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"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" The Complete Season 6 Blu-ray Review

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 6 Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Six (2010)
Show & Blu-ray Details

Creator: Rob McElhenney / Developers: Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton

Writers: Rob Rosell, David Hornsby, Scott Marder, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Becky Mann, Audra Sielaff, Luhv Rakhe, Dave Chernin, John Chernin / Directors: Randall Einhorn, Matt Shakman

Regular Cast: Charlie Day (Charlie Kelly), Glenn Howerton (Dennis Reynolds), Rob McElhenney (Mac), Kaitlin Olson (Deandra "Sweet Dee" Reynolds), Danny DeVito (Frank Reynolds)

Recurring Cast Members: Lance Barber (Bill Ponderosa), Artemis Pebdani (Artemis Dubois), Catherine Reitman (Maureen Ponderosa), Brittany Daniel (Carmen), Dave Foley (Principal Brian McIntyre), David Hornsby (Rickety Cricket), Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Waitress), Travis Schuldt (Ben the Soldier), Windell Middlebrooks (Nick), Chad L. Coleman (Z), David Gueriera (Duncan), Ray! Auxais (Tyrone), Johnny Pemberton (Craig), Lauren Whitney Pennington (Lisa)

Notable Guest Stars: Andrew Friedman (Uncle Jack Kelly), Brian Unger (Attorney), Seth Morris (Ted Sally), Don Swayze (Ray), Preston Elliott (Himself), Steve Morrison (Himself), Regan Burns (Swim Club Manager), Lynne Marie Stewart (Charlie's Mom), Sandy Martin (Mac's Mom), Nate Mooney (Ryan McPoyle), Jimmi Simpson (Liam McPoyle), Thesy Surface (Margaret McPoyle), Stacy Stas (Peacock Woman), Rene Auberjonois (Dr. Larry Meyers), Jason Sudeikis (Schmitty), Paul Walter Hauser (Richie), Tom Sizemore (Byron the Trucker), Ryan Howard (Himself), Chase Utley (Himself), Tracy Toth (Deborah), Cleo King (Nurse Wendy), Kyle Davis (L'il Kev), T.J. Hoban (Rex), Maxie J. Santillan Jr. (Grizzled Busman), Ben Kronen (Mr. Craig)

Running Time: 254 Minutes (12 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-MA on air)

1.78:1 Widescreen / 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Season 6 Airdates: September 16, 2010 - December 16, 2010
Blu-ray Release Date: September 13, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50s) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($39.98 SRP)

Buy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 6 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD

I read an article and more than one Yahoo! user comment last week lamenting that this year's Emmy nominations did not reflect the general public's tastes. It is mind-boggling to me to think that the medium's highest awards should be given to the likes of "NCIS", "Criminal Minds", and the networks' other big draws. I'm miffed enough that one of the sharpest characters invented for television this century went unrewarded to bestow a second Emmy on a certain popular CBS sitcom cast member.
Nonetheless, the fact that reality TV shows dominate primetime and the Nielsen ratings suggest popularity does not equal merit. You'd be on sturdier ground making the equivalent argument for movies and the Oscars, an issue the last two years have adequately addressed.

A bigger mystery to me is why certain critically acclaimed shows with faithful fan followings don't get Emmy recognition. One of the most glaring examples of this is "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". If this largely improvised FX comedy was only ignored a few times, you'd understand there isn't room for every good show. But it's now been on the air for six seasons and hasn't received a single nomination from the Emmys, the Golden Globes, or anything more significant than the International Press' Satellite Awards. "Sunny" was even snubbed in the widely inclusive comedy montage at Sunday night's Emmy ceremony. The number of conceivable explanations for "Sunny"'s lack of accolades shrinks every year. The most viable one -- that voters don't get FX comedy -- seems to have been dashed by Louis C.K.'s "Louie" picking up a couple of Emmy nominations in its premiere season.

Mac (Rob McElhenney) relishes the chance to look cool while taking his center ice slap shot at a Flyers game. A pregnant Dee (Kaitlin Olson) teaches her high school's drama class for two episodes.

Admittedly, "It's Always Sunny" is not for everyone and it took me quite a few episodes to realize it was for me. The show's characters, morally dubious friends who own and operate the scarcely-frequented Paddy's Irish Pub in South Philly, are bound to offend viewers or at least rub them the wrong way at first. Once you adjust to their selfish schemes and politically incorrect shenanigans, though, you just might come to find the personalities endearing, or at the very least hilarious.

