by BEN KROMER & r & & r & It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

FX, Thursdays, 10 pm

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's high times for jerks on TV. There have always been jerks, of course, but never so numerous or memorable. Drs. House and Cox are jerks. The strike team from The Shield are criminals. Rescue Me is full of bad guys. Sawyer from Lost is a great jerk, so is Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Almost everyone on Arrested Development was a jerk. The list goes on.

The difference between the new breed and jerks of yore is that now they're anti-heroes instead of plain old baddies; we laugh with them instead of at them. This could be because America has grown more cynical in the last few years or, more likely, we've always been this cynical and TV studios are only now realizing they don't have to dumb-down and nice-up their shows so much.

I had to write that last paragraph because half the TV reviews I've written have a part where I explain how pleasingly unsavory some of the characters are. That's getting a bit tired and now I have to do it again. So I've decided to frame it as a trend.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a half-hour sitcom on FX about four friends who own a bar together. I'm using the term "friends" loosely since they're all too narcissistic and solipsistic to connect with other people. Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dennis's sister D are lousy people who do lousy things out of malice or pure ignorance. Always Sunny is closer to being a live-action South Park with four Cartmans than it is to being like any other sitcom. The first two seasons cover what I imagine is every potentially offensive subject matter the writers could think of, while never taking any of them seriously or even editorializing. Always Sunny isn't about important issues -- it's about how important issues can't come close to penetrating dense egos.

Because the characters are so loathsome, viewers might have a similar problem getting into the characters and, by extension, the show. My handhold is Charlie, but that's because I gravitate to the loserish characters. Others might prefer Dennis the pretty womanizer, Mac the moron or the girl. Finding a character to like is worth the effort, though, because Always Sunny will make you laugh. Even if you feel guilty about it.


Grounded on 9/11, Ground Zero Search and Recovery, The Man Who Predicted 9/11

These should at least help put a historical smack-down on the alarmingly numerous 9/11 conspiracy morons. Of course if they don't believe Popular Mechanics, they won't believe the History Channel. (History Channel, Tuesday at 8 pm, 9 pm and 11 pm)

The 627-Pound Woman

This is the story of a large lady getting gastric-bypass surgery to repair a horrendously huge hernia -- that is, Jackie's overworked intestines are trying to escape out her ample side while the doctors are trying to keep them in. This demonstrates, somehow, what's wrong with our health care system. (Discovery Health, Sunday at 8 pm and 11 pm)

Predator Raw

Everything I know about sex offenders, I learned from watching sketch parodies of To Catch a Predator. I hope these unseen tapes are equally hilarious. Also: Predator Raw? Isn't a show about child molesters already pretty raw? (MSNBC, Monday, 10 pm)

Harlem Globetrotters @ Spokane Arena

Thu., Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
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