Ah, but isn’t it Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Sorry, I really couldn’t think of a better way to kick this off. If I think of something later, I’ll change it.
But for the last six years or so it has been quite sunny in Philadelphia, thanks to a certain gang of nutjobs we’ve all grown to love. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been one of my favorite sitcoms since I first discovered it earlier this year, and with the recent conclusion of Season 6, I’m happy to report that the show remains in good form.
Granted, the formula behind Always Sunny isn’t terribly complicated. Essentially, it’s about five awful human beings who own a run-down bar in South Philly. And when I say “awful,” I mean the worst; self-absorbed, bigoted, poorly-adjusted scoundrels. Yet for some reason, we love ‘em. Why? Well, they’re funny, first of all. And there’s just something undeniably appealing about the show’s unforgiving lack of decency. We almost wish we had the balls to act like these guys. But then we remember that if we did, we’d be morons and nobody would like us.
So, with a formula so simple, the question must be asked: does it wear thin during Season 6? The answer is yes, occasionally. The season’s first two episodes, entitled Mac Fights Gay Marriage and The Gang Gets Divorced are proof of this. The premise had promise – Dennis, ready to be done with the single life, compulsively marries his childhood sweetheart Maureen Ponderosa (Catherine Reitman). Meanwhile, Frank and Charlie wonder if a marriage between the two of them wouldn’t make things easier. There are some laughs involved, particularly when a jealous Mac uses the bible to condemn his now-married tranny Carmen. However, the story progresses weakly and doesn’t capitalize on what it sets up. Dennis, predictably, despises married life and gets a divorce. Very little comedy actually emerges from the Frank/Charlie marriage situation, which is both odd and disappointing. In all, they’re enjoyable – particularly on a second viewing – but hardly the best the gang can do.
The season then made a decent almost-recovery with an obvious, but worthy premise: The Gang Buys a Boat is pure slapstick, and exemplifies the show in its most basic and effective state. The gang (wait for it) buys a boat, and by the time the episode ends, the boat is sinking to the bottom of the ocean in a fiery ruin. Need I say more?
Mac’s Big Break continued the upward trend with an episode focused on everyone’s favorite badass with insecurity issues. After correctly answering a radio trivia question, Mac finally gets his “big break” – the chance to take a shot on the ice where the Philadelphia Eagles play. Meanwhile, Dennis and Dee start a podcast, which triggers the reappearance of some favorite recurring characters, such as The Waitress and Cricket the homeless minister-turned-crack addict. Cricket is hilarious as always, and hearing him raspily proclaim Dee a “whore” is still hilarious. The episode’s focus is Mac, though, and it’s great – Mac makes a proper fool out of himself, and the episode ends in the only way it could.
Mac and Charlie: White Trash was an equally strong offering, telling the tale of the gang’s dividing efforts to beat the heat. After being refused entry at a members-only swimming pool, Mac and Charlie set out to fix up an abandoned diving pool. They get stuck in the pool. Hilarity ensues.
Mac’s Mom Burns her House Down was where the season finally came unto its own. Razor-sharp writing, timing, and delivery characterize what’s probably the funniest and best episode of Season 6. Mrs. Mac makes her first appearance of the season, and it’s her best episode yet. After burning down her house with a cigarette, Dennis hatches the plan to move her in with Charlie’s mom. To smooth the process along, Charlie and Mac spend a night at the house with the two of them. It’s great stuff, and once again showcases the great dynamic between Mac and Charlie that Season 6 uses so often.
Meanwhile, Frank tries to score brownie points with Dee so she’ll take care of him when he’s older. His efforts are weak at first, but then Dennis lends his twisted mind to the situation, and things get quite a bit funnier. Dee, once again, gets the entirely shitty end of the stick – the episode ends with her tied to a bed, missing a concert by her heartthrob idol Josh Grobin.
