It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the kind of comedy that makes you squirm with discomfort. The kind of cringefest that makes shows like The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Arrested Development. The characters are wrong (ignorant), selfish, insensitive, and vacuous (no convictions beyond getting laid or making money). They collide in a train wreck of personal situations as they reveal themselves to be … who they really are. It’s Seinfeld in the extreme and we laugh along to their absolute wrongness.

“This isn’t a morality contest.” –Charlie

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia follows the exploits of three self-absorbed high school friends — Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) – now twentysomethings who own a neighborhood bar along with Dennis’ sister, Dee (Kaitlin Olson).

The show is not afraid to mine comedy from taboos. Racism, incest, homophobia, abortion, child molestation, underage drinking, statutory rape, cancer – you get the idea. In so doing, there is a realness to the show because real life is awkward and uncomfortable. It’s both familiar and absurd, in other words, a dark reflection of us.

“Take a look at yourself, bro.” –Mac

At its heart, the show is about people’s inability to be authentic, with themselves or with one another. What they say, who they hang around, what they wear, how they act, about their relationships, they are mired in a non-reflective mindset and trapped by their social ineptness as they try to dodge the inevitable consequences of their cluelessness

They are at the fun stage of life where they struggle with issues of self-image (many of them uncomfortable in their own skins), where they fit in the social order, wrestling with their idea of self-identity, and dealing with feelings of alienation. They’ve been burned by some community (family, a circle of friends, a church … did I mention family?) and are tired of not fitting in, of being rejected, of not being accepted. They put up these “harsh”, abrasive fronts, of the mostly bark/little bite variety, that mask their insecurity.

They seek a place where they can belong, a community whey they can live their often uncomfortable lives. In other words, they are like the rest of us: looking for authenticity, looking for acceptance, on their terms.

“I don’t know what God wants for us … He works bigger than that.” –Dee

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is painfully universal. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been “that guy” (or “that girl”), somewhat pathetic, though often meaning well. And while hilarious in a “I’m gonna feel bad about this later” sort of way (with a Fawlty Towers feel to it if you want an old school comparison), there is a line it treads where the show could just flat out be mean-spirited. Sometimes, if you don’t wince, you may want to adjust your moral compass.