Magazine article Variety

The American Id, in the Eyes of Idiots

Magazine article Variety

The American Id, in the Eyes of Idiots

Article excerpt

FXX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is the type of sitcom in which the characters, instead of telling punchlines, are the punchlines. The show about five idiots who spend their time in a decrepit Irish pub is two seasons shy of being the longestrunning live-action sitcom on television, a title currently held by "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." In an era marked by the not-unrelated phenomena of audience fragmentation and political division, the FXX comedy has found a way to be funny, politically relevant, and still-airing - quite a feat.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence, then, that its characters are uniformly terrible people.

I love "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and I even love its five idiots, though I think they should be in jail. But as this 12th season ends - and as the show moves from frat-bro staple and alt-comedy masterpiece to making television history - its elastic durability is even more fascinating.

Indeed, it may be the only live-action show that understands and caters to the wide-ranging dissatisfaction, and even anger, that has characterized this political moment, from the fraught 2016 election to the Trump administration's rocky first days in the White House. It has survived this long (and remained smart, funny, and relevant this long) because it's tapping into something many other shows can't grasp. It even seems plausible that the show's characters - white working-class Pennsylvanians - would have been swayed by Trump's campaign; his boldfaced rhetoric and exclamation points might have spoken to their flair for the dramatic.

"Sunny" created by star Rob McElhenney, displays a sketch-comedy intimacy with the ethos of adult animation - "The Simpsons," "South Park" "Beavis and Butt-Head." These shows started as pockets of cynical fantasy for young men and became totems for certain cultural waves. The flexibility of animation allows for larger-than-life imaginings. In this case, the imaginings are the torqued facial expressions and exploding bodies of the id incarnate. The genius of "Sunny" has been in translating that sensibility to a relatively closed-ended live-action premise, and the reason it works is because the show is absolutely ruthless with its characters. The leads can be (and are) beat up, left for dead, slowly starved, or confined in solitary without causing consternation for the usually laughing audience.

Some of the success of "Sunny" is due to the incredible chemistry between the stars, who are linked behind the scenes, as well. …

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