When I watched Horrible Bosses a couple of months ago, I had no idea who Charlie Day was, assuming he was from Saturday Night Live, which I don't watch. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I really discovered his comic brilliance when I started watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
As I so often do (The Big Bang Theory, Weeds, Cougar Town). I had ignored this show because I assumed it was just formulaic say-a-line-and-pause-for-the-canned-laughter crap. In my head I had imagined is as something between Cheers - with a bar for a set and a group of regulars sitting around saying whacky things - and the dire but bafflingly successful British sitcom Two Pints of Lager. However, as Noodle Arms has been away on holiday since mid-December (back tomorrow, yay!), I have been pottering around mostly on my ownsome for the past few weeks, and I had scraped the barrel of every single TV show I had the slightest interest in ever seeing, so I finally came around to this one.
It is nothing like I expected. Four high school losers grow up and buy a seedy bar that rarely has any customers. Okay, so far so Cheers. The humour is so much darker, but still outrageously funny. It's not really cringe dark, like, say, Louie, which despite its brilliance I can barely stand to watch at times. It's probably more like Seinfeld taken up to and beyond Curb Your Enthusiasm levels. Some of the episode titles should clue you in: Charlie Gets Molested, Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom, The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby, Sweet Dee's Dating A Retarded Person, Dennis Looks Like A Registered Sex Offender, Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life. It's not for the faint-hearted. Or my mum.
The main characters are:
- Dennis, a vain, shallow, possibly sociopathic womaniser
- his twin sister "Sweet Dee" (they never explain why she is called that), an aspiring actress/comedienne who is as vain and shallow and possibly sociopathic as Dennis, but is also constantly derided and dismissed by the others
- Mac, a self-serving coward who fancies himself as hard
- Charlie, a borderline illiterate, glue-sniffing weirdo who lives in squalor and happily does all the 'Charlie jobs' in the bar like cleaning toilets and killing rats
In season 2, Dennis and Dee's father Frank - played by Danny DeVito - becomes a regular character. Frank is a wealthy eccentric who decides to move in with Charlie to be more adventurous, and embraces the life of a more-than-slightly unhinged scumbag. He likes to mess about in the sewers naked, hang out 'under the bridge', and entertain 'hoo-ers'. I've never been a particular fan of Danny DeVito, but he is brilliant at making Frank both disgusting and shockingly hilarious. The scene in the Season 6 Christmas episode where he slithers naked out of the lining of a couch is just... I'm still shuddering. And laughing.
My favourite character is Charlie, not least because Charlie Day reminds me a lot of Bobcat Goldthwait, one of my favourite comic actors from the 80s, and the reason I watch Burglar every single time it's on TV. His not-always-suppressed rage and inability to articulate himself makes the character a lovable, but slightly terrifying, lunatic.
There are a number of supporting characters who pop up occasionally to add to the hilarity and whose lives have usually been ruined in some way by the gang.
- Dee's acting class friend Artemis is probably the most similar to the rest of them - she has an on and off relationship with Frank and doesn't seem to care what she gets involved in.
- The waitress Charlie has a crush on (whose name is never revealed) turns up most frequently, and is most often the one who suffers the consequences of their disastrous adventures. She is in AA until Dee's bullying attempts at recreating a Sex and the City-type friendship with the waitress and Artemis results in her going off the wagon and sliding back into alcoholism.
- 'Rickety Cricket' is a guy who had a crush on Dee in high school and grew up to become a priest. In one episode Dee convinces him that she is in love with him (for her own selfish reasons), causing him to leave the priesthood. When she rejects him he becomes a homeless vagrant, turning up in occasional episodes looking more and more down and out.
- My favourite are the McPoyles, a creepy, incestuous pair of brothers who come from a large family that look and act like hillbilly carnies.
The McPoyles and their equally creepy sister, Margaret.
The 7th season just wound up at the end of last year, and the show has been renewed for at least two more seasons. It does start to get patchy from Season 5 on, though there are still enough funny episodes and shocking moments to make it worthwhile.
If you have a strong stomach and you are not easily offended, this is the show for you. Although I'd highly recommend not eating while you watch it.
**As an aside, one thing I always find funny are those fake family portraits as shown above, and in the poster of Step Brothers. They just make me laugh every time I see them.