Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Sunny" days return to FX

With shows like "Glee" and "Modern Family" heralding the return of the network sitcom, it would be logical to worry whether fine cable comedies, like FX's dark-hearted "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," might fade into the background. After all, "Sunny" rose to prominence during a time when quality network sitcom options were far and few between. But the series, which returns for a sixth season tonight at 10, seems as funny as ever.

As always, the show follows bar-owning degenerates Dee, Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Frank on a series of misadventures. In the four episodes I've seen so far, their escapades include marriage, divorce and buying a boat. And yes, in case you were wondering, the show seems to be dealing with star Kaitlin Olsen's real-life pregnancy (she and husband/co-star/series creator Rob McElhenney just welcomed their first child), though I won't reveal how.
Even this deep into its run, the series is still almost gleeful in its disregard of the boundaries of good taste, and the actors are always willing to make fools of themselves in pursuit of comedy. Olsen, in particular, deserves special accolades for her continued enthusiasm for engaging in weird musical interludes. Last season, she drunkenly serenaded a hitchhiker with Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train," and this season, we see her show off some dance moves that would give Elaine Benes pause.
Charlie Day, who plays illiterate oddball Charlie, also has some fine moments, particularly with Danny DeVito's Frank. The two are saddled with an fairly flat storyline in the first two episodes, which wouldn't work at all were it not for Day and DeVito's easy chemistry.
Indeed, "IASIP's" many charms don't include consistency, and there are some dry patches, particularly in the first two episodes. But when "Sunny" clicks, it's absolutely inspired. And there's lots of clicking here, particularly in the episode about the boat, which was the strongest one I saw. A flashback episode focusing on an out-of-control Halloween party is also pretty hilarious, and has the added bonus of coining the term "brownout" (I'll let you figure that one out on your own).
Six seasons in, "Sunny" remains capable of bringing the funny. It might not double you over with laughs every minute, but its anarchic spirit and energetic performances still makes it one of the most enjoyable comedies on TV.

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