IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: A RETROSPECTIVE by PAUL LAIGHT
Hey-Oooo! Bitches! With Season 10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia now catapulted from FFX onto Netflix I thought I’d look back at the previous nine seasons and pick out my favourite episodes of the series. Thus, I have picked out ONE from each season PLUS a “Wildcard” too.
How would I describe the show to someone who has never seen it before: imagine Friends but the polar opposite. It has the most unlikeable, unattractive, insane, narcissistic characters who do all manner of god-awful things to themselves, each other and total strangers. If you haven’t ever seen this show then you should . It is frantic, sick, irreverent, disgusting, manic, hyper-real, cartoon-like, politically-incorrect, satirical and incredibly hilarious. Indeed, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is arguably the closest you would get to a live-action version of South Park.
Set in the dismal Paddy’s pub in Philadelphia it initially concerned four (in Season 1) then five (when Danny DeVito joined) individuals who are each in their own way complete fuck-ups and whose main existence generally aims to scheme and out-do the others for personal gain or egotistic one-up-man-woman-ship.
RONALD “MAC” MCDONALD (ROB MCELHENNEY)
Mac is a delusional tough guy, bouncer and devout Catholic who thinks he’s hard but ultimately is a moral and physical coward. Occasionally he’ll come up with some words of wisdom but on the whole he is a brainless yo-yo obsessed with remaking Lethal Weapon.
DENNIS REYNOLDS (GLENN HOWERTON)
Dennis is the group’s amoral Ted Bundy figure: a vain, arrogant, would-be-handsome-if-he-wasn’t-so-psychotic-lady-killer. While not actually a murderer he is a low-life scumbag and arguably is the stupidest of the group because he thinks HE is the most intelligent.
CHARLIE KELLY (CHARLIE DAY)
Charlie is an idiot savant with the onus on the idiot part of that; notably in his stalking of “The Waitress”. He is the most innocent and does all the dirty “Charlie Work” in the bar like unblocking toilets and killing rats. He is also the most unpredictable sniffing glue and dressing up as alter-ego Green Man!
DEANDRA “SWEET DEE” REYNOLDS (KAITLIN OLSON)
Dee is a failed actress and stand-up comedian and often ridiculed by the others for “big-bird” looks, lack of talent and her boyfriend choices. Thus, she will often over-compensate and compete with the guys, especially her twin-brother Dennis, in an attempt to prove herself. Her plans mostly end in humiliating failure and loss of dignity.
FRANK REYNOLDS (DANNY DEVITO)
Frank is Dennis and Dee’s father – or is he? – and joined the group in the 2nd series when he bought into Paddy’s Bar because the gang were broke AGAIN! Frank’s great at making money but eschews the corporate world to live like a feral tramp at Charlie’s place revelling in the insanity of his new-found freedom
**SOME SWEET SPOILERS BITCHES!!**
SERIES ONE – CHARLIE WANTS AN ABORTION
This was hilarious for a number of reasons as several storylines converge revealing the desperate lengths the gang will go to achieve their low-level goals. Charlie uses his “long-lost son” as a emotional bargaining chip to get closer to his obsessive love-target: The Waitress. Meanwhile, Mac and Dennis use Pro-life/Anti-abortion rallies to try and score with women. Safe to say all of their plans blow-up in their respective faces.
SERIES TWO – MAC BANGS DENNIS’ MUM
In this wonderfully plotted episode the Gang basically does a low-rent version of La Ronde. Precipitated by Mac sleeping with Dennis’ mum (Anne Archer) a series of sexual revenge schemes backfire with sick hilarity. For once Charlie ALMOST gets the upper hand until the horrific pay-off; while the highlight is — much to his amazement — Dennis being turned down by Mac AND Charlie’s mum when he attempts to have revenge sex with them.
