Loving the shows the Emmy ignore: Always Sunny
What: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Number of Seasons/Episodes: 9/97
Previous Emmy Consideration: Marc Scizak, Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series/Variety Program, 2013
Most Deserves Notice For: Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing (Comedy), Outstanding Lead Actor (Comedy) for Charlie Day, Outstanding Lead Actress (Comedy) for Kaitlin Olson, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Comedy) for Rob McElhenney; and at the Creative Arts Emmys: Outstanding Art Direction (Multi-Camera), and Outstanding Editing (Multi-Camera Comedy)
What is it?
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the best comedy of the last decade, bar none, and way too many people are not watching it. I don’t understand people who don’t watch it. Like Archer, there’s no such thing as a bad episode—only good, great, greatest. I can hear you saying, Oh but The Office, Parks & Rec, Louie, blah blah blah. The Office ran for nine seasons but only four of them were good, Parks & Rec’s first season is non-essential viewing—there simply isn’t another comedy on television that can rival Sunny for quality over time. Archer and Louie, and maybe Veep, have the potential to come closest, but Arrested Development dropped out of the race with its mediocre fourth season. Saying Sunny is the best isn’t saying other things suck in comparison—it’s saying that even against a show as brilliant as Louie, it has just as much to offer (and it’s important to note that FX’s comedy success is built on Sunny’s back. No Sunny, no Louie).
Always Sunny follows “the Gang”, the most self-absorbed and selfish friends in the history of the world. Even George Costanza would be put off by these horrible, horrible people. Starring Rob McElhenney (who created the show, serves as its showrunner and stars as Mac), Glenn Howerton (Dennis Reynolds), Charlie Day (Charlie Kelly), Kaitlin Olson (Sweet Dee Reynolds) and Danny DeVito (Frank Reynolds), there’s no fat on the bone at Sunny. McElhenney, Howerton and Day do most of the writing and while the show does have a stable of supporting characters that pop up every now and again, the series has spent nine seasons exclusively with the Gang, with most episodes featuring just them in varying stages of toxic behavior. Other people exist merely to have their lives destroyed by coming into contact with them (poor Rickety Cricket).
Like Seinfeld before it, Sunny isn’t really about anything. The Gang has various adventures and sometimes meets new people, but there isn’t a central theme driving the show. It’s just awful people being awful. And it’s FUCKING HILARIOUS. Put on any episode and no matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I’m going to laugh. A lot. It’s impossible to pick even a top ten of favorite episodes (although “A Very Sunny Christmas” is way up there), which is partly a function of the show’s long run but also the fact that every single season raises the bar and adds Hall of Fame episodes into the mix. Season 9 is just three weeks old and has already thrown down three stellar episodes, including this week’s “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award”, which brilliantly savaged the Emmys, and we still haven’t gotten to the episode written by DB Weiss and David Benioff of Games of Thrones (“Flowers for Charlie”, due in October, a Charlie/The Waitress heartbreaker).
I could write a thousand words PER EPISODE, that’s how much I love this show, and how good it is. If you’re not watching (and why not? WHY NOT?), seasons 1-7 are on Netflix Instant, and season 8 is available on Amazon’s instant video service. Seriously, get on that shit.
When did you fall in love?
Season 2, episode 4: “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom”. I really super liked the show after season one, but season two brought the addition of DeVito as Dennis and Dee’s dad, Frank. Frank’s arrival allowed the Gang to leave Paddy’s Pub more often—it’s shocking to go back to season one and see the bar busy, and Sweet Dee actually working—and enabled them to go off on their tangents and exploits. Frank is very wealthy so it’s assumed that he simply foots the bill for everything and keeps the bar afloat (it comes up occasionally), and his presence allows for greater freedom from being stuck in one location. Some of Sunny’s best episodes are set outside the bar (“Maureen Ponderosa’s Wedding Massacre”, “The Nightman Cometh”)—but to be fair, bar bottle episodes are also excellent (“Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games”).
Anyway, season one was great and after the finale, “Charlie Gets Molested”, I thought I knew what to expect from this show. But then DeVito joined the cast, the dynamic expanded and grew stronger, and the final scene of “Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom” happened. One of the few through-lines in Sunny is Charlie’s futile love for The Waitress (played by Day’s wife, Mary Elizabeth Ellis), who loathes him in return. This episode not only established Day as Sunny’s secret weapon—he’s funny as hell but he is a damn good actor, too—it also set up plot points that would play out over years. But the gut punch, the moment I knew Sunny was going to be a Forever Love, was The Waitress’s monologue at the end, and Charlie’s visible heartbreak.