What happens when you put together four selfish, apathetic and severely dysfunctional individuals, and a 60-something-year-old senile man who’s ready to bankroll their ludicrous ideas? You get the glorious chaos that is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Created by Rob McElhenney, FX’s black comedy has pushed the boundaries time and again to give us one of the most brazen television shows of the past decade. The show follows the exploits of four emotionally damaged and psychologically scarred friends Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Dee (Kaitlin Olsen) and Charlie (Charlie Day) who run Paddy’s Pub, and Dennis and Dee’s trigger-happy legal father Frank, portrayed by the inimitable Danny DeVito.
There’s nothing likeable about any of the characters. Hell, you might hate them from time to time. But the fun of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is not in cheering on these absolute scumbags but in seeing how they end up ruining lives and relationships without a shred of guilt and go about their day.
The show became the longest-running live-action comedy series when it was renewed for its 15th season which will premiere later this year. So we thought this is a good time to relive some of the gang’s misadventures and prepare for their upcoming antics. It was an ambitious effort to shortlist 8 of our favourite episodes but it was worth a shot. So get ready with your rum hams and milk steaks because this one is a wild ride!
1. Hero Or Hate Crime? (Season 12, Episode 6)
This episode from season 12 captures the essence of the show perfectly. Mac finally comes out of the closet to claim a $14 scratch card, and that’s all. That’s how character development works on the show, and I see no problem with that. The episode’s conflict arises when Frank calls Mac by a derogatory term to save his life.
One would think it’s an open and shut case. He could have just as easily called him by his name. But that’s not how the gang looks at it. What follows is a series of appointments with different attorneys to deliver a verdict. But the area of contention is not whether Frank should have used the word. They couldn’t care less. What they are concerned about is who is the rightful owner of the scratch card! Watch the entire episode to find out who gets the final “in your face!” moment.
2. CharDee MacDennis: The Game Of Games (Season 7, Episode 7)
When the gang isn’t busy disrupting other people’s lives, they’re busy putting their livers to the test. But simply drinking till you blackout doesn’t make for the characteristic It’s Always Sunny frenzy. That’s where their ingenious (read absolutely bonkers) board game CharDee MacDennis comes in.
In this episode from season 7, the gang introduces Frank to a ridiculous board game that they came up with one boring afternoon. A mashup of all the board games we’re familiar with, the rules to CharDee MacDennis keep changing and the challenges go from “that’s quite stupid” to “I’m never doing that in a million years.” I mean, who’s ballsy enough to put their hand upon a dartboard that two drunks are aiming at?
There’s a lot of confusion, exasperated explanations and things get “real dark real quick”, to quote Dee. If any of you crack the rules to this game, hit us up?
3. Charlie Work (Season 10, Episode 4)
Time and again the writers of the show have cited Seinfeld as their biggest influence, and it shows. The absolutely self-centred and egocentric behaviour of the characters screams Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. But apart from the obvious, they’ve also paid tribute to other pop-culture phenomena that served as their creative muse.
In this episode from season 10, the gang pays homage to Alejandro Inarritu’s Oscar-winning film Birdman. In what is the most well-directed episode from the show’s run, and dare I say in television history, we get to see all the work that Charlie does to keep the bar afloat. He might not know how to read or what cottage cheese is but when it comes to keeping toilets clean and killing rats, he’s our guy. Sadly everyone else is too busy discussing chicken, steak and an air miles scam to notice all the work he does.
In addition to the Birdman-inspired long shot at the end of the episode when Charlie walks the health inspector through the bar (hats off to director Matt Shakman), there are a few other subtle references to True Detective and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. Watch the entire episode to spot those!
4. Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack (Season 4, Episode 10)
An action-packed episode from the show’s fourth season, this one has so many storylines they could have just as easily milked it for three different episodes. Dee and Dennis try to live healthier lifestyles after she suffers from a heart attack at the beginning of the episode. Frank checks into the hospital to get a full body checkup as well, given his hardcore lifestyle. That quickly transforms into a drug-induced blackout that lands him in a mental ward, referencing DeVito’s debut film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
But the standout scene—one that has become a meme over the years—features Charlie, who has joined a corporate firm with Mac. He’s the mailman and he’s trying to find out one thing and one thing only—who the hell is Pepe Silvia? Check out the entire episode to find out!
5. Who Pooped The Bed? (Season 4, Episode 7)
You know it’s going to be a wild episode when the entire gang focuses all their energy on solving one absurd mystery. In this episode from season four, they’re trying to figure out who left a smelly little turd in Charlie and Frank’s bed.
In this Hitchcock-inspired storyline, the gang put their heads together to find out who would benefit the most from defiling their bed. As expected, they get nowhere and resort to name-calling before they call upon Frank’s occasional partner Artemis, played effortlessly by Artemis Pebdani. In a sequence that would give Ekta Kapoor’s editor a run for their money, the detective slowly uncovers everyone’s motive before finally Sherlock-ing her way to finding out who didn’t squat over the pot.
Before you call the premise of the episode gross or childish let me quote Frank Reynolds and say, “Poop is funny.”
6. The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award (Season 9, Episode 3)
Despite the critical acclaim the show has received over the years, it’s never actually won an Emmy award. They’ve been nominated thrice for… wait for it… stunt coordination. But the writers and cast have never received the credit that they deserve.
In this episode from season nine, the gang tries to desperately win an award, but not for the show. It’s for Paddy’s Pub, the rundown dive bar they own, which has not got the recognition it deserves just because there are better options with tasty drinks, well-lit rooms and good-looking staff. Sounds awfully meta given the show’s sharp political and societal commentary.
Anyway, coming back to the episode, the gang has had enough. They clean up their act and tidy up the place to invite some esteemed guests. But things go south when Charlie suffers from a paint-huffing induced meltdown and sings one of the best songs to have been featured on the show.
7. The Gang Gets Quarantined (Season 9, Episode 7)
This episode screams 2020. It aired seven years before the world went into lockdown, but they got a lot of details eerily accurate. Frank goes into self-quarantine to avoid the state-wide flu and the gang dismiss it by saying they’re all “young and vital”.
The gang eventually does go into quarantine because they can’t risk not opening for Boyz II Men at a concert. And so the madness begins. No take-out, no alcohol and locking themselves in till the flu dies down. Sounds awfully familiar, amirite? The show took the hand sanitiser craze that we’re all so familiar with now one step further in a scene where Frank has covered himself in it to avoid the germs. Watch the entire episode to see all the things they got right and one sad but inevitable revelation that comes at the end.
8. The Nightman Cometh (Season 4, Episode 13)
This episode is testimony to what the cast and crew of It’s Always Sunny can achieve. With most of them coming from a theatre background, this full-fledged musical is going to keep you entertained from the get-go.
The gang puts together a musical written and directed by Charlie. The good-bad and often problematic lyrics that reference assault add to the musical genius of Charlie Kelly, whose tunes will get stuck in your head. And you’d be lying if you say you didn’t replay the final number a bunch of times. Apart from that, the show portrays the characters’ delusions to the fullest. Not to give you any spoilers but the entire episode is an elaborate setup for something a lot grander.
Fun fact: Live Nation enjoyed their performance on the show so much they asked them to take it on the road!