We’re in the final hours of the countdown to the new season of one of my favorite shows of… well, probably, ever. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns Thursday night, 9 PM for those of us here in the Central Time Zone. First off, to get you ready, check out the “All New Sunny” Channel over at YouTube, lots of previews, interviews, and other behind the scenes gold concerning the new season. Second, to ensure your appetite for this new year as is whet as mine, here is my top 10 episodes in the series current, 6-year run.
I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers, but I can’t promise anything…
Honorable Mention to… The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention (Season 5), The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty McGoo (3), The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis (4), The Gang Finds a Dead Guy (1)…
Very hard to pare down 71 episodes to just 10. You have no idea how hard it was to put the brilliant “Gas Crisis” episode out of the Top 10… Between Frank waterboarding Sweet Dee in the men’s room, Charlie, Mac, and Dennis’s idiotic pitch to the loan officer, or Charlie screaming that he “cut the brakes, bitches!” before jumping out a moving van… Man, I am already having second thoughts. But I was taught to go with your gut, and go with my gut, I will…
#10 – THE GANG REIGNITES THE RIVALRY (Season 5)
What starts out as a chance to reenter a simple flippy cup tournament quickly devolves into total mayhem. The Charlie/Mac combo episodes are always good for a laugh (their reaction upon entering the frat is great), but the classic scene here is Dennis’ rude welcome at his old frat grounds, from the vandalized class photo to to well, you know. The addition of Frank is, as always, wonderful (Look at how loose his pants are!) The ending feels a bit mundane, but has a great twist at the end and an even better closing line for Sweet Dee, who more or less sits this episode out. Also have to give this one big props for spawning my favorite piece of Sunny related merchandise, outside of the Dick Towel, of course.
#9 – DENNIS AND DEE GO ON WELFARE (Season 2)
The only episode of the first two seasons to crack my Top 10, I love this one only for its content (which, don’t get me wrong, is great) but also because it really is the first episode that showed how far they were willing to go. Obviously, Sunny touched plenty of social faux pas in its 1st season, but the show mostly retained the feel of something that cost about $85 per episode to shoot (the reported cost of the pilot). As the 10th episode of the series and only 3rd following the addition of Danny DeVito, this really feels like Sunny‘s awakening into what it would become. Dee pretending to be mentally handicapped in the welfare office, Charlie and Mac partying in the back of a limousine full of strippers, and trying to convince each other they understand what the term “vig” means. Maybe ultimately not the very, very best, but I think one of the most important.
#8 – MAC & DENNIS: MANHUNTERS (Season 4)
The main storyline of the Season 4 premier is wonderful. Mac and Dennis, inspired by Frank’s stories of hunting, but warned not hunt the “most dangerous game,” man, decide to “hunt” Rickety Cricket on the streets of Philly… Mostly by sitting in a cardboard box blind, getting drunk, and wearing their “sweet” camo outfits. It’s a good, but the strength of this episode is its secondary story, pairing (unusually) Charlie and Sweet Dee who, after being tricked by Frank into believing they ate human meat, travel down a demented path to find out if they have “the hunger,” an insatiable appetite for human meat. This path eventually leads them to the city morgue, where the ponder such questions of racism and cannibalism (which, of course, are best left to the suits in Washington, anyway). It all comes to an average conclusion, but that’s fine because the main storyline wraps up nicely at the expense of the perpetually hapless Rickety Cricket. Toss in a few gems from Frank; mixing up his life story with that of John Rambo, shooting a deer right between its “soulful little eyes,” and the declaration that he has a human meat guy, and it’s a tight, tight episode.
#7 – DENNIS LOOKS LIKE A REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER (Season 3)
Another episode with a strong main storyline and perhaps a stronger secondary. As the title lays out, a registered sex offender moves into the neighborhood who resembles a fatter version of Dennis. The scene in the park, giving the kids an impromptu physical fitness exhibition while simultaneously being betrayed by Dee is wonderful. Meanwhile, Mac’s attempts to reunite his family are just classic Mac, but what I love most about this episode is the very end, with Mac and Charlie in the car, coming to the realization that Mac’s father plans to kill them. The whole scene is wonderfully chaotic, topped with Charlie’s screaming as they peel out. Fantastic.
#6 – THE GANG FINDS A DUMPSTER BABY (Season 3)
Another early winner, the episode focuses on the trials of Mac and Dee as they try to care for an abandoned baby they find. A very good, maybe not great, story ensues, but it does get better as it progresses, between trying to pass of D.B. (what they call him) as a Latino baby to an ad exec (“to be honest, I have no idea who the father is,”) and trying to get him into, unsuccessfully, into a local tanning booth (“the road to success is lined with hard knocks and orange assholes,”). Meanwhile, the Charlie/Frank relationship develops further as speculation that Frank is Charlie’s father intensifies while they become homeless garbage hoarders. The strongest story of the episode belongs to Dennis who, after being punked by some hippies, plans an intricate plot of revenge. Overall, I feel the ending is a bit anticlimactic, but considering this was the Season 3 premier and only the 18th episode of the series, it gets a lot of bonus nostalgia points with me.
