When last we left the cast of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia in Season Five, I was enjoying the group's headlong plunge into depravity and their willingness to invite the viewers along for the journey, with standalone episodes that had moments of hilarity that not many shows had been able to realize. In the sixth season, perhaps a kinder gentler version of the gang was on the horizon, but at what cost for the show?
Before answering that question, allow me a moment to reacquaint you with the characters. The Philadelphia bar "Paddy's" is owned by "The Gang," starting with Dennis (Glenn Howerton, Crank 2) and his best friend Mac (Rob McElhenney, Wonder Boys). Dennis' sister Dee (Kaitlin Olson, Leap Year) works at Paddy's, while Charlie (Charlie Day, Going the Distance) continues to arguably be the least hygienic person on television. Frank (Danny DeVito, L.A. Confidential) is Dennis and Dee's father and due to his independently wealthy, or at the very least, comfortable position, helps bankroll some of the gang's activities. The show's seasons traditionally are comprised of standalone episodes, however this season presented a change in that structure to a degree.
I'll try to put this as delicately as possible without spoiling, but there is an event that happens within the life of one of the members in the Gang that results in a story arc that makes for some mild revisiting of some character relationships and seeing the Gang interact in different ways with one another. When we end the season, there is some clever reintroduction with an old love interest of Mac's that is smart in an understated way. But in seeing Charlie get into increased mini-adventures with Dennis (in "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods") and Mac (in "Mac and Charlie: White Trash") make for moments that will leave you crying for laughter at points. This isn't to say that the season is all about this change in dynamic, because there is still plenty of room for memorable moments with the Sunny gang. The biggest one far and away has to be Mac, Dennis, Charlie and Frank all appearing in their interpretation of a fifth Lethal Weapon film. In several minutes Howerton and McElhenney's willingness to go headlong into the roles is both shocking in its bravery and is hilarious to boot, but there's a subtle layer of parody that is being given to the buddy cop film genre that is easy to miss but is no less brilliant.
If there is one thing that made me apprehensive about the show after re-watching Season Six, it's that the guest stars in the Season almost gave it a Will and Grace feel. In "The Gang Gets a New Member," Shmity is played by Jason Sudeikis, late of Hall Pass, but more notably has appeared in almost every comedy show I watch over the last two years, part of an apparent plot no doubt. The other is Dave Foley, with the former Kid in the Hall guesting as a high school principal that decides to hire Dee and Charlie as part of the staff. Foley sure portrays the misery nicely, but in all seriousness this role underuses his talents and could have been given to someone else. At least the cameos of Philadelphia Phillies players Chase Utley and Ryan Howard is a little more in place with the show's comfort level.
That said, those appearances are more annoyances than flat out distractions, as the Gang is headlong into selfishness and adventure that makes you wince and laugh at the same time. It's hard to say whether in Season Six of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia that the Gang has turned over a new leaf, but the mere exploration of it alone is worth the ride.
The Blu-Ray Discs:
1.78:1 widescreen for all of the show's dozen episodes, but the big improvement that was made between Seasons Five and Six is that this was the first season the show was shot in high-definition, and the results look good. Flesh tones look natural, and blacks are consistent through the shows without much crushing. Colors are accurate without oversaturation, and shadow delineation is good. The discs themselves don't have much in the way of DNR, and the overall viewing quality of them is a nice representation of how they aired.
DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 surround for all of the episodes. There isn't a lot to be blown away by here, dialogue sounds natural and strong in the front of the soundstage, with channel panning and directional activity being held to a minimum. There are occasional moments where I was assuming the subwoofer would fill out the low end of a scene, but it didn't happen. It's not disappointing, as the Blu-ray replication of the sound in the show is natural and makes for an immersive experience when called upon, it's just not often that it happens. I was fine with how these things sounded.
Two BD-50 discs and some decent bonus content overall. Day, Howerton and McElhenney join up to do commentaries on four of the twelve episodes ("The Gang Buys a Boat," "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats" and "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods"). Strangely enough, the tracks are on the bland side of things, there's a lot of watching the episodes in them, but there are some explanations and examinations of the stories and characters in the show, along with pointing out some funny moments with some production recall tossed in here and there. For as funny as they are in front of the camera, I was left underwhelmed by their contributions to the commentaries, and you don't get much in listening to them to be honest. There is a BD-Live extra that can be found on either disc that is a podcast from "Dennis and Dee" that runs a little more than three minutes and has some chuckle worthy moments in it.
The other extras are found on Disc Two, starting with a set top game that is based on the Flip Cup drinking game. While answering trivia questions on the season, you then go into more interactive levels. Fun for a second, but not much more. Next are six deleted/extended scenes (14:46) that are decent, and a blooper reel (6:50) which would appear to show improvised first takes that wound up in the show. The extended film for Lethal Weapon 5 follows, clocking in just shy of 15 minutes and comes with optional in-character commentary from Mac, Charlie and Dennis. The film itself is a little tiring in length, but maybe that's the point upon further review. The commentary was decent, but fell more into line with the actor commentaries on the other eps. The Dennis and Dee podcasts continue here as well (12:41), but also get a little tiring after a while. Charlie's Uncle Jack, who appears in the episode "Dennis Gets Divorced," hosts a segment where he provides legal advice that is oddly funny (3:23). And in a strange moment of network synergy, the disc includes the pilot episode for the F/X show Wilfred (23:14), which if you haven't seen it, is an interesting concept and has its own yuks.
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia continues to bring the funny further into their show than I was expecting, and as we see the show gradually getting to the 100th episode (the show will air its 84th episode in its current Seventh Season if I have the math right) it shows no signs of stopping. Technically the show looks solid in its true high-definition debut, and supplementally it's adequate. If you haven't checked the show out at this point, you're running out of excuses, and this is as good a place to start as any.