Minimal description and synopsis is warranted here. Sleazy, seductive Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton), shallow, conceited Mac (creator Rob McElhenney), and eccentric, barely literate Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) have been friends for a long time. Along with Dennis' twin sister Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and their rich, unscrupulous father Frank (Danny DeVito), they apparently keep Paddy's running, but are almost never seen working. Mostly, the gang just hangs around the bar, chiding one another, and hatching plans for personal gain.

After years of having only seen and moderately enjoyed a few episodes, I became a "Sunny" fan last year between reviewing Season 5 and watching Season 6 episodes as soon as they were made available to Comcast On Demand. And I'm glad I did because this entertains me as much as any active TV show. It's crude and often in questionable taste, but it's also extremely creative, full of wit, and free of gimmicks and boundaries. Most importantly, it's funny. Watching these underachieving thirtysomethings interact in their quirky ways and throw one another under the proverbial bus for typically fruitless opportunities is a joyous experience. The show's endless energy and relentlessly cheery temperament help us not to mind the often grandiose misbehavior that barely even registers to this insulated group.

Good things rarely come to or from the characters, but the misadventures and the distinctive chemistries that frame them are riotous and somehow relatable, rendering the universe more like "Seinfeld" than the cinematically compelling but too often depressing "Louie."

Charlie's (Charlie Day) surprise birthday party turns the stuff of his dream book into reality, including Denim Chicken. At an Atlantic City charity function, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) is happy to find himself between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

In The Complete Season 6, now available on DVD and Blu-ray, the show finally makes the jump to high definition. That is one reflection of the success behind the series' unusual longevity. Another was the show's historic first cable-to-cable syndication deal, established with Comedy Central back in 2009. The male stars, who also serve as writers and executive producers, took a little heat last year for "selling out" by accepting product placement opportunities, most notably for Subway's then-new breakfast menu. My view is if it doesn't hinder the series creatively (and it didn't), who cares? The sixth season definitely equals and narrowly surpasses the fifth, which itself seems as strong as any of the earlier episodes I've caught in reruns.

The original cast members, unknowns prior to the series (Howerton starred in the short-lived spin-off "That '80s Show"), have been accepting some of the other job offers to come their way. Day boosted his star power with a lead role in this summer's hit dark comedy Horrible Bosses (alongside Season 6 guest star Jason Sudeikis). Still, he and his cast mates are committed to their television show, on which they wield the rare luxury of practically limitless creative power.
In August, FX announced a two-season pickup that will keep "Sunny" in production through at least 2013. The network has amped up its efforts to promote the show and claims that it is still finding its audience are surprisingly believable for a series now guaranteed to amass no fewer than nine seasons.

Even so, the show remains something of an underground, word-of-mouth phenom. Last week's season premiere attracted a total of 2.3 million viewers, or less than 10% of the audience that tuned in to Monday night's highly-publicized "Two and a Half Men" return. In spite of that epic gap, I suspect that home video sales of the two shows are comparable and quite possibly even in "Sunny"'s favor overall (Warner has yet to issue "Two and a Half Men" on Blu-ray). That testifies to the difference in the sitcoms' lasting entertainment value and in their modus operandi. While reruns of "Two and a Half Men" will probably remain on daytime television for a decade to come, entertaining the retired and unemployed, "Sunny" will continue to be recommended as an achievement in comedy, more daring and humorous than the vast majority of its small screen contemporaries.

Seemingly as uncensored as FX's broadcasts, the Blu-ray distributes the twelve Season 6 episodes across two discs. Once again, I've designated my five favorite episodes of this season below with a red star ().

Mac reads from the Bible to denounce what he perceives as Carmen's (Brittany Daniel) gay marriage. The path to the high life of boating takes an unexpected turn for Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) at a party short on tasty treats.

Disc 1

1. "Mac Fights Gay Marriage" (21:17) (Originally aired September 16, 2010)
Angered to learn that his ex Carmen "The Tranny" (Brittany Daniel, returning) has gotten married, Mac decides to take a stand against gay marriage. Charlie looks to enter a domestic partnership with Frank to get on his health insurance plan. Dennis catches up with and marries an old high school girlfriend (Catherine Reitman).

2. "Dennis Gets Divorced" (21:17) (Originally aired September 23, 2010)
Three unions fall apart, as Dennis' young marriage hits a snag, Charlie and Frank fight, and Dee finds married fling Bill Ponderosa (Lance Barber) needing a place to stay after his wife kicks him out.

