As far as "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" goes, I linger on the fringes. Although I'm sure most of the show's fans haven't had any reason to complain these last six years, for me the show is a series of peaks and valleys. The first two seasons were a peak, but Season 3 was a valley filled with a bit too much sitcom-style wackiness. Seasons 4 and 5 have been a blend of peaks and valleys, with highs like "The Gang Hits the Road" and "The Gang Re-Ignites the Rivalry," (Flipadelphia!) and lows like "The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell." In my review of Season 4, I wrote that maybe DVDTalk was the charm, and that still seems to be the case.
A good episode of "Sunny" walks a tightrope between self-awareness and absurdity. Obviously, Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito are not as oblivious, self-centered, or mildly racist as the characters they play, but the writing and direction sometimes fails to deliver those personality traits without enough obliviousness. Take the show's cold openings, which are almost always a setup for an episode title punchline. Any "Sunny" fan knows what's essentially coming at the end of every one of these, even when the show tries to take a left turn to get there.
So, what makes the show work? Six seasons in, it's less the horrible things the gang themselves do, but other people's reactions to it that provide the humor, or unexpected development of fringe characters living in the "Sunny" universe. "Mac's Mom Burns Her House Down" brings in Charlie's Mom (Lynne Marie Stewart) again, and her ridiculous, escalating insanity (her fear of having her face eaten by dogs, her superstitious repetition) is the highlight of the episode. "Dennis Gets Divorced" brings back the lawyer that hates them (Brian Unger), whose delight at interacting with Charlie's creepy lawyer uncle Jack (Andrew Friedman) and legally manipulating the gang is a delightful payoff to his slowly developing arc over the course of the last few seasons.
In terms of the gang itself, the show again gets mileage out of elevating the elements they've already established to unexpected new heights, or introducing all-new, more unexpected bits of insanity. "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats" takes on the always-enjoyable tactic of elevating Charlie's illiterate, retarded, manchild fantasies to new and even more bizarre places with the introduction of a dream book, and then pushes it even further by having the gang realize some of the bizarre things written inside. Mac's Chase Utley obsession goes to new places in "THe Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods." Best of all, the Halloween episode "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" contains one (or perhaps two) of the series' best bird jokes ever, but that's all I'll say.
Other notable season highlights include a couple of top-notch guest stars, like Dave Foley and Tom Sizemore (who fits into the show's aesthetic better than any other guest they've ever had), more appearances by Rickety Cricket, and the gang's infamous production of Lethal Weapon 5, starring Dennis and Mac as both Riggs and Murtaugh. Out of the 12 episodes this season, only "Mac and Charlie: White Trash" is a little underwhelming, and even that's better than most of the other episodes that fall into the "valley" category. All things considered, I'd call Season 6 of "It's Always Sunny" the best season since the first, thanks to the loose, relaxed feel of a cast that's both comfortably in a groove but still willing to constantly up the absurdity of their creation.
The episodes in this set break down as follows:
Disc 1: "Mac Fights Gay Marriage," "Dennis Gets Divorced," "The Gang Buys a Boat," "Mac's Big Break," "Mac and Charlie: White Trash," "Mac's Mom Burns Her House Down," "Who Got Dee Pregnant?"
Disc 2: "The Gang Gets a New Member," "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth," "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats," "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods," "Dee Gives Birth."
"It's Always Sunny": Season 6 comes in a transparent eco-friendly case (the kind that uses less plastic as opposed to having holes in it) with a flap tray. The art itself shows the cast with sunburns, accompanied by a punny tagline, while the rest of the artwork (both the back and the art printed on the reverse of the cover, showing through the inside) puts the cast's heads in a rollercoaster. There are two small inserts inside, both of which advertise the show on one side and some show merch on the other.
The Video and Audio
Season 6 is the first season of "It's Always Sunny" to be produced with high-definition cameras. However, it's also the first season to be offered across only two discs. I was apprehensive that the smaller amount of space and higher amount of detail would be an ugly combination, but having just sped through Season 5, I can confidently say the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation steamrolls previous seasons. I was actually pretty surprised to see how bad Season 5 looked: murky, soft, with even a touch of color bleeding. Although the show still sports a hint of digital roughness, it looks far cleaner and much more stable, with brighter, more vivid colors and strong fine detail. This is also the first season to be presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, which is pretty impressive, with a surprising amount of surround ambience during the rare instance when the bar is crowded ("Who Got Dee Pregnant?") or in some other, probably seedy location ("Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats," "Dee Gives Birth"). The track also gets an extra chance to shine during Lethal Weapon 5. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and French and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
Four audio commentaries are included on the set, two on disc one, for the episodes "The Gang Buys a Boat" and "Who Got Dee Pregnant?," and two on Disc 2, for "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats" and "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods." All four tracks feature Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day. They're okay; McElhenney and Howerton have a tendency to explain what's happening on screen, and they do so in a way that feels like they're mocking the idea of recording a commentary. Day seems a bit more relaxed, telling more stories. It's also a shame that neither Kaitlin Olson or Danny DeVito are on any of these tracks.
The video extras are all housed on Disc 2, starting with deleted and extended scenes (14:52) from five episodes. It's pretty skippable stuff -- despite the name, these are all "extended" rather than "deleted," meaning the edited content is basically lines within scenes, and those lines were basically all trimmed for a reason. There are also several scenes mentioned on the audio commentary that are not included here. I recommend jumping straight to the very funny blooper reel (6:56) instead.
Dennis and Dee's Podcasts (12:43) and Legal Advice With Jack Kelly (3:24) both feel like material that was created for the web (the latter being the funnier of the two), but sandwiched between these two extras on the menu is the one fans will probably be most interested in: the Lethal Weapon 5 Extended Cut (14:36), with audio commentary by Mac, Dennis, and Charlie. The primary addition to the longer cut is a very funny scene where Murtaugh and Riggs interrogate a hooker played by Artemis, which is pretty hilarious. The in-character commentary, on the other hand, is pretty hit-and-miss, kind of like the out-of-character commentaries.
At the very end of all of the "Sunny" video extras is a pretty substantial extra extra: the entire pilot episode of FX's new comedy "Wilfred," starring Elijah Wood as a suicidal man who starts to turn his life around thanks to the advice of a talking, humanoid dog that may or may not be a hallucination. The episode is also sort of tangentially related, as it was directed by "Sunny" helmer Randall Einhorn. I can't say that the episode was great enough that I was hooked, but I'd be willing to check out the show if I ever flip past it on television or if the DVD ends up in the screener pool.
A promo for FX, and ads for "The League" and "Archer" play before the main menu on Disc 1. Promos for "Wilfred" and "Louie" play before the main menu on Disc 2.
Although they're substantial in volume, the extras are a bit lacking in quality -- I'd have preferred to see most of the deleted footage mentioned on the commentary tracks than what was presented, and the commentaries themselves are a bit on the weak side. That said, "Sunny" Season 6 boasts some of the show's best material since the beginning, making this set an easy recommendation.
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