#5 – WHO GOT SWEET DEE PREGNANT? (Season 6)
The only episode from the most recent season has arguably the best in-episode running gag; as Mac, Charlie, and Dennis try to relive their Halloween party, the night that Sweet Dee supposedly was impregnated by one of them, her costume appears more and more bird-like, culminating with the scene to the left, Mac talking to her in the washroom as an ostrich. Originally very subtle, but ultimately very hilarious and satisfying. As for the episode itself, I loved the mystery surrounding the night, it had the same feel as an earlier episode, Who Pooped the Bed?, but felt a lot more refined in its delivery. Throw in a good, but not overbearing, cameo from the McPoyle twins and a very good ending and this really belongs on the Top 10, even if a lot of fans felt somewhat let down by Season 6.
#4 – THE D.E.N.N.I.S. SYSTEM (Season 5)
This is the quintessential Dennis episode to date, which is good, because in many ways Dennis might be my favorite character on the show. Though he generally doesn’t have the over the top, absurd storylines of Mac, Charlie, Frank, and sometimes Dee, there is a simmering insanity about him that really is fully unleashed from start to finish here. From the opening scene where he brags and laughs about the voicemail left by Kaylee on his phone, to his maniacal laugh midway into his presentation (followed by the, “this will scare the shit out of her”), to the brief scene in the bar with classical music playing as he physically acts out while thinking his plan… Just really great. Mac, Frank, Charlie, and Dee all have good secondary roles; I love Sweet Dee’s insane reaction to the picnic Ben sets up for her, and the culminating scene at the fairgrounds is nice, but this episode lives on Dennis.
#3 – THE NIGHTMAN COMETH (Season 4)
I’m going to guess for many fans, this would rank as their favorite episode. I can’t go quite that far, but I do love it. Everything works; Frank’s hilarious inability enunciate “boy’s soul,” Dee’s impromptu song during the performance, and Charlie’s aggressive directing. Honestly, I almost felt like the main problem with this episode is that it left you wanting too much more by the time it wrapped. Regardless, given that the series has given us so many inside jokes, characters, and moments, this will likely go down as one of the defining episodes in the series’ run, which is not a bad thing.
Oh, and I thought the rape scene went well, too.
#2 – SWEET DEE’S DATING A RETARDED PERSON (Season 3)
One of the great things about Sunny, is the title card placement. Of course, by now you know that the title card comes about 2 minutes into each episode, following a soft opening that is generally chaotic and sets up the following 20 or so minutes. The opening to this episode is arguably my favorite, with Dee assertively stating “I am not dating a retarded person,” followed by, of course, the title card to the left. Now, this episode runs much deeper than just its title card, I did make it #2 on my list after all. Dee and Dennis’ competition to tell whether or not Kevin Gallagher AKA Li’l Kev, is actually mentally challenged ranks up there as one of the funnier gags of the series run, and then the backstory featuring Mac, Frank, and Charlie’s band is just great. This is also the episode that originally gave us the Nightman as well as explored Dennis’ obsession with “80’s glam-rock shit,” as Mac calls it. The end scene, during the bar’s open mic night, is fantastic, from a mismatched Frank and Mac under the name “Chemical Toilet”, to Dennis and Charlie singing Dayman in their matching spandex suits, to finally Li’l Kev’s roasting of Dee… Just a solid, solid episode.
#1 – MAC IS A SERIAL KILLER (Season 3)
I’ve seen this episode several times and it never fails to produce laughs. With a serial killer on the loose in Philadelphia and Mac acting strangely, of course, Frank determines, Mac is the killer. How everyone goes about proving or disproving this guess is classic. Frank, determined to prove himself correct, is willing to go as far as torture a confession out of Mac. Charlie, imitating Law & Order‘s Jack McCoy, acts as Mac’s de facto defense attorney (which also is the first step into Charlie’s budding lawyer running gag). Dennis and Dee also believe Mac is innocent, and go about to “live in the killer’s mind” to find the real perpetrator. I absolutely love the scene where they plan to follow the Waitress home from the coffee shop, first Dennis’ realization that they’re not going to kill her (to his apparent disappointment), to Dee’s squeaky clown shoes (classic), it’s all gold.
The episode also bring back Carmen, one of the better recurring characters, as the real reason for Mac’s secretive behavior. Of course the guys can’t find out Mac is seeing the tranny again, and the way she manipulates dim-witted Mac with simple compliments regarding his physique are just classic.
The penultimate scene of the episode, after Dennis and Dee have lured Mac to a friend’s apartment in hopes of getting a confession from him (they become convinced of his guilt thanks to Frank’s shady evidence). After admitting that he had been seeing Carmen, a victorious Charlie wants to celebrate with a beer… Only to find that the killer is Dee’s neighbor who has several frozen human heads in his fridge. When the killer returns to his apartment, to find the gang, and asks “what are you people doing here?” the way Frank revs his chainsaw is one of my favorite scenes of the whole series. A very satisfying episode that has a constant sense of direction despite competing storylines and a great finish.
Can’t wait for tomorrow night.