The first time I watched “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, I hated it. I didn’t get it. It was crude. It was offensive. Why is it funny? I didn’t understand any of the things.
And then they removed “The Wonder Years” from Netflix.
In the throes of funemployment depression, I had come to rely on Kevin Arnold to make me smile just a little as yet another emailed cover letter went unanswered.
I used it to keep the constant inner sobbing down to only once a day instead of the average fifteen.
It was something to watch while constantly reminding myself that it would be seen as unprofessional to write, “why don’t you hire me, beeyotches?” at the bottom of any email.
Then it vanished and I decided the only normal thing to do would be to turn back to “It’s Always Sunny” because Fred Savage had directed a whole bunch of them and maybe I had missed something the first time around.
It turns out, I was….I was missing the point completely and while this isn’t the first time that I have been accused of missing the point, this is one of the first times where I felt I owed an apology to all those involved.
Dear Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton,
I get it. I’m sorry.
It’s Always Sunny is not a surface show. It’s not a kid’s show. It’s a show that asks you to read between the lines without spelling it out for you. It allows the audience to think about what they’re really trying to say. There’s no pandering, there’s just an understanding that in between all the chaos, this is a show that truly has something intelligent to say.
Twelve seasons have passed and I have fully binged all twelve and like any good television viewer, I have picked out my favorites. This is all scientific in my extremely scientific poll of just me and it’s also super long because it’s been on for 12 seasons so there’s that….
So let’s do it:
- Dee Dates a Retarded Person
Now, I am going to start this by saying I am a Special Education teacher who truly despises the word, “retard”. I hate that “R” word with a fiery passion. I have gotten into arguments with people about how horrible this word is. I’ve worked with the most severe to the most mild and this word drives me up the wall. So when I started this episode, I watched on top of my high horse. I fully expected to hate it, to be offended, to be angry and then go into one of the political groups I was put in on Facebook and go on a tirade about how even television sitcoms shouldn’t use it.
Then I watched and now I may need to hire Charlie Kelly, Bird Lawyer, because I totally ate crow.
See, what I noticed in that episode was that they never actually confirmed whether or not the guy Dee was dating had a mental disability and that’s where the brilliance came in. Yes, this guy had certain things that seemed off. He lived with his mom, he had a very loud laugh, he had finger twitches or “unquiet hands” as I used to say to my students who had flapping tendencies. The thing is, nothing is confirmed and the episode is not about making fun of someone with mental disabilities but instead about perception and how we perceive certain qualities or quirks as a sign of mental deficiency when the exact opposite is true. In addition, we truly don’t know this guy’s deal. We do know, however, how horrible Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Dee and Frank are which makes the episode even more powerful because instead of the viewer siding with Dee and the gang, we instead look to them and wonder why they, with all their awfulness, think it would ever be okay for them to mock someone else especially someone who seems to be doing quite well despite anything that may or may not be wrong with him.
The fact that there is never a confirmation is what makes this episode absolutely wonderful and debunks my long held theory that if you go looking for something to be offended by, you’ll find it because in this particular case, I went looking and came up with nothing.
2. Hero or Hate Crime?
Mac being in the closet and refusing to come out despite everyone around him knowing that he is indeed gay has been a long running joke in this series so in this episode which starts off with Frank calling Mac a homophobic slur that starts with an F to keep Mac from getting crushed by a falling piano, the whole “why won’t he just come out” thing is broached again but this time in arbitration over a lottery ticket that fell from Dee’s purse. Do you follow?
Mac was getting the lottery ticket which had flown out of Dee’s purse, walked under the piano, Frank called him a slur, Charlie, who had just voluntarily stepped in dog poop because that’s what you do, jump kicked Mac out of the way, thus saving his life…..and now they need to figure out who owns the ticket.
Personally, I would think the ticket would belong to Dennis since he paid for it but then again, I wouldn’t spend seventeen hours in arbitration to figure out who it belonged to but that ending…..that’s what made the show. “It’s Always Sunny” doesn’t have too many of those quieter moments which is fine and those loud moments are hilarious but this had one of Rob McElhenney’s finest moments. After Mac is awarded the ticket which ends up being a winning ticket of ten grand for admitting he is gay, his friends tell him to go back in the closet as is it assumed by his friends and the audience that the only reason he came out was because the arbitrator–the third one–mentioned that if he said he was gay, he’d get the ticket. So he admits it and gets the ticket but the twist is at the end where he decides he will now stay out which is followed with him leaving the office with his @$$ pounder bike invention and his friends in stunned silence. McElhenney was amazing in that scene as were Danny DeVito, Kaitlin Olson, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day. Their reactions revealed that underneath all the awfulness, the scheming and mockery, that this is a group that genuinely cares and loves each other. When it comes time to pay the arbitration bill, they decide Mac will do it but will give him a day to enjoy being fully out. They get each other. The rest of the world might not but they do and that’s what matters at least to them.
And if you get it, that’s awesome and if you don’t…..well that leads me to my next favorite:
3. The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award
This episode in the series ninth season focuses on the gang trying to win an award for their years working in the bar industry and they wonder if changing how their bar is run will help them get the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.
If you don’t know by now, while the stunt people on “It’s Always Sunny” have been nominated, neither the show itself nor have the actors ever been nominated for their work so this episode is clearly a jab at the whole awards industry. The episode is ripe with metaphors referring to shows that have won or shows that have been recognized. Some of the criticism such as the fact that Paddy’s is just people yelling over each other mirrors criticism people have had about the show. They try to change to make their bar more appealing such as using brighter lights and having Mac and Dee engage in “will they or won’t they” banter which all just fails miserably.
You can never pretend to be something you’re not because the truth will always come out and this isn’t a glossy show with a laugh track. I’ve never wanted any of these characters to pull a Chandler and Monica and end up in bed together in London. The glossiness worked for “Friends” but it doesn’t here. Dennis explains it perfectly as well when he says that the people who love their bar (or show) love it and the ones that that think their bar (or show) is cool know it’s cool. They don’t run their bar for awards. They don’t run their show for awards. They just do it to make people laugh and if you do, then they succeed.
The highlight of this episode, my apologies to the rest of the cast, is Charlie Day. Alright, this man has said in interviews he will not be releasing an album but holy crapballs Batman, is he talented or what? He has two songs he performs in this episode, “I Like Paddy’s Pub” and “Go F**k Yourself” which ends with the entire gang spitting at people in their bar to get them to leave. Both are phenomenal but I love the lyrics to “I Like Paddy’s Pub”:
“Well, they say the world’s your oyster
Man, but oysters ain’t for me.
You’re the belle of the ball.
But you ain’t my cup of tea.
They always vote you Best in Show
But this doggie disagrees
‘Cause I like life at Paddy’s Pub.”
There’s something about those lyrics that ring true even in life. While looking for your group, when trying to fit in or trying to do what you think is popular, it will never work if it goes against the core of who you are. You have to be you even if you may not fit everyone’s idea of cool but the people that love you, they’re gonna stick around.
As for the “Go F**k Yourself” song, with permission from Charlie Day, I would like this to be my motto for 2018. I would be more than happy to write him a lengthy and awkward explanation as to why this should be the case.
4. The Gang Broke Dee
Okay, I’m going to say this. Listen carefully. Kaitlin Olson is this generation’s Lucille Ball. What? No. Can’t be. Awwww, but she is. Lucille Ball was fearless although I’m not sure if Lucille Ball ran head first into a car door for the sake of a laugh as Kaitlin Olson did but she was fearless. Lucille Ball never played the “straight man” nor was she the “voice of reason”. She never played the typical sitcom female. She was the funny one and while the first season of “It’s Always Sunny” showed Dee as the “voice of reason” by the second season, she was just as messed up as the guys. Lucille Ball never played dumb, she played funny and that’s what Kaitlin Olson is doing. In this episode, you see her brilliant gag reflexes and you see Olson at her finest or one of her finest. After years of abuse from the guys, she breaks and is at her lowest. The guys, feeling that making fun of her is no longer fun, figure out an extreme over the top way to get her back up only to basically chop her back down at the end. The twist is cruel when you realize the only reason they wanted her to feel better was because it was no longer fun for them to make fun of her if she was feeling sad but on the same token, they did want her to feel better. The reasons were a little warped, okay a lot warped, but the reasons made it kinda sweet.
Kinda. Or maybe not. G-d, why does she keep putting up with these guys? I think maybe Mickey from Kaitlin Olson’s other show,”The Mick” needs to make a quick stop in Philly to knock some sense into Dee and given Kaitlin Olson’s amazing stunt skills, that would make for a very interesting fight.
Anyway Dee’s stand up career takes off, she becomes successful and even lands a spot on Conan only to have it all taken away at the end. Dennis was the only one not in on this cruel prank apparently which actually makes his plea to Dee, when she gets on the plane to head to Los Angeles for what she believes will be her big break, even sweeter. Although, there is some debate over whether Dennis’ pleas were another form of manipulation or he actually meant it. I’m going to believe he meant it because it goes back to my enjoyment of those quieter moments. I love the moments where you can tell just how much love there is between the five.
There are some critics who question if the twist went a little too far but with regards to the character, I don’t think so. Yes, if this had been an episode of “Friends” or a typical sitcom, definitely. Had Ross pulled that with Rachel, I’d hate Ross even more than I typically do but Dee is no Rachel and while some could say it’s a little too far, others might say, “of course it was all a joke”.
So yes, what was I saying?
Kaitlin Olson is this generation’s Lucy. She just is. Lucy Ricardo was not always that likable but you were strangely rooting for her. Dee Reynolds is in that same vein, she may not be all sweetness and light and you may wonder why she is the way she is and why she sticks around but you’re going to root for her because her name is Sweet Dee and the joke’s on…..well, her.
5. Charlie Work
This is Charlie Day’s episode. Why there was no Emmy nomination for this and this alone, I do not know but this was his episode. He shined in this episode when he has to get the bar ready for an unexpected health inspection. It’s all seemingly one continuous shot which makes it all even more amazing. From top to bottom, this is one of my favorites.
Here’s the thing about “dumb” characters. They can be funny but there’s always a point where it’s just gone too far and you wonder if this character is just incapable of being able to function in society. See Joey Tribbiani. Now, Charlie Kelly is not smart. He’s illiterate, lives in squalor, there’s an entire episode called “Flowers for Charlie” which is a take on a play I did in high school called “Flowers for Algernon.” Charlie is incredibly unintelligent and clueless in just so many areas of his life but in many ways he is more intelligent than Joey Tribbiani ever was. Charlie Kelly is semi-aware of what’s going on. His speech at the beginning where he tells the rest of the gang that he knows exactly what their scheme was which was to buy a bunch steaks, contaminate them with chicken feathers and get some money in the process shows exactly that. He might be dumb but he’s clearly not that dumb. Charlie Kelly is street smart as well as a musical prodigy thanks to the guy who plays him. “It’s Always Sunny” has done “dumb” correctly.
Yeah, Charlie Kelly can’t read a book or write or pronounce words with more than two syllables. His favorite food is milk steak and his hobbies are magnets but there’s something else there and it shows in this episode. Charlie saves the day and let’s discuss more how brilliantly shot this episode is.
Every part of this was done well and I love Charlie taking control. See “Friends” did not do “dumb” well, for as much as I love it, it really did Joey a disservice making him pretty much incapable of everything. Joey didn’t even know how to do his job by the end. Charlie Kelly knows his job and does it well. He might be childlike but he’s not completely clueless.
6. The Nightman Cometh
The musical written by Charlie Day. I wish I had seen one of the live performances although the Dayman song has been stuck in my head for months now and I have now taken to singing it during my part time job. It’s Dayman at Pottery Barn. Would you like a candle? It’s the champion of the goddamn sun. It’s a musical that delves into the psyche of Charlie Kelly. There’s an implication that perhaps the Nightman was Charlie’s “Uncle Jack” who may have been inappropriate with him when he was younger as evidenced by the Nightman song. There are some other theories as well, such as the Troll being Mrs. Kelly and Dayman actually bring Mac because Mac fancies himself a master of karate and the character himself, much like Rob McElhenney himself, is in many ways the center of the group. Dennis is Mac’s roommate and Charlie is Mac’s childhood best friend. In real life, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day got on board with Sunny because of Rob and Rob is married to Kaitlin. So perhaps Mac/Rob is Dayman? Whatever the truth is, The Nightman Cometh is a classic episode, one that features all the actors at their absolute best. The songs are amazing and honestly, I’m in awe of the talent of all five. They can all sing pretty well.
7. Mac and Dennis Move to the Suburbs/The Gang Buys a Boat/The Gang Tends Bar/The Gang Misses the Boat/Dennis Reynolds: Making of a Murderer
Watching Glenn Howerton lose it will always be like a Master Class in acting. I lumped these episodes there are moments where Glenn simply shines. Whether he’s screaming at a nosy neighbor, creeping out Mac by explaining the infamous “implication”, screaming at his friends on Valentine’s Day for treating him like he has no feelings or going off on a guy who dare called his beloved Range Rover a “starter car”. Glenn is the master making you feel scared, creeped out or a little uncomfortable. He is also a master at making you feel a little sad for Dennis. There’s a moment in the making Dennis Reynolds a murderer episode that you’ll blink, you’ll miss it. Why Charlie and Mac are gleefully telling Dennis about their idea, doing a docu-series about whether or not Dennis a murderer, the camera briefly flashes on Dennis and for a quick moment, Dennis looks genuinely hurt that his two closet friends have decided to depict him in this way. No words are exchanged but it’s that moment where all Dennis’ meltdowns make sense. Dennis isn’t a sociopath. He’s a man with an incredibly fragile sense of self and this is due to Glenn Howerton. Dennis often talks about the thrill of “wearing another man’s skin” and while on the surface, it certainly sounds like something a serial killer might say. It sounds like something Ed Gein probably did say, but it’s that moment the making Dennis Reynolds a murderer episode where you wonder if all the meltdowns are hiding a guy who truly hates who he is but has covered it up in such a way that even his friends have mistaken it for him having no emotions. I lump these episodes together because they are not only my favorite but feature some of my favorite Glenn Howerton moments.
