Judge Patrick Bromley loves his Kitten Mittens.
Our reviews of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Season Five (published September 20th, 2010), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Six (Blu-ray) (published September 25th, 2011), It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas (Blu-Ray) (published November 30th, 2009), and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Seasons 1 And 2 (published September 12th, 2007) are also available.
A circle of jerks.
One of TV's funniest half-hours makes its season-length debut on Blu-ray, but is it worth making the switch to HD?
Facts of the Case
Here are the episodes that make up It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Fifth Season:
• "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis"
• "The Gang Hits the Road"
• "The Great Recession"
• "The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention"
• "The Waitress is Getting Married"
• "The World Series Defense"
• "The Gang Wrestles for the Troops"
• "Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens"
• "Mac and Dennis Break Up"
• "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System"
• "Mac and Charlie Write a Movie"
• "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry"
How far we've come—or low we've sunk—since the days of Seinfeld. The famous "show about nothing" featured four main characters who were shallow, superficial, misanthropic and downright self-obsessed—albeit in a light and funny and immensely popular way. Well, along comes Seinfeld's nastier, grimier cousin: the FX comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which makes the foursome on Seinfeld seem positively human. No other show on TV makes horrible behavior quite as funny (though HBO's Eastbound and Down might come close) and features characters that are so likable while still being hideously unlikable. These are people I'll tune in every week to watch on FX, but whom I would cross the street to avoid.
The beauty of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that it insulates its characters in their own moral universe. They have no idea how to interact with the outside world and, for the most part, don't; it's in those moments where their singular logic and morality (or lack thereof) intersect with the rest of us humans that the show finds much of its humor. The fifth season never strays too far from the formula, and that's exactly right; the joke of It's Always Sunny is that these characters are incapable of growth or change, so the series would hypocritical if it began practicing what it does not preach. Though not every episode features the show at its best, there are a handful of great ones (like "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis," "The Gang Hits the Road" and "The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention") and some genuine classics (including "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry" and, of course, "Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens"). I tend to like when Sunny reaches big and goes for social satire—it's a little like South Park in that way—though the episodes centering around a single, unifying story are often just as funny. Of course, like all comedy that's worth anything—especially comedy that forces viewers to take sides with it or against it like this one—It's Always Sunny is most definitely not for everyone. The show can be a little shrill at times, and the loose, semi-improvisational style means that scenes can occasionally sag in the middle. For the most part, though, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is acid-black comedy at its best.
Now for the bad news. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has not made the transition to Blu-ray well. The show was shot in standard definition and has essentially just been upconverted to 1080p for the Blu-ray release—it's not a true HD presentation. I could forgive that if it looked better (or if it was indicated somewhere on the disc jacket; it is not), but it's a weak transfer. It's soft everywhere and blacks are more like grays; even the text in the titles or on street signs is blocky and blurry. A show like The Office or 30 Rock looks better on standard DVD than It's Always Sunny does on Blu-ray. There are two audio options available: a lossless DTS-HD surround track and a more standard 2.0 stereo track. Both are totally acceptable, as It's Always Sunny doesn't make a lot of audio demands; the dialogue that defines the show is presented clearly in the front and center channels, and there aren't really a lot of frills on either track. It's nothing special, but it services the show in a much more satisfying way than the visual presentation.
Different iterations of the ensemble gather for commentary tracks over half of the episodes, and, as expected, they're very loose and funny. Celebrity shrink Dr. Drew Pinsky even shows up on two commentaries (over the episodes "The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention," of course, and "Mac and Dennis Break Up") and provides some analysis and insight into the characters. It's a funnier idea than it is in practice, but it is amusing to hear a professional talk about such hopelessly selfish and awful human beings in clinical terms. There's also a reasonably funny blooper reel, a good selection of deleted scenes with a bunch of excellent jokes (like the deleted scenes on The Office DVDs, these scenes work on their own) and a collection of over 20,000 production photos that play together to give a behind-the-scenes look called "Schwep Dream Sequence." Additionally, there are some fake dating profiles for the characters and a "Kitten Mittens Endless Loop," which is just a couple of minutes of cats walking around in mittens (from the episode "Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens) set to repeat ad infinitum. Finally, the Blu-ray set contains the pilot episode of the animated FX spy comedy Archer.
It's with some reservations that I recommend It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The Complete Fifth Season. It may not be the strongest year in the show's run, but there are still a lot of great episodes and the series remains one of the funniest on TV. The show is great, but this set gets low marks for disappointing picture quality that's essentially just a 1080p upconvert.
Get the season, but stick with the DVDs.
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Scales of Justice
• Episode Commentaries
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