At 14 seasons, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has now tied for the title of longest running live action sitcom in the history of American television, rivalling only a show from the 1950s. And really, who would’ve thought this title would be earned by a show about a dysfunctional group of immoral, degenerate villains who are all bordering on sociopathy?
Always Sunny has a reason to stick around, though. For a show that’s been on the air since 2005, the series has managed to stay both fresh and consistently funny. Rooted in satire of current events and unwilling to let the vile (yet somehow lovable) characters grow into good people as most shows would do, Always Sunny is simply irreplaceable.
Season 14 is currently halfway through and is a definite step forward from the hit-or-miss season 13.
The show often repeats concepts for episodes many times throughout the years. This is not a dig at the writers; every time one of these episodes rolls around, there’s an update to the concept, a sheer refusal to recycle jokes even when, at 13 seasons of hilarity, that must feel like the only option at times.
This season, we have “Dee Day”, in which, like season nine’s “Mac Day”, Dee (Kaitlin Olson) is granted her own day where the rest of the gang must do whatever she wants. The twist this time, though, is that Dee Day was scheduled at a bad time for the rest of the gang. They’ve got a nefarious deed to pull and Dee Day is getting in the way. As they’re all allotted one bathroom break during Dee Day, they each use theirs to put their piece of the plan into action. Although the episode revolves around Dee, having time with each individual character allows for each member of the gang to shine.
This episode brings us the best Dennis (Glenn Howerton) moment of the season thus far: Dee forces him to take off his makeup and his confidence goes in the trash with his makeup wipe. When his role in the plan turns out to be seducing a councilwoman who they run into at a bar shortly after, the sickly, washed-out shell of a man that was once Dennis Reynolds is forced to try his luck with none of his characteristic narcissism to back him up. “That’s what his soul look like,” Charlie (Charlie Day) whispers upon getting a glimpse of Dennis’ palid true self.
But Always Sunny is at its best when episodes are hinged on brand new concepts, especially when they pertain to current popular culture. Sunny has a way of making current events feel timeless, as the gang’s interactions with them are more telling of their corrupt nature than anything else.
“The Gang Texts” tackles modern technology, with the gang attempting to maneuver being split up at the zoo through a group text. The episode hits on small and seemingly insignificant relatable issues that feel realistic to the individual members of the gang that grapple with them. For instance, Mac (Rob McElhenney) can’t read tone via text message, leading to a lot of confusion. Dennis attempts to find the rest of the group’s location from a vague text message, only to grow angry when the misleading text results in him missing a live animal being fed to a lion: the only thing Dennis Reynolds would possibly come to the zoo for.
The highlight of the first half of season 14 is “The Gang Chokes”, an episode with Howerton’s name on it in his second try at directing. For Howerton, as a creator of the show and consistent writer, knowing these characters inside and out and having the ability to play to each actor’s strengths, it feels as though he’s been directing for a while.
“The Gang Chokes” sees Frank (Danny Devito) nearly choking to death at a restaurant, with each other member of the gang freezing up and neglecting to save him for reasons unique to them: for example, Mac, Stepford wife to the unwilling Dennis, feels as though he can’t leap into action until Dennis tells him to, while Dee gets a tempting thrill from almost witnessing a death that leads her down a dangerous path of adrenaline seeking.
The gang once again goes their separate ways in this episode to individually grapple with their reactions to Frank’s near death experience, but the stories all intertwine in the end into a beautifully horrible mess of chaos that Always Sunny does like no other show can.
This is a series that always feels like it’s at its peak, but, more than likely, in the words of Dennis, it hasn’t even begun to peak. The series hasn’t been renewed for a season 15 yet, which is worrying as both season 13 and 14 were confirmed at once. Here’s to hoping we see more of the gang’s depravity for years to come. If not, at least it’s ended on a high note with this season — although, with Sunny, you could say that about every season.