There are a lot of comedy sitcoms around nowadays that serve to shock and push boundaries. One such comedy series is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which has been shaking things up since 2005. Following the owners of Paddy’s Pub, the Gang consists of brother and sister Dennis and Dee Reynolds (Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olsen), their father Frank (Danny DeVito), “bouncer” Mac (Rob McElhenney) and cleaner, Charlie (Charlie Day). The shows is based around their day-to-day lives often showcasing their offensive and ridiculous behaviour. A simple setup but what makes this show so great and iconic is the writing which is a shared collaboration between its stars, particularly Howerton, McElhenney and Day.
Now preparing for their 15th season and showing no signs of showing down, Always Sunny has become one of the household names in American comedy for its fearlessness in tackling taboo subjects whilst managing to maintain a charm. The cast are all perfect in their roles and the strength of the show has only improved throughout the years. What is so brilliant is how terrible the characters are but you still root for them anyway. The writing is done perfectly and flawlessly, giving a variety of memorable moments that is going to make it difficult to narrow down to five episodes. In true Smaller Pictures fashion, however, I have decided to pick my top 5 episodes from the 154 episodes that have aired so far.
Here are my top 5 episodes:
5) “The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award”, Season 9
Kicking off my countdown is this gem from the shows 9th season. One of the things Always Sunny does best is bringing in the outside world and incorporating that into the narrative. To go even further, “The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award” goes meta as it reflects the fact that Always Sunny has never been nominated for an Emmy. This fact in itself is outrageous but the result of the episode gives us one of the best songs of the whole show thanks to Charlie Day’s hilarious songwriting. This episode shows the gang trying to win an award for Paddy’s Pub so they decide to host an event for local critics. Charlie had prepared a lovely song to sing on the piano but as usual, he takes some drugs and starts to sing about spiders inside his soul before bursting into a chorus telling the audience to “go fuck” themselves. It’s the perfect response to the awards bodies in reality and is done with that amazing Always Sunny creativity. What better way to address your critics than by grabbing their attention and annihilating them? Always Sunny has never been the type of show that follows the crowd anyway so this episode is the perfect response that reflects this.
4) “A Very Sunny Christmas”, Season 6
In America, this episode is released in two parts but on Netflix UK, “A Very Sunny Christmas” is released as one long episode so I will be referring to both parts. Taking on the structure of A Christmas Carol, “A Very Sunny Christmas” shows the Gang’s attempt at getting Frank to get into the Christmas spirit. When growing up, Dee and Dennis would be subject to Frank’s pranks as their father would wrap up empty boxes and pretend they have gifts in. What tips the siblings over the edge is when Frank buys himself a designer handbag and Lamborgini which is what Dee and Dennis always wanted, respectively and it drives them insane. They recruit an old friend of Frank’s, Eugene, to act as Ghost of Christmas Past in a bid to get him to change his act with hilarious consequences. What puts this episode in my top 5, however, is a musical stopmotion animation sequence that is gory, crude and absolutely hysterical. Showing Frank being tortured and mutilated by the Gang for his behaviour, it helps him come to terms with how he treats them.
3) “McPoyle vs. Ponderosa: The Trial of the Century”, Season 11
Sometimes there are episodes that only focus on one character and then there are those that bring everyone together. This episode is amongst the latter and is a hilarious conclusion to the Ponderosa-McPoyle wedding fiasco. Bill Ponderosa is being sued for spiking the punch with bath salts by Liam McPoyle who lost an eye during the wedding. Charlie’s Uncle Jack agrees to be Bill’s lawyer and it is Jack who delivers my personal favourite moment in any Always Sunny episode. Ever. Uncle Jack has an obsession with large hands and wears giant fake hands over his own so no one knows that his hands are small. When interrogating a witness, Jack dramatically points to the McPoyles and one of his hands flies off to which he shrieks “NOBODY LOOK” repeatedly and runs to collect the hand. It is truly one of the funniest moments in comedy and had me in stitches long after the episode. The episode also features the unnamed Lawyer, representing the McPoyles who is one of my favourite side characters in Always Sunny for his deadpan sarcasm.
2) “Mac Finds His Pride”, Season 13
One thing about Always Sunny is that it is able to balance its comedy and seriousness well. This episode is a prime example of that. In “Mac Finds His Pride”, we see Mac trying to find comfort in coming out publicly with the help of Frank. Throughout the episode, Frank states that he doesn’t understand it but he accepts Mac but Mac struggles with how to come out to his dad, Luther, who is in prison. The result is a dance sequence where Mac performs with a professional dancer in a piece that explores his journey to acceptance. It’s a beautiful routine that would have taken a lot of practice to perfect and it also shows Rob McElhenney’s dedication to the character. Doing this dance would have seemed so out of character for Mac a few seasons before but the way McElhenney has developed Mac’s character through the years, it is the perfect way to let him come out. It’s a bittersweet ending to a season that has seen Mac really come to accept himself for who he is.
1) “The Nightman Cometh”, Season 4
Probably the most iconic episode to date, “The Nightman Cometh” accumulates everything we love about Always Sunny and puts it into a 20 minute masterpiece. Charlie enters the bar and announces that he has written a musical which he and the gang will be performing. Incorporating characters created in the previous season, the musical tells the story of a boy’s journey to manhood by defeating a troll and the evil Nightman thus becoming Dayman. It’s bizarre and is full of dark undercurrents but the songs are catchy and hilarious. It shouldn’t work but it absolutely does and will have you falling on the floor with laughter. From songs such as “Tiny Boy, Little Boy, Baby Boy” to “Troll Toll” to the iconic “Dayman”, the musical is filled to the brim with innuendo but what makes it funny is that Charlie doesn’t intend for it to be rude at all. He is confused by the Gang’s concern over the lyrics and becomes irritated when they decide to take creative control over their characters. Even if you haven’t watched Always Sunny, I would definitely recommend giving this episode a watch. It’s hilarious, bonkers and shows what the Gang does best which is ruin everything.
So there you have it! My top five Always Sunny episodes. I think each choice perfectly shows a different reason as to why I love this show and there were so many that didn’t make the list that would be just as deserving. With the 15th season due to arrive in 2021, now is a perfect time to rewatch all of the seasons on Netflix in time.
What do you think of my list? Which Always Sunny episodes are your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!