“We immediately escalate everything to a ten… somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another! Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home!
—- Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
For years I was aware of a television show called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but I didn’t watch it. No real reason – there is so much on… maybe I was turned off by the odd theme music.
One evening I was too tired to pick up the remote and actually saw a show. I enjoyed it. Basically it is the story of five people, related to each other in confusing ways, managing a shithole bar in Philadelphia. The actors are good, the jokes are funny, but mostly I liked it because the characters are such worthless, narcissistic, amoral, debauched, drug-addled, idiotic, lazy pieces of shit that it made me think better of myself. I may have my faults – but I am not as bad as these people.
Over the last year I’d watch it off and on. Mostly I’d scan the TV listings and DVR the episodes I hadn’t seen. That way I could binge watch them at odd times when I wasn’t missing anything important. With the DVR, I could fast-forward through the commercials or boring bits and see the whole episode in a few minutes.
There were a dozen seasons (It’s currently tied with Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom – the only thing it shares with Ozzie and Harriet) so there was plenty to watch. I’m not sure how many episodes or seasons I’ve seen – more than a few. There isn’t much of a long-term arc, so there’s no reason to watch the shows in order.
It is fun to speculate about how dark each episode is capable of going. Usually the show doesn’t disappoint and ends up going darker than you thought possible.
And then came the thirteenth season and, especially the final, 10th episode (144th overall), Mac Finds His Pride.
And everything changes.
I was home, exhausted after work, and noticed the DVR was recording the show. I thought I would check it out and realized that there was something else on – some sort of a dance program. The stage was dark and covered in water and a muscular man and athletic woman were doing an amazing dance number to Sigur Rós music.
It was entrancing. As I watched, I suddenly realized, “Shit! That’s Mac dancing.” It was indeed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
I immediate rewound and watched the whole show. It started out like any episode – The gang was trying to get a float in the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade to bring in business and wanted someone to dance on the float. Mac was the best candidate, but didn’t want to do it – having trouble relating to his imprisoned father and his sexuality.
One of the running “gags” of the series is the character Mac (full name – Ronald MacDonald) and his struggle to come to terms with being gay. At the beginning of this episode Frank (Danny DeVito) had broken his nose and was constantly shoving nasty stuff up his nostrils to staunch the bleeding.
All well and good – then it happened. Mac and Frank went to Mac’s father’s prison and Mac put on a dance with a woman to try and explain how he felt.
It was transcendent.
I was gobsmacked. This piece of artistic beauty came so far out of left field and was so unexpected… yet it was so appropriate and inevitable. I some unexplainable way it summed up everything. It was the moment that thirteen seasons – 144 shows – of unmitigated nihilistic worthlessness is redeemed by one moment of excellence.
It was the most audacious, brilliant thing I’ve seen on television since Part 8 of the new Twin Peaks.
Check out this article about how much work went into this. The actor, Rob McElhenney, can’t dance – more accurately, he can only do one dance. He spent a year learning it. And you can’t help but love his incredible partner, professional ballerina Kylie Shea.
I have always loved Sigur Rós. They sponsored a series of films of their music – The Valteri Mystery Film Experiment. There are several videos of the song in the dance, Varúð. Here’s a particularly good one: