This week Pete, Jef and myself watched FX's long-running comedy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The show recently kicked off the new FXX channel, which I still cannot find on my cable system. Regardless, the episode we chose to watch was "Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass," which we felt was apropos given the state of our current government.
In the episode, Charlie is furious with Dennis over his incessant smoking in the bar and he and Dee hit the streets to push American values and start an anti-smoking gathering. Meanwhile, Dennis, Mac and Frank decide that the true meaning of America is pure and unadulterated no-holds barred freedom. Freedom at Paddy's Pub, the guys' bar, turns into gambling, drugs and, of course, sibling incest.
ABBY: Let's start off with the show in general. I know Pete has been recently binge watching, as have I: I can't get enough of it. I feel that this show borders somewhere between pure genius and something completely asinine. It's the Gen-Xer's Seinfeld. What do you guys think about the show as a whole?
JEF: I dislike it for the same reason I dislike Senifeld... it's really hard for me to care about objectively terrible people no matter how funny they are. There are high notes, sure, but to me it lacks that inherent core of loyalty to each other that made something like Married With Children a classic.
PETE: Well, part of the enjoyment comes from knowing they're terrible and are constantly making terrible decisions. Even I think the show goes too far sometimes, but like South Park, I think they have an honest "anything for a laugh" approach.
And unlike South Park, they don't try to shoehorn their libertarian bullshit into every episode.
ABBY: The episode starts out somewhat logically. Charlie/Dee don't want smoking in the bar and Dennis/Mac think they are stepping on their freedoms. So they turn the bar into an "anything goes" type of establishment. Why does this go so wrong for them? Isn't that what freedom is all about?
JEF: Allow me to illustrate using a recent conversation with my four-year-old daughter...
Me: Sweetheart, don't run on the wet sidewalk in your boots. Her: I WANT TO! *takes off running, slips, bruises her knee, and cries.* Me: Now what have we learned about the rules and boundaries of modern society, sweetheart?
PETE: Exactly. You can't view "The Gang's" actions in the context of responsible, realistic adults. In anything approaching the "real world," Paddy's Pub would've been razed/ burned down/shut down by the Health Department/swallowed by a Hellmouth years ago.
ABBY: Dee and Charlie go join an anti-smoking rally, which really just happens to be street performance, proving yet again, that this show is brilliant in its consistent ability to show a cracked mirror image of society. What did you guys think of this side plot?
JEF: I loved that bit! Number one, as much as I am against smoking and applaud the efforts that people go to in order to eliminate it, I HATED those commercials with the body bags. I used to tell my wife I wanted to start smoking just in direct defiance of them.
It was so transparently "edgy" and patently juvenile that I always assumed it was just a bunch of hipster New York actors getting political for attention. So I watched it with a heady does of, "Ha! In your face!"
PETE: The "Truth" movement annoyed me because they acted like packs of cigarettes haven't had warning labels since the 1960s. Everyone over the age of six saw those dumbass commercials and went, "And?"
ABBY: So Dennis and Mac seem to learn that once you give people an inch, i.e. letting them smoke, gamble, make out with their sisters, things will eventually get completely out of hand. So, like, having government IS a good idea? What gives?
JEF: People who don't want government are the equivalent of kids that think their mom makes them clean their room just because she's mean. Freedom is wonderful. I'm all for letting girls take their tops off in public for T-shirts. I'm much more leery of games of Chop Poker, and if you can't tell the difference between the two then you're the reason we need the freakin' rules in the first place.
PETE: Everybody wants "government off their backs" until something they hold dear is threatened. In Dennis and Mac's case, their GGW utopia is threatened by the actions of the McPoyles and their ilk.
Of course government is a good idea. Even your anarchist punk rock friends from high school like safe drinking water and sinkhole-free roads.
ABBY: I thought this episode was really interesting given the battle going on in Washington. Can we connect Vietnamese Russian Roulette and sibling incest with the take down of Obamacare or am I stretching it?
JEF: First off... does Elly (Abby's sister) know of this fixation you have with incest between sisters? 'Cause Thanksgiving is coming up and you're making things really awkward.
But let me fire up the metaphor machine for you. OK, So McConnnell and Harry Reid are the creepy incest couple. It's icky when they get together, no matter how necessary it was. Ted Cruz was playing Russian Roulette, except that he had a machine gun and doesn't know how the game works. Meanwhile, John Boehner was playing bookie... I think Obama is Dee in this scenario and Obamacare is public nudity.
PETE: I think public approval ratings for incest are higher than they are for the GOP. Also, I'm willing to bet Ted Cruz thinks you play Russian Roulette by loading every chamber but one.
ABBY: Let's talk about the McPoyles. They are hard to watch, but make me want to walk around at all times in a robe.
JEF: You're just itching to not be allowed within 100 yards of a school, aren't you?
PETE: Do you like milk, too? The McPoyles are great nemeses, and only get worse as the series goes on (Frank figures prominently in a future storyline). Now if you'll excuse me, I need to huff some Pledge.
ABBY: Did you guys get the Deer Hunter, Russian Roulette scene going on with the Vietnamese gamblers in the basement?
JEF: I didn't, no. But I did see the episode of Tales From the Crypt where two insane gamblers eventually end up cutting off their arms and legs are reduced to playing checkers with their noses.
PETE: The only way Jef will watch The Deer Hunter is if they make Christoper Walken the next Doctor (which would actually be pretty awesome). I liked how only seeing the horrors of a self-inflicted gunshot wound convinced Mac and Dennis to call the cops. Philly's a rough town.
ABBY: What is more American, an anything goes bar or street performance, which is the last true form of art?
JEF: I think France actually does both of those things better than we do.
PETE: Reality television is the last, most American, form of art. And you can read about it right here on Reality Bites!
ABBY: There are some amazing quotes in this episode. My favorite may be when Dennis and Mac are talking about how New Orleans really had their "shit figured out" and Dennis says, "yeah except for the levees." Too soon?
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JEF: It's cool now, but in 2006 when this episode aired... yeah, a little soon.
PETE: Look, I didn't go to Vietnam just to have pansies like you take my freedom away from me.
That, and ROCK, FLAG, EAGLE! These guys should be the poets laureate of AMERICA.
Go America! Next week we will watch Zach Braff get all Zach Braffy in Scrubs, Season 5, Episode 21 "My Fallen Idol." Watch with us so some of this makes sense. Only some of it will, though.