Who Got Dee Pregnant? introduces the pregnancy dynamic. Kaitlin Olson actually became pregnant during the production of Season 6, so they decided to incorporate her roundness into the show. The result? Not quite as half-ass as you might assume, and it gave rise to a few hilarious episodes – such as this one. In an episode written by Charlie Day and Rob McElhenny, the gang tries to piece together a hazy Halloween party-night to determine who, exactly, got Dee pregnant. The incestual whackjob McPoyles make their first appearance since Season 3, which was enough cause for me to glee considerably. It’s a good appearance, too – you will laugh. I did.
The Gang Gets a New Member and Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth composed another pseudo two-parter that kept the laughs coming. I call it a “pseudo two-parter” because only a few threads carry over between the two episodes. It all starts when the gang seeks out a former member of their group, “Schmitty,” despite Charlie’s reluctance. It turns out there’s not enough room in the gang for the two of them, and Charlie leaves to work as a janitor at a local high school.
At this very high school, Dee is trying to re-connect with her former theater teacher, who’s long lost his will to teach. Somehow or another, this results in Dee becoming a substitute teacher and forcing a classroom filled with apathetic high schoolers to put on an in-class musical production of Frankenstein – in which Dee plays the green-skinned monster.
While Charlie becomes far too involved in his role as the school’s janitor (“please don’t bathe the students,” the principal is forced to ask at one point) Mac, Charlie and Dennis try to determine how and if Blackface can ever be pulled off tastefully in a modern cinematic production. Their solution? Show their movie, Lethal Weapon 5, to Dee’s class. Yes, Lethal Weapon 5. Mac paints his face black in an attempt to look like Danny Glover, and there’s a gratuitous (and weirdly graphic) sex scene prominently featuring Frank. If nothing else, it’s proof that the show isn’t out of ideas yet, however ridiculous those ideas might be.
Charlie Kelly: King of Rats is an interesting episode, in that it ends up being about the gang doing something nice for someone – or at least trying to. When they notice that the daily task of rat-slaying has gotten Charlie down, the rest of the gang set out to throw him a nice birthday party. Charlie’s the obvious favorite for a lot of Always Sunny fans (myself included) and episodes like this are precisely why. The scene where Dee takes Charlie to a movie to keep him distracted is pure awkward hilarity, and Charlie’s trip to the spa fully clothed is sure to bring a chuckle or two. Again, though, it’s a little odd, but also pleasantly surprising to see the gang showing a little decency. It’s the only episode of the show I’ve ever seen that ends on a legitimately warm (if slightly twisted) note.
The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods is another high point for the season. On their way to an animal rights convention, the gang wrecks their car on a backroad deep in the woods. Charlie and Dennis hitch a ride out with a bicurious trucker who’s convinced that they’re both truckstop whores. Mac, Dee and Frank stay behind and bond with the wildlife in a variety of ways. It’s funny, I promise.
“I thought maybe we could slip into a room… and the two of you could check my oil.”
One of the best lines of dialog from the season.
And the season draws to a close with the inevitable baby episode, Dee Gives Birth. Now, if you’re worried about Always Sunny going mushy on you, or changing up its tried-and-true formula, then put your mind to rest. Dee’s birth is handled in classic Always Sunny style, with barely a shred of decency showing through. But there is a shred, though – Dennis remains at Dee’s side during her entire hospital stay, helping in whatever hurtful ways he can. Meanwhile, Frank, Charlie and Mac are dead-set on discovering who the father of Dee’s child really is – and you get to see a lot of familiar faces. In the end, Dennis, Mac, and Charlie all arrive at the conclusion that they want to be the father – only to realize that, guess what, Dee was acting as a surrogate mother.
Might have seen that one coming. Especially since it turns out to be for tranny Carmen and her husband. A bit of an anti-climactic way to handle the kid after so much buildup, but I suppose it’s better than keeping the thing around. I’m not sure a baby would have fit well into the show’s general dynamic.
Oh yeah, they cheaped out and aired the year-old Always Sunny Christmas special as the final episode. Disappointing, no?
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 6 is sure to please fans of the series. If you’re looking for some sort of evolution or exciting shake-up to the formula, you won’t find it – hell, I’d say the show will probably die before that happens. But for now, the formula’s still working. And I mean, hell – if Seinfeld made it nine seasons, I’d say we’ve got some time left on this one.