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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Is Our Seinfeld

December 28, 2010

I remember Seinfeld’s last episode vividly. It was 1998. I’d just gotten home from a golf match in the spring of my 8th grade year. I was sunburned and tired. As I watched the finale in our living room in Massachusetts — the state where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer would be thrown in jail for their crimes against dozens of innocent people during the show’s nine year run — I was also sad. I had this ominous feeling that I, too, would have a television death sentence: No sit com will ever live up to this.

And with all due respect to The Office, nothing has.

But “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” comes close. Sunny, now in its sixth season, is a more dark, sordid, and depraved version of Seinfeld, written for a darker time. It also carries the grim belief that, at the end of the day, we all only care about numero uno.

The comparison has been made before, with FX even tagging Sunny as “Seinfeld on Crack.” But if you really look at it more deeply, the similarities are so striking.

The settings are different, of course. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer hatched their schemes over coffee at a diner in Manhattan; The Always Sunny Gang does it over beer at the dank bar they own in a dismal looking part of Philadelphia.

But it’s not just the characters’ obvious selfishness. Like the main Seinfeld characters, each Always Sunny gang member has a specific objective that he or she will sell out their friends and innocent people to achieve.

In both shows, sometimes the main characters team up or pair off for an episode if it’s mutually convenient, but it still must support whatever selfish goal they set out for at the onset. As each character pursues his or her objective, even if they seem absolutely disparate from what his friend is trying to achieve, all the characters converge on each other at the end.

In Seinfeld, this could result with George getting mauled by a hawk while all his counterparts look on from the fake Merv Griffith set erected in Kramer’s apartment. In “It’s Always Sunny,” the gang comes together to watch ships sink, cars explode and find themselves in a serial killer’s apartment.

From a character perspective, you can even match each of them (to do so, you must include Newman with the major four of Seinfeld).

Jerry and Dennis

Both are vain. And despite asinine, OCD behavior, they get lots of women. They’re superficially judgemental and feel an air of superiority from the rest of people in their respective groups. i.e. Jerry shaving his chest, scratching the waist size from his jeans, getting a woman’s phone number off an AIDS Walk list, and delivering the vintage “that’s a shame” line to marvel at others misfortunes. Dennis taking advantage of “The Waitress” to get him a job at a local chain restaurant (only to get her fired), relegating Mac and Charlie as “low class,” and video taping every woman he has sex with.

George and Mac

The insecure ones with complexes abound. Insecure with women, and homophobic to the core. i.e. Mac condemning his former transexual girlfriend’s husband as being gay; George worrying himself to death that “it moved” when got a massage from a man.

Elaine and Dee

Both immediately get the upper hand with most men they get involved with. They’re modernly promiscuous, and condemn the stupidity of the guys in their respective crews. i.e. Elaine seeing if a man is “sponge worthy” and breaking up with a man who had a stroke; Dee sleeping with Bill Ponderosa, ruining his marriage and trying to take a free car in the process.

Charlie and Kramer

A pretty easy one. Both are the most eccentric and out of right field, and maybe the only person with a sliver of a soul in each show. You don’t know what they do in much of their spare time, and the glimpses we do see are normally enough. i.e. Charlie’s sniffing glue and eating catfood; Kramer preparing food in his shower while he bathes.

Newman and Frank

Not just because their both rotund, funny guys. They’re also both unabashedly sinister. They live on the fringes of the show, more than Charlie and Kramer. What they do can in some ways be more egregious or sneaky. i.e. Newman giving Jerry fleas; Frank admitting that he defecated in Charlie’s bed.

And that seems the appropriate place to end this post.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. dmadey permalink
    December 28, 2010 6:04 pm

    I’ve been catching up on episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia over this holiday break and have incorporated several catch phrases from the show into my day-to-day vernacular. They are:

    – I’m trying to get my pump on.
    – Stop trying to box me out.
    – Jabroni

  2. James permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:26 am

    I absolutely love this article!! I am a huge fan of Charlie, and his character couldn’t be more spot-on with Kramer. I record every episode in HD on my DISH Network employee account. I am glad that comedy central has started airing the episodes, and hope to see many more seasons!

  3. September 24, 2011 3:15 am

    Both tv shows are different but their genre is same. These two tv shows are extremely funniest and full of entertainment. These days I am hooked up with Season 7 of Sunny in Philadelphia TV Show.

  4. Mike permalink
    March 8, 2014 12:00 am

    Love it. I found myself not too long ago making the same connections, and even the same correlations between characters. They both have the same theme, the distinguishing feature of which is that not a single one of the recurring characters is truly sympathetic. And even when you think you’re starting to sympathize with one of them, they immediately show their true nature. That’s what makes it a comedy in the true literary sense, where comedy is the completion of tragedy. In the end, they always remain “friends.”

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