Imagine, if you will, the grimiest, seediest, least savory pub in all of Philadelphia, a puImage via Wikipediab that makes no money and has no clientele to speak of, a pub that, if it is spoken of at all by the people of fair Philadelphia, it is in tones of disgust and revulsion, sometimes even of fear. What kind of people might own such a place? What social pariahs might go to the trouble of keeping the doors of such an establishment open on a near-daily basis? In the case of Paddy’s Pub the proprietors aren’t the hardened, underworld denizens you might expect. Criminals? Sure. Self-made losers? Absolutely. But ultimately, just four lazy, self-centered thirty-somethings with nothing better to do.
Meet Charlie, Mac, Dennis, and Sweet Dee, the main characters of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a group defined by questionable morality, absentee integrity, comatose motivation, and only the lowest imaginable quality. Despite their relatively advanced age, these four seem little different from the animated fourth-grade stars of South Park, except that with Cartman and company one can cling to the hope that they might yet grow into better people. The owners of Paddy’s have reached thirty, and so no such hope remains. Add their father Frank into the mix (Danny DeVito at his finest) and their reprobation knows no limits. These are the dregs of our wretched society, the very bottom of the barrel…and we love them for it.
To be fair, we might still easily imagine worse. These five miscreants aren’t murderers or rapists. They don’t torture children or encourage genocide. They are, truthfully, far too lazy for such activities. These people contribute nothing to the world around them, and the primary result of their hi-jinks is the perpetuation of their own misery. They are filthy, degenerImage via Wikipediaate, lazy, shiftless, narcissistic, arrogant, and self-serving. They will stab one another in the back as quickly as they would a perfect stranger, and even the bonds of familial love are severed in the name of each one’s own selfish desires. To what new lows will they sink next, we can only imagine What heretofore unimagined and ill-advised insanity will they act out for our benefit, we can only guess. All we know is that we can’t get enough of it.
First, there is Charlie, poor Charlie, whose one saving grace may be that he probably does have a major mental deficiency. It may never be explicitly described, but when you see the guy in action, especially in his famous greenman suit, the only possible conclusion you can reach is that he is a product of some horrible pre-natal abuse. Or incest. Or having been dropped on his head as a child.
Then there’s Mac, tattooed, full of himself, delusional master of a martial arts style he has never studied nor practiced. If there’s a tough guy in the group it’s Mac, even if it’s only in his own mind. Dennis and Dee are twins, attractive, well-dressed, who seem on the surface to have it together. Don’t be fooled; they’re as bad as the rest. And finally, there’s Frank, the leader, the respected elder, the paterfamilias – the head deviant in this gang of legendary deviance.
Perhaps it’s that they constantly engage in the kind of hedonistic behavior we only wish we could take part in. Maybe it’s because we all secretly believe that the purpose of life really is the seeking out of personal pleasure and one’s own selfish desires. Maybe we will simply never tire of watching stupid people do ridiculous and self-destructive things to themselves and everyone they associate with.
Whether they are faking their own deaths, conning their way into receiving welfare checks, or being mistaken for sex offenders, these five are content to embrace one cockamamie scheme after another in the hopes of benefiting their individual selves and screwing over their brother, sister, father, or best friends. The result is dark comic brilliance. It’s not quite slap-stick; it’s not entirely low-brow – some of the jokes are actually quite witty; it’s not even totally a satire of life in 21st century America. It is, in some ways, all of these things, but there is a synergy at work that makes the finished product something far greater. About to enter its 7th season, the show has not yet ceased to surprise, proving once and for all that there is no limit to the depths of human depravity – or to audiences who will laugh at it.