David Reilly checks out the latest pretender to the TV sitcom crown
“Who’re you supposed to be? Kermit? The Hulk?” These were just some of the suggestions people offered when trying to guess my Halloween costume. It dawned on me on Saturday night, as I stood in my green spandex body suit, that very few people are aware of the show that was the origin of my costume, let alone have watched it.
The show in question is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, a show that toys playfully with political correctness much like a kitten with a ball of wool – a racist, homophobic kitten.
The sitcom is set around a group of friends who own a struggling Irish bar in (predictably enough) Philadelphia. The Gang, as they’re known, consist of three guys in their early thirties – Mac, Charlie and Dennis, Dennis’s twin sister Dee, and their father Frank, played by Danny DeVito.
Co-creator Glenn Howerton has revealed that the show was originally called Jerks, an appropriately blunt title it has to be said, and a point exaggerated by the deadpan delivery and the absence of a laughter track. While The Gang are in no way malicious, they certainly possess some questionable morals. In fact, each episode deals with a different aspect of The Gang’s worrying choices: their part-time drug dealing, their racism, or the time they exploit a supposed miracle.
There are few controversial issues that the show hasn’t dealt with in its five-season run so far. For example, on one occasion Mac and Dennis each take a side of the abortion debate in order to pick up women, and on another involves Dennis and Dee become addicted to crack in order to qualify for benefits and not have to work.
However, far and away the star of the show is Charlie, an illiterate underachiever with an addiction to inhaling glue and who is prone to aggressive outbursts to put it lightly. He has been referred to by The Gang as “retarded”, with Mac even commenting “no one understands the subtleties of Charlie’s retardation better than me.” Hardly living the high life, sleeping on an old pull out couch with Frank, he puts most of his time into trying to impress the Waitress with whom he is in love, even going so far as faking cancer to try and garner sympathy. And yes, her name is Waitress; five seasons in and she hasn’t been given a name.
This all brings me back to why I was standing out in the cold dressed in a green spandex body suit on Saturday night. It is as a result of Charlie’s mental instability that one of the greatest sitcom side characters was produced: the Green Man. Green Man is Charlie’s enigmatic, spandex clad alter ego who randomly pops up throughout the show to simply dance and kick people in the balls. Comedy gold right there. And with at least season five still to go, there is definitely time to catch up with Green Man and The Gang.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is on TV3 every Wednesday at 10pm and is available on DVD.