Every once in a while, even the omniscient, panopticon-like gaze of The Professional Television Watcher misses something. Last year, for instance, I didn’t review FX’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which lacuna, being the standup guy that I am, I will blame on the fact that the early episodes were not that great. But as the season went on, I realized I was wr–er, that is, the show raised its creative game to the point that it became one of my favorite comedies. The show didn’t make it onto many viewers’ radar either, but FX kept faith in the show and brings it back for a second season Thursday at 10 p.m., so that you may see the error of your ways. (Really. I mean, what is wrong with you?)
The sitcom, in the Seinfeld show-about-nothing mold, is nothing impressive on its face: four not-too-bright buddies in their twenties run a dive bar in Philly, while getting into politically incorrect scrapes. But it’s one of the few shows that beg Seinfeld comparisons that actually deserve the comparison. Almost every episode involves the guys (and one girl) hatching some offensively, hilariously selfish scheme: last season, encouraging underage drinkers to come to the bar; this season, faking handicaps to get dates and free lap dances. Dedicated to a sincere belief in the venality of man, refusing to let any sacred cow go ungored, it’s like Curb Your Enthusiasm for a lower tax bracket.
What the show lacked last year, maybe, was a single big name or breakout talent to grab it attention. This year, the producers (Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney, who are also the writers and stars) made up for that by casting the sexy, made-for-Us-magazine mug of… Danny DeVito. What DeVito lacks in polish, he makes up for in… well, lack of polish: his abrasive, merry-misanthrope character niche is perfect for Philadelphia’s comedy of bad manners. He plays Frank, the father of Dennis (Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson), going through a divorce and a midlife crisis, which he reacts to by giving away his money and moving in with Charlie (Day) in his sleazy apartment. It’s as if Louie DePalma had never left TV. "I used to live like this!" Frank says, excited. "In squalor and filth, always trying to get over on people, scamming my way through situations! I want to live like you again, Charlie! I want to be pathetic and desperate and ugly and hopeless!"
Starting tomorrow night, you can too. Don’t make myâ€”I mean yourâ€”mistake again this summer.