Archive for Season 3
First Aired: 10/9/2008
With the help of Mac and Dennis, Frank and Charlie attempt to figure out who pooped in their bed. Dee leads Artemis and the Waitress on a ladies night out on the town.
I’ll admit, halfway through this episode, I was beginning to think it was a dud. There was a bunch going on that didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Then Mac got his head wrapped in a towel and I was beginning to see a plan, but that fizzled.
Saying that things were all over the place is an understatement. We start out with Mac, Dennis and Charlie needing to pay off their “electric bill,” which was actually a gas bill because Charlie had bought a generator because the electric bill was so expensive—a classic misguided-Charlie thing to do. So they become a gang like the A-Team: Mac is the brains, Dennis is the looks and Charlie is the wild card. The brains comes up with a plan to buy gas and sell it next year when the prices are higher (which is so stupid on so many levels). As for Dee, she finds out Bruce Mathis is going to give away her mother’s money, the money she wants to inherit (after she murders everyone in the family ahead of her in the pecking order). Somewhere in there is a plot about Muslims, terrorists and waterboarding that never seemed fully conceived.
This show is best when they have a common theme and a narrative. “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom.” “The Gang Finds a Dead Guy.” “Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Asses.” Even in the America episode, there was a lot of chaos, but they remained on point. I think the guys (and girl) understand this, but maybe had trouble finding the narrative in this one. Something seemed amiss the whole way through, like they’re just going for the jokes in this one; seven minutes in and the boys all have their shirts off, asking which one of them the loan officer wants to sleep with. It was a good scene, that’s not the problem, it just went on too long. After their gas-storage plan gets turned down by the bank (loved the gun-fingers by the loan officer), Dennis tries to seduce her. Charlie then wild card’s his way into the sexy situation and Dennis tells him to back off. The scene should have ended here, but then the boys take their shirts off and suddenly the scene is about their vanity, moreso than about them being a gang.
That’s just an example. The plot about catching Bruce was even more convoluted, with stalking his “apartment,” “Muslims” stealing Frank’s rape van (it was Mac with a towel on his head, and he ends up ramming a dude’s car), Frank waterboarding Dee for trying to kill him, etc. The major issues (the Muslims/terrorism/waterboarding issue) were a few little things that were tagged onto the storyline at hand, sort of mentioning terrorism and modern torture, but not really getting into it, like they tapped their toes in the pool, but didn’t go for a swim. The show prides itself on presenting, but not dealing with, major issues, but usually they dive right into those modern problems and have the characters find some odd middle-ground where they’re able to ignore the situation in favor of their own vanity (the abortion episode was a good example of this). This half of the episode didn’t present a modern issue and let the characters deal with it, but rather thrust the issue into the given storyline.
But like I said, this episode was saved by the ending. Throughout the episode, there were hints of loading huge Rubbermaid trash cans with gas and hitting this one dude’s car—the dude who Frank thought was Bruce Mathis. Meanwhile, Charlie has wonderfully misunderstood his role as the wild card throughout the episode, and each of these things have been dropped like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail, leading to the eventual conclusion where they’re all in the car with the Rubbermaid cans of gas and the brakes don’t work. Charlie reveals he cut the brakes and screams, “WILD CARD, BITCHES!” and jumps out of the moving vehicle. Everyone follows his lead and the car crashes into, you guessed it, the car of that poor guy that Frank thought was Bruce Mathis. The cars explode and the gang runs away.
This episode had some funny moments. Charlie talking about how he drank too much gas and, not concerned about his health, adds that it’s wasting their money; the crude sign the boys put up to sell their own gas; Frank accusing Bruce Mathis of banging dudes. But the show shouldn’t just jump off the deep-end like that. There needs to be a cohesive story, whether or not it’s funny.
Now on on DVD from 20th Century Fox, the third season of FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was quite good. Sure, the strain of producing 15 episodes (when the first two seasons combined had only 17) shows occasionally. I speak of course of “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire” and “The Gang Gets Whacked.” Neither are unfunny, mind you, they just aren’t up to the high standards the gang has set for themselves.
But boy howdy, are some legit themes running through season three too. We were introduced to Nightman, we had dancing shenanigans, and we had more than a little fun with drawings of busty ladies by Dennis. For these reasons, and the fact that the fellas give one hell of an interview, I say we keep on supporting them. Now let’s delve into what you’ll get, should you decide to make season three a purchase.
First off, the three discs have all 15 episodes, including some classics. My personal favorites are “The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty McGoo,” “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off,” and “Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender.” If you’ve never seen the show and have somehow stumbled onto this review unaware, those titles alone should give you an indication of what the show is all about. Two of the episodes come with commentaries, though confusingly the option to play them is located under language selection. Perhaps non-intuitive DVD menus are the next wave of comedy? Neither commentary is amazing, and none reach the level of prior seasons when the gang would casually mention boom mics that were accidentally left in the shot. That’s OK though, the commentaries aren’t all these discs have to offer.
There’s also a six-minute gag reel on disc three, which is fun so far as gag reels go. “Sunny Side Up: Volume 2″ is a look at the directors and writers’ room. The creative thrust behind the show (Rob, Charlie, Glenn) all show up and wrestle while discussing the season. They’ve got a mat, uniforms, and everything. It’s oddly disconcerting. And funny. Hey, that could be the show’s new tagline!
Speaking of, season three features the exact same critical quote that the prior DVD did. It’s from Matt Roush over at TV Guide: “Brazenly Funny.” Really? That’s the best we could do for season three too? What about “This show rocks the party that rocks the body” or “Damn hilarious!” I better see my name in season four. Be a buddy.
The McPoyles get their own featurette this go-round but it’s played entirely for laughs — comprised of nonsensical interviews with the guys who play Liam and Ryan. The last feature of note is a montage of the public access Dancing Guy from “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire.” It’s a collection of an odd topless dancing guy gyrating to disparate backgrounds of soaring eagles and forests. So, yeah, pretty typical.
All in all, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is still in my personal pantheon. That grouping includes shows like Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and Flight of the Conchords. These are shows that routinely try new things and explore new comedic ground. Death as comedy, drugs as comedy, overt racism as comedy: these are the notions Philly hurls out once a week on FX. And it works.
Perhaps season three wasn’t always the best of Sunny in Philly, but it’s still easily better than most of the vanilla, network comedy they trot out in prime time. So give it a watch or purchase. You could do far worse.