Well, that season didn’t last long. I guess It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia never lasts more than 15 episodes, but this year’s 10 seemed awfully short. After watching the season finale, “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs”, I was left with anticipation for the next episode instead of a feeling of completion. There were a lot more beefs (and potential story lines) that were started than wrapped up.
This season was underwhelming. It felt less like a season of TV and more like 10 funny episodes of a TV show that happened to be clumped together. There were lots of laughs but no stand out episodes. Lots of great moments, but no great story lines. Many of the episodes felt routine. The Gang acts gets an idea, they behave horribly in order to achieve the goal, they fail and it all starts again. This formula works for Sunny, but this season just didn’t have the magic that elevates the routine to comedic gold.
The ending to all good stories are both inevitable and surprising. I heard that in a film course once. Even though we may think we know how a story will end, a good writer will surprise us on the way to that ending. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has always excelled at finding new situations for the Gang to prove they are horrible people. But after 9 seasons, the surprise has started to wear off. Horrible is normal at Paddy’s Pub, so the audience expects the Gang to get worse with each episode. That is a tough order to fill.
There are two ways that the creators of Sunny can make me love an episode. Either the Gang can act SO TERRIBLY that I’m actually shocked or the Gang can act out of character, in other words, nice. My two favourite episodes of the season, “Mac Day” and “The Gang Gets Quarantined,” are good examples of both acting horribly and acting out of character.
In “Mac Day” the Gang has to do whatever Mac wants for 24 hours straight, with no complaining. (They are allowed to scream into a ceremonial pillow once a day.) The day includes lots of lectures on the Bible, shooting a “Project Badass” video and greasing up beefcakes at a bodybuilding competition. Mac invites his cousin, “Country Mac”, to join them during Mac Day but Country Mac ends up being wayyyy cooler than Paddy’s Mac, therefore ruining Mac’s big day.
The scene that really made me love this episode was the one directly after Country Mac outshines Paddy’s Mac. (The gang is about to get into a fight, when Country Mac gives the threat an ocular pat down and eliminates the risk. Paddy’s Mac proceeds to soil his karate outfit.) As Paddy’s Mac toddles off to the rest room to clean himself up, the gang asks Country Mac if he can join their gang. They decide that Country Mac is way cooler, and that the Macs should trade places. There is nothing out-and-out horrible about this scene, but the gang’s cold, definitive hatred of their buddy was shocking to me. Sunny has always been about the core gang of Dennis, Mac, Charlie and Dee. No matter how bad things get, they always end up back together at the bar. But “Mac Day” does such a convincing job of explaining why the others hate Mac, that when the gang decides to swap him out, their decision makes total sense. It was a surprising moment in a very funny episode, which makes “Mac Day” a highlight of the season.
The other memorable episode of the season is “The Gang Gets Quarantined.” It’s another bottle episode in the bar. This time, there is a flu outbreak in Philadelphia and the gang imposes a quarantine on themselves so they can stay fresh for a Boyz II Men a cappella competition. (The scenes with them practising their routine are delightful and not to be missed.) As we can guess, each member will inevitable become ill. One by one, they do. But the satisfying part of the episode is in the ending. We find out that none of them have the flu. They are all so ill because they have not been drinking during the quarantine, and they are, in fact, all going through severe alcohol withdrawal. Their realization of them all being alcoholics is a moment of non-realization. They are all perfectly happy with being alcoholics, which is pretty horrible, when you think about it. More than that, a mediocre episode was made great by a genuinely surprising ending.
This isn’t the last season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but the end is near and I can’t help but think about how the series will end. Surely it will end in disaster for the gang at Paddy’s pub. That’s inevitable. But the creators of Sunny will have to find a way for that ending to be satisfying. Being ever more horrible isn’t enough.
Favourite quote from Season 9:
Charlie to Frank: “Why are you naked and stuck in a coil?”