In the preview for the seventh season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," we see Dee and Dennis take a disgusting rollercoaster ride, Charlie and Frank get into the kiddie beauty pageant racket and Mac gorge himself into obesity.
"It's just like we've created a new low," declares Danny DeVito, who plays the gang’s senior degenerate, Frank Reynolds, on the six-year-old FX show.
DeVito speaks those words with an unabashed pride in the web promo heralding Thursday's return of perhaps the bawdiest – and funniest – celebration of debauchery in TV history.
We're only slightly ashamed to admit that we can't wait for a new Philly fix
We didn't get into the show until last year, when Comedy Central began broadcast reruns of the FX comedy about a dive bar that's a festering Petri dish of sleaze. We took a crash course in coarseness, thanks to program whose unlikeable characters delve into fake gay marriages, womb rentals and even crack addiction in twisted plays on the old sitcom get-rich-quick-scheme plot device perfected on "The Honeymooners."
"Philadelphia" is an acquired taste, but one that's as hard to shake as the rats in Paddy’s Pub. We'd like to think we watch in hopes of seeing at least one character emerge as the moral center of the main miscreants' amoral – but thankfully very small – universe. But more likely, as DeVito suggests, the major draw is seeing how low can they go.
"These guys are crazy," DeVito notes in the preview. "They've gone off the deep end."
This season's plunge into the deep end includes his character’s plans to marry a prostitute (“I’m still gonna pay you – but I want you to stop banging other guys”). But the biggest curiosity is the 50-pound weight gain by the vain, buff Mac. Actor Rob McElehenney pulled a DeNiro, putting on the pounds for the sake of comedy.
"I was watching a very popular sitcom, and I noticed the people were getting better and better looking as the seasons were going on," he told reporters last month, according to TVGuide.com. "I always thought that what we were trying to do on 'Sunny' was the deconstruction of the sitcom."
At times, it feels more like the destruction of the sitcom, which is as good a reason as any to pay a return visit to “Philadelphia.”
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.