3. "The Gang Buys a Boat" (21:18) (Originally aired September 30, 2010)
The gang purchases a fixer-upper yacht, whose purpose they cannot decide upon.

Charlie and Mac get stuck at the bottom of the long-abandoned pool they wish to restore in "Mac and Charlie: White Trash." "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" gives us five different versions of the same browned-out Halloween party that costumes Frank (Danny DeVito) as Spider-Man (or is that Man-Spider) and Charlie (Charlie Day) as the vampiric Phantom of the Opera.

4. "Mac's Big Break" (21:17) (Originally aired October 7, 2010)
Charlie helps Mac train for his center ice slap shot at a Flyers game. Dennis and Dee start a podcast.

5. "Mac and Charlie: White Trash" (21:15) (Originally aired October 14, 2010)
To beat a heat wave, Charlie and Mac try to restore their abandoned old neighborhood swimming pool. Dennis and Dee defy their "upper class" status by braving a public pool.

6. "Mac's Mom Burns Her House Down" (21:12) (Originally aired October 21, 2010)
After her house burns down, Mac's mom (Sandy Martin) moves in with Charlie's mom (Lynne Marie Stewart), with their sons trying to facilitate a "Golden Girls"-style friendship. Frank tends to a sick Dee so she'll take care of him when he's old.

7. "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" (21:16) (Originally aired October 28, 2010)
The gang pieces together Rashomonically their limited memories from their "browned-out" Halloween to figure out which of them has gotten Dee pregnant.

Old friend Schmitty (Jason Sudeikis) is swiftly readmitted to the gang in Charlie's place. The guys lend their support around Dee as she prepares to give birth.

Disc 2

8. "The Gang Gets a New Member" (21:51) (Originally aired November 4, 2010)
Opening a time capsule they buried ten years earlier inspires the gang to reconnect with their old friend Schmitty (Jason Sudeikis), with whom they replace Charlie.
Also, Dee revisits her high school drama teacher (Rene Auberjonois) and gets to teach his class.

9. "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth" (21:07) (Originally aired November 11, 2010)
Dennis and Mac screen their Lethal Weapon 5 movie for Dee's drama class to get modern youths' perspective on blackface.

10. "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats" (21:16) (Originally aired November 18, 2010)
The gang decides to throw Charlie a surprise birthday party. While Dennis, Mac, and Frank plan the luau, Dee tries to keep Charlie occupied.

11. "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods" (23:07) (Originally aired December 2, 2010)
With Dee, Frank, and Mac stranded en route, Dennis and Charlie hitch a ride to an Atlantic City animal charity event, where they hang out with Philadelphia Phillies infielders Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

12. "Dee Gives Birth" (21:19) (Originally aired December 9, 2010)
Dee goes into labor, with Dennis staying with her while the rest of the gang tries to find the father.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The leap to hi-def has brought apparent change to the look of "It's Always Sunny." The edgy, grainy appearance of the show's low-grade former digital video has been replaced with professional polish. The Blu-ray's 1.78:1 presentation is appropriately very sharp, clean, and clear. Though that might sound like a betrayal to the show's modest origins, the aesthetic improvements are easy to appreciate, especially in 1080p. Though not especially immersive, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtracks are crisp and potent. The only quality issue that caught my attention was a mild but noticeable lip-synch shortcoming on "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth." All the music from the original broadcasts is gladly retained, with songs like "Mo Money Mo Problems", Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days", Snow's "Informer", and Stevie Nicks Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life Again" being put to stellar use.

Frank & Charlie's Bitchin' Sewerboat Treasure Hunt comes to a close at the finish line. Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) dances off against an inflatable car lot man in one of the trivia challenge mini-games.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras begin with four episode audio commentaries from stars/executive producers Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day. They remark upon "The Gang Buys a Boat", "Who Got Dee Pregnant?", "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats", and "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods." All of these tracks are both amusing and informative, as the three pals share insight into the show's writing and filming, while also giving thought to character actions and histories. The group's passion and pride in their work is evident and they make watching the show with them a treat. Among some of the more notable topics discussed: writing Kaitlin Olson's pregnancy into the season, PETA's complaints and commendations, visual effects, and various film tricks.

Video extras all appear on Disc 2 in HD.