SERIES THREE – SWEET DEE’S DATING A RETARDED PERSON
This is awesome because we get a peak at Charlie’s crazy musical ‘talent’. Plus, Dennis sends Dee into a spin by casting aspersions on her new rapper boyfriend — a dopey version of Eminem — by saying he is mentally backward. The episode stands out for the awesome song Dayman — based on a dream — which Charlie wrote while sniffing spray paint. Later, Charlie and Dennis getting heckled off stage when performing it live is a particular highlight. Personally, I think the song rocks!
SERIES FOUR – WHO POOPED THE BED
The gang does Agatha Christie-meets-Sex-in-The-City style in this well structured yet disgusting episode. Indeed, Dee tries to become more classy with her girlfriends and the others attempt to discover who pooped Frank and Charlie’s bed. The two stories intertwine as Dee’s theatrical friend Artemis eventually ditches Dee finding the “poodunnit” more interesting. Highlights include: The Waitress falling off the wagon and laying violently into Dee plus Artemis’ final Poirot-esque summation in determining the suspect. An episode that’s full of crap — but in a fun way!
SERIES FIVE – THE DENNIS SYSTEM
Dennis just goes full “Ted Bundy” in this one with a breakdown of the system he uses to score with women. It is a disgusting litany of dehumanizing manoeuvres which sums up Dennis’ scummy character and satirises brilliantly the sexist masculine “pick-up” industry. Moreover, it is just hilarious as the gang both ignore AND follow his “expert” advice with a succession of dreadful dating endeavours. As a fan of Acronyms I also admire the malice aforethought and linguistic logic of the system too.
SERIES SIX – THE GANG BUYS A BOAT
Often the episodes will find the gang will do something mildly normal — like buy a boat — but their various actions will splinter into events which completely undermine the plan. Indeed, in this episode Dennis suffers his usual delusion of grandeur, with Mac in tow, believing owning a boat will help him achieve greater social status. Meanwhile, Charlie, Frank and Dee attempt to clean the boat but ultimately work against each other culminating an explosive end result.
SERIES SEVEN – FRANK REYNOLDS LITTLE BEAUTIES
Frank’s energy for money-making schemes knows no bounds but it backfires when he decides to put on a beauty pageant for kids without realising the pitfalls surrounding such events. Thus, Frank spends the whole episode keen to point out he’s NOT a paedophile and with face-paint troughed on by a funeral make-up artist he resembles the living dead. At the same time Dee and the others attempt to live vicariously through the kids to make up for their own personal show business failures.
SERIES EIGHT – THE GANG GETS ANALYZED
Even though the Gang generally screw each over with their many schemes much joy can be found with their altercations with a variety of third parties notably: Lawyers, Government officials, Doctors, Police, Health and Safety Officers and the general public. In this one they visit a Dee’s Therapist and end up being individually assessed as the group has broken down over who should be doing the washing-up. Charlie and Frank’s analyses are off-the-chart funny but I loved that Dennis, believing himself to be an equal with the Therapist, is proved to be just as nuts as everyone else.
SERIES NINE – THE GANG BROKE DEE
Dee’s failure as a performer due to suffering stage-fright is a delight because having done a bit of comedy myself it’s great seeing someone else crash and burn at that artistic endeavour. In this episode she gives up completely on life and her act. Then, incredibly she has a major breakthrough as a comedian and the episode delights in sending up the nature of stand-up and how you climb the ladder. The final twist in the tale is also a joy and sums up the lack of compassion the group have toward Dee.
WILDCARD – SERIES FOUR – E13 – THE NIGHTMAN COMETH
In tribute to the “Wildcard” Charlie I’ve picked this episode as a little addition because it is packed with ridiculous music and humour. The gang put on a rock opera/musical for no reason at a proper theatre to boot! To say it is bizaare is an understatement and the joy in seeing them perform a series of weird songs in amongst the insane story is a treat. Charlie parodying the stressed director/artist is hilarious as he takes it all far too seriously. Let’s just say Stephen Sondheim need never lose sleep. Unless he’s dead: is Sondheim dead?