By ARYEH DEAN COHEN
Still catching up on some of our missed YES Stars Comedy shows, we managed to catch two different versions of the entertaining It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia show recently - one on the Internet from season one sans Danny DeVito, and one courtesy of YES with him.
What a difference. It seems the pitbull-like actor only joined the show in season 2, and it's a good thing he did, too. Because the season 1 episodes we watched were not half as much fun as when DeVito joined the cast.
The FX channel comedy about the proprietors of Paddy's, a hole-in-the-wall bar, is amusing enough, but it really took DeVito to make it take off. Those who enjoyed him as Louie, the taxi stand boss in Taxi, will love him here, where he's even more unglued. He plays Frank Williams, father of two of the bar's owners, Dennis and Dee - and perhaps also the father of Charlie, who also helps run the place, as does Mac, Charlie's childhood friend who later went to school and roomed with Dennis (Glenn Howerton). But none of that matters. What matters is that any of the five will stop at nothing to try to get ahead, either of one of the other five, or just to make their claim to fame.
What's also fun about the show is its tinkly, always upbeat music, even when things are pretty desperate. And each program begins with the introduction of the episode title based on an event that just took place. So it was that while Dennis was waxing poetic about the importance of ecology and recycling, he opened a dumpster and said: "Holy shit! There's a baby in the dumpster!" That keyed the title: "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby."
The episode - without getting into all the various relationships or suspected relationships between the five, known better to more serious fans than I - showed all five at their worst, and it was hysterical.
Shocked at what he's found, Dennis immediately goes into a diatribe about the throwaway generation. "You don't want to carry your Big Gulp anymore, just throw it out into the street. You don't want to take care of your baby anymore, just throw it in the dumpster," he complains.
But Frank sees it differently and as usual, practically. "What's that?" he asks, walking into the bar and discovering the little pooper. "It's a baby we found in the trash," explains Dee. "Well, put it back, it doesn't belong to you. Give it to the cops. Get it out of here," responds Frank.
But Dee and Mac (Rob MacElhenney, who with Day and Howerton helped create the show) see the kid as an opportunity, or at least Mac does if Dee is willing to play mom the sexist way he views the world. "If we're going to raise this baby together," he explains as he walks into her apartment with the kid and heads straight to the fridge, "I think we should at least try to make it work, so when you're done with the [kid's] bath, why don't you go out and buy some beer and a pack of smokes would be good." Then, heading out the door, he says: "For the sake of the baby, I'm going to give us some space."
Meanwhile, Charlie (Charlie Day) and Frank, inspired by the discovery of the kid, start going through dump sites, certain they'll find great treasures. Only problem: They think everything they find is a treasure.
Meanwhile Mac and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) have taken the baby to a talent agent, after some passersby remark on how cute he is. Turns out, though, that only Latino babies are in demand, so they drag the kid to a tanning salon. Ay, caramba!
By now, Charlie and Frank are wheeling grocery carts full of junk up the Philadelphia streets. Finally, something dawns on Frank, realizing how much stuff they've filled their place with: "Where are we going to sleep?" Answer: On the heating grates on the street at first, then in a dumpster during a rainstorm.
We didn't care for the second episode too much, in which Dee penciled on a beard and moustache to be able to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles football team along with Mac and Denis. Still, the sight of Frank reliving his Woodstock trauma of being stuck in a pay toilet for three days ("I survived on hand cream and toilet water for three days') was totally hysterical.
Yes, this is one crazy bunch, but one worth watching and entertaining to the max. While we didn't grow up in Philadelphia, this series - and DeVito - are good enough to keep coming back to, no matter what W. C. Fields had to say about the place.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs weeknights on YES Stars Comedy at 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
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