Alibi V.17 No.28 • July 10-16, 2008 

Idiot Box

Hyper-Speed Syndication

Watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” until my eyes bleed

I sealed my fate with the click of a mouse. Once I started watching FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” I couldn’t stop.

The show’s cast (which includes Danny DeVito) of screaming thirtysomethings was a factor in the immediate addiction. They behave like the characters in “Seinfeld” if Jerry and the gang were degenerate, working-class alcoholics whose narcissism reached criminal levels. Also, the show makes it seem as though adulthood can be put off indefinitely, and that’s a comforting notion.

But the primary factor contributing to my unhealthy lust for “It’s Always Sunny” is the Internet. After seeing a few episodes on TV, I decided to see if the show could be viewed online. Once I found streaming episodes on, it was all over.

Every episode from seasons one and three lay at my fingertips. For some reason, Hulu doesn’t have season two (there are only three seasons, with a fourth slated to premiere in September). Hulu throws in a couple commercial breaks in each episode, but even with the interruptions, an episode only takes a shade over 20 minutes to watch. And the faster you finish, the more quickly you can move to the next one, and then the next.

In one horrifically unproductive afternoon that stretched into early evening, I watched two full seasons of “It’s Always Sunny.” The next day, I managed to hunt down the elusive season two on a combination of TV-streaming websites and promptly consumed every beer-drenched punch line.

I had to slow down. I had watched more than 12 hours of the same show over the course of two days. I didn’t keep up my breakneck pace, but I couldn’t pull the plug on this Internet experiment. Instead, I re-watched episode after episode until I had seen each one at least three times, and some as many as five times.

What I have done could be called “hyper-syndication." I’ve gobbled up all the episodes of “It’s Always Sunny” and watched them so many times that it’s created the same effect as watching every episode of syndicated shows like “Friends” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I can recite huge chunks of dialogue verbatim, and I've even begun comparing my friends with the characters in the cast. These are common symptoms of watching a syndicated show over and over and over again, but the difference is, I’ve done so over the course of about a week, instead of several years.

As strange as my experience has been, I wonder if I’m alone. With networks like NBC and Comedy Central allowing viewers to see all their shows online, it would seem there could be others out there just like me. Folks might be enticed by the prospect of watching multiple episodes of their favorite show in a single sitting. Then, before they know it, they’re lured into the guilt-ridden act of watching them over and over again.

The side effects of hyper-syndication are generally mild and may include dry mouth, nausea and body aches. You shouldn’t engage in hyper-syndication if you have a life, or are at risk of getting one. Ask yourself if hyper-syndication is right for you.

Season four of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will premier Thursday, Sept. 18, on FX.