They begin with "The Sunny Flip Cup Trivia Challenge", a highly entertaining multi-level game. Three levels of timed Season 6 trivia questions become increasingly difficult to answer, as the effects of alcohol are simulated with blurring, double vision, and incoherence. After each of those, you are randomly picked to play one of four different mini-games: "Frank & Charlie's Bitchin' Sewerboat Treasure Hunt!" (which resembles 16-bit adventures of yore), "Sweet Dee's Dance-Off", "Don't Wake Maureen!", and "Mac's Slap-Shot." Designed with a love of the show and an eye for detail, these are all a great deal of fun and worth playing multiple times, although I encountered some serious delays throughout my second run. Nonetheless, the effort that went into this impresses and definitely pays off.

The cast of "It's Always Sunny" cracks up at an unexpected ad lib in the blooper reel. In "Lethal Weapon 5", their affectionate tribute to the Mel Gibson and Danny Glover cop action/comedy series, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) cross some lines of political correctness.

A reel of deleted and extended scenes (14:46) consists of six items, most of them extensions of used bits. That renders this less valuable than the previous season's equivalent.

Expectedly, the blooper reel (6:50) finds actors failing to hold back laughter and some unused and alternate improvisations.

An extended cut of Lethal Weapon 5 (14:30) is offered, along with in-character audio commentary by Dennis, Mac, and Charlie. The jokes of this affectionate homage to the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action-comedy series are already stretched a bit thin in the episode that features it, but it's cool to see the short movie complete and uninterrupted.

Inspired by a Season 6 storyline, Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) actually supply three video podcasts on the disc, plus a fourth downloadable via BD-Live. On his legal advice show, Charlie's odd Uncle Jack (Andrew Friedman) is more concerned with his tiny hands and pictures of his head on animal bodies.

Three of Dennis and Dee's podcasts are provided (12:41). These short videos show the characters recording their Internet talk show on "Border Patrol", "Serial Killers", and "Terrorists." They're not as funny as the show but are amusing enough.

"Legal Advice with Jack Kelly" (3:23) is a clip from a cable access show hosted by Charlie's strange uncle (Andrew Friedman). He takes some calls, but prefers to get opinions on pictures of him looking like animals.

How can a show about a dog/man be so void of comedy? Ask "Wilfred" stars Elijah Wood and Jason Gann. Mac (dressed as Viggo Morgenstein) and the McPoyles take their turn on the menu's roller coaster.

The on-disc extras conclude with "more from FX" in the form of "Happiness", the pilot episode of "Wilfred" (23:14). This adaptation of the Australian comedy series stars Elijah Wood as a suicidal young man who agrees to take care of the eponymous dog who looks and acts like a man in a dog costume (Jason Gann) to his new owner but looks like an ordinary dog to everyone else. The show is dark but despite the premise and its appearance here, it's not really comedic at all.

Under Live Extras, we gain access to Fox's network of trailers and Blu-ray bonus feature excerpts. Most notably, there is the exclusive Dennis and Dee podcast "The Biggest Loser" (3:12),
Shop
which discusses that reality show.

The concurrent DVD release seems to include all the bonus features except BD-Live (obviously) and the fun game.

Disc One opens with promos for FX, "Wilfred", and "Louie."

The inspired menu plays the theme music and sound bites while characters pass around on a roller coaster, their appearances adapted from Season 6 storylines. The disc lets you choose between "Season Mode" and playing individual episodes. Either way, it keeps track of what episodes you've watched on each disc, even after ejecting them. On the other hand, resuming play was hit and miss.

Once again, the show is treated to predominantly yellow artwork with a floating head cover design and tagline bearing no relevance to the featured season. A pair of inserts promote the "Sunny" board game, bobbleheads, new season, and syndication presence. The reverse side of the cover artwork lists episodes and extras, but is tough to read even after the discs are removed.

The guys of Paddy's Irish Pub (Glenn Howerton, Danny DeVito, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney) look on as Poppins the indestructible dog lives to see another day.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The budget gains and additions of high definition and product placement do nothing to hurt "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." The show is as funny as it's ever been and that means it's as funny as any show on television today. I do hope it gets recognized for its creative comedy someday, but under-the-radar, cult classic status has served it well all these years and maybe that's essential to "Sunny" not losing its way.

Fox's Blu-ray is a delight, offering top-notch picture, solid sound, and a tremendously enjoyable collection of extras. I highly recommend this set and giving this series a look. Comedy Central airs reruns Monday nights and every weeknight in the early morning and afternoon, plus the new season can be seen Thursday nights on FX. Check it out!

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Reviewed September 22, 2011.



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