Blu-ray Review: IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA S.7 - The Gang Runs Out of Steam, Gets Brilliant Again
The seventh season of the FX series, recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, had probably a weaker hit-miss ratio than in previous seasons. Maybe owing to the challenge of finding ways to make the series' formula work and creating ever more elaborate plots for them to show their creepiest, most socially maladjusted sides was wearing the creators down. That's not to say it's a total wash (or even bad, on balance). But when stacked against previous seasons, the seventh is maybe the weakest in this typically gloriously messed-up show.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the brainchild of creator Glenn Howerton, who also plays the sociopathic narcissist Dennis Reynolds in the series. The series revolves around Dennis, his sister Dee (Kaitlin Olson), their longtime friends Mac (Rob McElhenny), Charlie (Charlie Day), and the guy they thought was their dad but who just won't go away Frank (Danny Devito), and their schemes and misadventures in their bar and around the City of Brotherly Love.
The current season sees the gang unwillingly host a children's beauty pageant in order to avoid ending up on a sex offender registry ("Frank Reynolds' Little Beauties"), resurrecting a game that's punishing for the mind, body, and spirit ("Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games"), and getting trapped in a closet and learning that maybe they escalate in their plots a little too easily ("The Gang Gets Trapped"). This season also saw Dennis' creepy self-centeredness pushed to its extreme while Rob McElhenny put on a dangerous amount of weight in between seasons under the theory that an obese Mac who doesn't realize he is obese would be very funny. It is.
The problem is that the show kind of hops back and forth across the line of pure absurdity and the plausible anarchy of earlier seasons and when that happens within the same episode, it feels forced. Part of that may be down to the gang venturing outside of the bar more frequently and without that context, the show struggles to find its footing.
Again, nothing outright bad, but it's just weak in the context of six previous, excellent seasons. The "Jersey Shore" episode was one of my favorite half hours of comedy that year while Dennis and Charlie manufacturing a tale of the former's sexual assault for the purposes of a police sketch still makes me laugh just thinking about the moment where the duo argue over exactly how much of what went where and whose penis was bitten by whom.
Special Features and Presentation
Four episodes get commentary from creators Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney in this set including "The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore," "The Anti-Social Network," "The Gang Gets Trapped," and "The High School Reunion Part 2." The commentary between the trio is pleasingly conversational, usually detailing some of the boozier moments and observations about where some of the moments with their characters came from. Kaitlin Olson's absence is noticeable, particularly when they're relating stories about her character in the show -- the lady's funny, so why couldn't she be in the booth for the commentary?
Actress Artemis Predbani gets her own featurette as she tours Philadelphia as her character in the boozy "Artemis Tours Philadelphia." At 7:01, it might wear out its welcome a little, but it's also a reminder that Predbani is one of the show's secret weapons, best when deployed tactically.
Finally, the 9:59 blooper reel does what these things do, with the cast giggling and flubbing lines.
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia Season 7 is available on DVD and Blu-ray now from Twentieth Century Fox.