Widely recognised as one of the greatest American TV comedies of our time by critics, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is well worthy of its title. Starting with the pilot episode entitled ‘The Gang Turns Racist’, the show declared itself from the beginning as one that pushes the boundaries of acceptability, but in a way that is constantly humorous. From the extremely dubious sexual antics of Dennis Reynolds, to Frank Reynolds’ desire to bang ‘whores’ and marry them to tie them to him for life, the show seems to thrive off the challenge of taking on the extreme. In the five main characters, Dennis, Frank, Dee, Robert ‘Mac’ Macdonald and Charlie, the writers have developed one of the finest groups in modern day comedy. Together, these characters range from the almost sociopathic in Dennis, through the repressed in Mac, to the sense of tragic and yet incredibly comedic failed actress that is Dee, which, when combined with magnificent acting, gives the show a strong foundation to start from.
The thing that really sets this show apart from the rest, however, is the vast range of genius secondary characters that the writers have created. The McPoyle family, led by brothers Ryan and Liam,as well as their mute sister Margaret, play beautifully with the stereotype of the inbred family, culminating in their attempt to dominate bloodlines across America in ‘The McPoyle-Ponderosa Wedding Massacre’. In addition, characters from the gang’s past show up different aspects of their character, with Rickety Cricket bringing to light the sadistic qualities of the group, and the Lawyer casting light upon their vengeful, obsessive nature. No reference to these brilliantly crafted secondary characters can be complete without a mention of the waitress. The love of Charlie’s life, who has told him many times that said love is only one way, has led to some of the greatest moments of the show, from the revelation of Charlie’s stalker diary, where he has kept account of her daily movements for years, to the moment when she pepper-sprays Dee and Dennis as they attempt to find a serial killer by re-enacting how they would successfully murder her.
As well as these acquaintances, the close family of the main five lead to moments of comic greatness. Bonnie Kelly, Charlie’s mum, is the perfect image of the overly-fretting mother, while Barbara Reynolds’ wealthy, extravagant image is an almost perfect foil to Frank’s repulsive behaviour, pushing him further down the road towards fulfilling his nickname of the ‘Warthog’. These magnificently crafted characters bring out and further the personalities of the main cast, contributing to the comedic quality of the show.
No great show can thrive at its pinnacle for ever, and It’s Always Sunny has done better than most by surviving for twelve seasons and counting. The Simpsons, arguably, trailed off significantly after season ten, while The Office UK, the first of the franchise, survived only two seasons. So, the writers and the actors have done magnificently to keep us entertained for so long. However, season twelve truly felt like the show was coming to the end, with episodes such as ‘The Gang Turns Black’ showing what happens when writers start to run out of content to work with. It has been announced that the show has been renewed for at least one more season, but with Danny De Vito aging and both Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton moving on to work elsewhere, it feels as if the show might soon leave our screens for good. Yet, with Howerton supposedly leaving, it is at least not set up to be a slow, painful departure. Overall, the quality of the writing and the acting means that I will always enjoy returning to the show on Netflix and look forward to seeing the cast in their upcoming projects.