In its 12th season, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is having a banner year. It began the season with an instant classic episode that incorporated incisive commentary about race relations with a musical parody of The Wiz and a homage to Quantum Leap. Other highlights of the highly rated season have included a chaotic visit to a waterpark, a tribute to Making a Murderer, and the years-in-the-making revelation that Mac (Rob McElhenney) is gay.
While the show has experimented a bit more with form this year than it has for most of its history, it’s still the same old Sunny — and the series this year returned to its former habit of supplemental location shoots in Philadelphia, after foregoing them for a number of seasons. Now, the series is breaking ground in another way: with virtual reality.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has debuted a new, four-minute virtual reality mini-episode called “Project Badass,” produced along with VR company Jaunt. The video, which can be viewed through such virtual reality headsets as the Oculus, Samsung Gear V and Google Cardboard, depicts an Evel Knievel-style motorcycle stunt, as “The Gang” prepares the viewer to jump off a boardwalk, presumably at the Jersey Shore.
The video, which can also be viewed without VR goggles on the FX website, consists of three minutes of preparation, as Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day), Frank (Danny DeVito) and Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) tease Mac (and by extension, the first-person viewer) about what a bad idea the jump is; Dennis, in true Dennis fashion, calls it a “snuff film.” The last minute is the jump itself, which ends somewhat predictably. The video is in conjunction with a new episode of Always Sunny, titled “PTSDee,” which features a VR-based storyline.
The VR mini-episode is a pretty imaginative leap for the series to take, and while it’s far from the funniest Always Sunny has gotten so far this year, it’s a reasonable-enough facsimile of an Always Sunny episode, in every way except Dennis’ uncharacteristic beard.
On the other hand, anyone who remembers the huge hype four or five years ago about VR being the future of entertainment can’t help but notice that the technology hasn’t caught on in any major way. Most of the time, whether it’s this or a similar promotion in which cardboard VR goggles were handed out at screenings of Fifty Shades Darker, VR is more of an afterthought tie-in than the cultural product itself.