Honorable Mentions/Runner Ups
Although, not sure I should call them that….they’re just other episodes I enjoy.
- The Gang Goes to Hell Part 2
The gang is trapped on sinking boat together. The moment where they all hold hands while being completely submerged in water was amazing and as far as I am concerned, sums it all up perfectly. They might be drowning in the world around them, completely forgotten, but they’ll always have each other….of course, this is followed by them shoving each other out of the way when it becomes apparent that they’re being rescued. But for a brief moment in time…
2. Dee Gives Birth
The episode is dedicated to Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney’s newborn son and the shot of McElhenney staring at Olson as she held the newborn made me way more happier than it really should have.
3. The Waitress is Getting Married
Filling out a dating profile for Charlie Kelly on match.com is amazing only surpassed by the actual date in which Charlie confuses the word “philanthropist” with “full on rapist” and proceeds to tell his date that he is a full on rapist. Is it weird that if Charlie Kelly came up in my Tinder matches, I’d swipe right…just out of curiosity and to tell him that there is no such thing as too much cheese.
4. The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Make Over Edition
My favorite part? The vision boards. I often wonder if these actually do anything. I’ve made plenty of vision boards in my life and not a single vision has panned out. Neil Patrick Harris will never be my husband. Anyway, the gang takes it to an extreme the likes no one has ever seen and it is a hilarious take on the whole thing. Note to self: do not kidnap and hold a family hostage in search of your dreams.
5. Mac and Dennis Buy a Time Share
Much like the mocking of vision boards, I also enjoyed the take on all of those MLM schemes. Herbal Life, Shakeology/Beach Body, Rodan and Fields, leggings and the fact that I watched this episode soon after receiving an email from a Facebook friend telling me that I clearly did not want a job because I did not want to invest in Rodan and Fields because she made one million in a year and my reluctance to join the ranks of MLM meant I really had no desire for employment. I told her she should sell cars and blocked her. These episodes that unknowingly trigger an emotion I am currently feeling are always simply the best ever.
6. The Gang Recycles Their Trash
The gang recycles an entire plot. On purpose. It works. They basically repeat earlier episodes which is so clever.
7. The High School Reunion: The Gang’s Revenge Part 2
The group dance. The fact that I actually have a family friend named, Tim Murphy. The message of perception especially when it comes to your high school self. People look back at those years and tend to recreate the years in their mind, making themselves better or worse then they actually were. That dance at the end? It was everything.
8. A Very Sunny Christmas
Okay, not a huge fan of Charlie Kelly “eating” Santa and making it a huge bloody mess but that being said as I write that line, I am currently watching “Wives with Knives” so take from that what you will. I also kinda love the fact that Fred Savage directed this episode which featured the guy who played Kevin Arnold’s grandpa on Wonder Years, only this time he played Frank’s old business partner, Eugene. That must have been an awesome reunion. Also you got Frank coming out of a couch naked which was something I didn’t even know I needed in life. There really are so many amazing moments in this episode and cannibalism aside, it really is hilarious and also touching.
9. Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games
According to Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day, this episode was an absolute pain to shoot and write because of all the screaming. So for that, I say thank you. Thank you for creating a fictional drinking game far more dangerous than “New Girl’s” True American could ever hope to be.
10. The Gang Turns Black
This is an episode that just hearing the title could cause outrage and offense but this is an episode you actually need to watch and listen to. After changing races during a power outage, the gang now tries to “figure out the rules” that come with being African American. It’s an episode that touches on so much controversy these days that it’s a must watch as the conversations it brings up are important especially in today’s world. The theme explores race relationships and how different races are treated differently. The twist at the end though makes it a very typical “It’s Always Sunny” episode as it shows the theme that is present through out the entire series–the gang never evolves.
They 12th season has now ended and they should be doing season 13 soon although there is some debate as to whether or not Glenn Howerton will return as he is going to be starring in the new NBC sitcom, AP BIO. At the end of the 12th season, it had Dennis leaving to go be with his son and baby mama in North Dakota and the gang exploding Dennis’ car.
I do hope he returns though. It just wouldn’t be the same without him.