElhenney and company have certainly ignited a torch to be passed.
Highlights include: “Who Got Dee Pregnant?”, “The Gang Buys a Boat”, “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats”, the bizarro Golden Girls episode “Mac’s Mom Burns Her House Down”, and “Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth”, featuring the now infamous Lethal Weapon 5 short film made by the characters in the show (you can even access the extended cut of that film on the DVD/Blu-ray package).
The sixth season is now available on DVD and Blu-ray and the seventh season is currently airing on FX.
Jared Scott Stroup is a Film Studies Major at Eastern Michigan University. He lives, works, and studies in the Detroit area, where he’s involved in theatre and stand-up comedy.
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