At face value, NBC’s sitcom Community and FX’s It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia are two very different shows. Community, which follows a mismatched group of friends at the subpar Greendale Community College, is a lighthearted sitcom safe for the whole family. It’s Always Sunny, however, examines the darker parts of the human psyche through a group of narcissists who own Paddy’s Pub, a dive bar in Philadelphia.
Given a deeper look, however, Community and It’s Always Sunny have thematic and plot-driven similarities. Both shows feature a toxic group of friends who routinely find themselves getting into trouble.
Audiences tend to see Community as a sitcom and It’s Always Sunny as a dark-comedy, but both have dipped into dark subject matter. Jeff Winger, played by Joel McHale, has moments that are reminiscent of Dennis Reynolds’ narcissistic rampages, such as when he attacks his best friends with an axe. Dennis, similarly, will threaten to attack people over anything from shushing him to saying his face looks chubby.
Both groups of friends find themselves causing trouble for each other, along with discovering their own, individual issues. This occurs most notably in the Community episode “Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps”. The episode involves discovering one of the members has tested as a psychopath in a psychology survey, only to find out all but one of them had tested to be a psychopath.
That plotline is ever-present in Its Always Sunny, but perhaps most poignantly appears in “The Gang Gets Analyzed.” Dee’s therapist endures a day of analyzing the gang, only to be driven to the brink by their outlandish behavior and narcissistic tendencies.
Additionally, character archetypes are paralleled in both shows. Winger bears direct similarities to Reynolds’ fragile ego and self-centeredness. Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir fill the oddball roll of the squirrly, musical Charlie Kelly. The supporting cast is equally ridiculous in both shows. Characters like Dean Pelton and Senior Chang are routinely caught in their own ridiculous sub-plots. For example, Senor Chang lives in the school’s air ducts with a chimpanzee. Those supporting characters are just as outlandish as Rickety Cricket, the gang’s lovable priest friend who they slowly corrupt throughout the seasons.
These shows differ, however, in the lengths their writers are willing to go.
Community, being a prime-time network TV show, cannot get away with what It’s Always Sunny can during FX’s late night spot. Pierce Hawthorne’s prescription pill addiction in the episode “The Aerodynamics of Gender” seems like a dark plot, but when compared to It’s Always Sunny’s “Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare,” in which Dennis and Dee are addicted to crack, it would feel tame to the average primetime viewers.
Above all else, the characters in Community grow as people and love each other at the end of the day. Jeff Winger grows to love Greendale Community College. Troy Barnes outgrows his high school athlete persona. The It’s Always Sunny gang never learns from their mistakes or regrets their actions.
In Community, when the group finds itself in a precarious situation, they work through it for the good of the group. This couldn’t be less true of the gang from Paddy’s Pub — all their actions are to benefit themselves, innocent bystanders are often impacted, and they don’t feel a sense of love and understanding no matter what the circumstances.
The two shows are very reminiscent of one another, but It’s Always Sunny will go to depths involving the human psyche Community is just not willing to delve into. That’s what makes each great in their own right; Community tested the bounds of a sitcom and It’s Always Sunny remains a dark-comedy cult classic.
Noah Wright is a junior studying Strategic Communications at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those ofThe Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.