"You're telling me that Christmas morning, you would not go to your neighbor's house and take their presents?"
"No! No one does that."
"Well, my dad told me that that was the tradition."
"...and your dad is, like, a thief and a murderer who eats people, so he's not really trustworthy."
"This is really dicking with my Christmas spirit."
Meanwhile, Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Charlie (Charlie Day) are still reeling from their own childhood holiday traumas. Turns out that swiping presents from sleeping neighbors isn't a South Philly tradition after all, and Mac decides to make amends with a kid from school by bringing back the Omnibot he accidentally-intentionally-whateverly stole twenty years back. I mean, he's not going to give it back to the guy or anything -- c'mon, we're talking about a grown man here -- but an apology's gotta count for something, right? Charlie's just along for the ride, but he eventually starts to clue in that maybe those childhood memories of a parade of Santas coming through the door to visit Mommy upstairs weren't just well-wishers or whatever.
So...yeah. If you missed the title in big, bold letters up there, this is an It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas special, so you get stuff that doesn't usually make the rounds on holiday tee-vee like
It kind of goes without saying that this Christmas special is pretty great -- c'mon, it's It's Always Sunny...! -- but it doesn't rank up there with the best episodes from this past season. For whatever it's worth, A Very Sunny Christmas is also kinda friendly to the uninitiated, so I don't think first-timers will be hopelessly lost or anything, although it's not something I'd grab off the shelf to try to convert anyone. I like it, but I don't hey-I'll-fork-over-twenty-bucks-for-a-43-minute-special-and-like-14-minutes-of-extras like it. Because the runtime is pretty much exactly twice the length of a regular episode, I kinda get the sneaking suspicion that it'll air in a slightly censored form on FX at some point too, and that makes the price tag a little tougher to swallow too. I get that It's Always Sunny... fans are rabid enough to buy pretty much anything with the show's name stamped on it -- I don't blame 'em, either -- but this Blu-ray disc is kind of a tough sell with so little content for this sort of price tag. There's also the whole thing with it not actually being in high definition, but I'll gripe about that in a sec. Anyway, with more stuff or a slimmer price point, I'd probably lob out something a little more enthused, but this...? I'll go with Rent It.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is shot in standard definition and...y'know, not even on good standard-def video. That makes this Christmas special one of just a tiny handful of Blu-ray releases that aren't actually in HD, although if you dig through the eighth-of-a-millimeter-high type on the flipside of the case, you'll read that it's at least been upconverted to 1080p. Guess it's a good thing this Blu-ray disc only runs a buck or two more than the DVD release 'cause the smart money says they look pretty much identical. The 1.78:1 image is really soft, kinda noisy, and is marred by plenty of aliasing and shimmering in the background. I don't have the DVD handy to do a direct comparison, but it's a safe bet that the only real difference would be better compression, especially during that blast of snow at the end. Other than that...? I mean, it's a Blu-ray disc, so it's more durable, but I'm kind of drawing dead after that.
So, upconvert...aspect ratio... Oh! Yeah. A Very Sunny Christmas has been compressed with AVC, and it fits on a single-layer Blu-ray disc with plenty of room to spare. With around half the disc unused, you'd think Fox might find something else to cram on there, but...nope.
The tech specs start to look a little more Blu-ray-ish once you wade over to this point, what with A Very Sunny Christmas packing a 24-bit, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and all. The music scattered around the special actually comes through really well with the lossless audio treatment. The show's dialogue winds up sounding kinda thin, though, and even with a few effects like Frank tearing around in that Countach, bass response is pretty weak too. The surrounds lob out a little light atmosphere like background chatter in the mall and beefs up stuff like glasses being chucked out a window, but this is pretty much a stereo track. It's fine, sure, but probably not worth keeping your fingers crossed for much of a step up over the DVD release or even the way It's Always Sunny... sounds on cable.
A Very Sunny Christmas also belts out a stereo track along with subtitles in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.
The Final Word
It's Always Sunny...'s Christmas special is pretty good, yeah, but still...it clocks in at 43 minutes and has a sticker price anywhere from eighteen to thirty bucks, depending on which store you hit up. Worth scribbling down on a Christmas list? Sure. Worth a couple of clicks on Netflix...? Absolutely. It's Always Sunny... is one of the most deliriously funny shows on TV and all, but maybe I'm just too cheap to want to shell out somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 for less than an hour of stuff, so I'll say "Rent It" instead.