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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 9 - “The Gang Saves The Day” & Celebrates 100 Episodes

Most shows that are lucky enough to make it to their 100th episode reach that milestone somewhere around the 5th season, but It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has never quite been conventional. The FXX comedy series is set to unveil show 100 this Wednesday with an episode titled “The Gang Saves The Day” which airs about midway through its 9th season. What started off as a short film idea about a character who tells his friend that he may have cancer, while the unaffected friend is really only interested in getting some sugar for his coffee, eventually evolved into a TV pilot that landed at cable network FX. Created by and starring Rob McElhenney (Ronald “Mac” McDonald), Glenn Howerton (Dennis Reynolds) and Charlie Day (Charlie Kelly) the show launched in summer 2005 to a modest following and decent critical attention. The fourth key role in the first season went to Kaitlin Olson as Dennis’ twin sister Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds. And so the gang was born.

Early on I often heard the show billed as Seinfeld on crack… it revolves around a group of four narcissistic friends who would at any time throw each other under the bus to come out on top, who go through life doing basically nothing but hanging out and drinking at the bar they own and quite possibly actually regress with each outing rather than growing and learning. Now Seinfeld is my favorite comedy of all time. Unarguably one of - if not the - best TV shows ever. And crack is always funny, right? So I was sure Always Sunny had to be great. Turns out it was, and 99 episodes later still is, one of the most consistently ridiculous, wildly outrageous and unrelentingly funny shows on TV. The first season came right out of the gate with offensively awesome episodes like “The Gang Gets Racist” and “Charlie Gets Molested” which I guess are both pretty much self-explanatory.

To spark interest from the public and perhaps gain more attention from critics Danny DeVito was added to the cast in the premiere of the second season as Frank Reynolds, Dee and Dennis’ estranged (but not biological) father. He may or may not also be Charlie’s father… we’re not too sure, though, because Mrs Kelly is kind of a whore. Much like Seinfeld before it the first couple seasons of Always Sunny are indeed great but the show truly hit its stride later in its run as the characters became flawlessly and hilarious fleshed out and the supporting cast of oddball pop-ins were suddenly equally as exciting and recognizable. By the end of the shows second season the audience had met characters like The McPoyles, Carmen the transvestite, The Waitress, Rickety Cricket, Artemis and Charlie’s pedophile Uncle Jack, most of whom still make frequent appearances on the show today (Uncle Jack stole the show in season 9s “Gun Fever Too: Still Hot”).

I think often now that watching a new episode without having seen every one prior would be quite an inferior experience - each episode is jam-packed with references to past events, multi-season spanning running gags and recurring characters and situations. When I got the chance to be part of a conference call with Glenn Howerton last month he spoke about wanting viewers to really pay attention, “to turn their phones off you know? Kind of shut up and actually sit down and dim the lights and just watch the episode from start to finish instead of being on their computers, and their phones, and watching TV, and cooking, and eating, and petting the cat.” Throwbacks aren’t the only reason to pay full attention to this show though. When I screened last weeks episode “Mac Day” early for the website I immediately loved it - Sean William Scott as Country Mac was brilliant and the jokes were fast and furious as always. The second time I watched it that week, though, I laughed even harder. These actors are so damn good at playing their characters at this point that they’re seriously working at a frequency that’s hard to catch sometimes - they’re always on. Look at Franks expressions while Dennis talks outside the planetarium after the gang gets stoned, or Dennis’ typically hilarious frustration as Mac lays out the days events. It just doesn't get any better than these guys.

Season 9, in fact, has delivered one of the strongest strings of episodes ever for the series with each installment since the premiere not only shining but constantly outdoing the last. If Deandra’s hilariously self-loathing joke-spewing in “The Gang Broke Sweet Dee” or Dennis and Macs oblivious financial misfire in “Mac and Dennis Buy a Timeshare” weren’t among the funniest things on TV this year then I don’t know what was. Glenn was asked multiple times during the press call about the lack of Emmy love the series has gotten over the years, an issue the show itself addressed perfectly this season in “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award”. Howerton says he’s not really phased by the lack of recognition but has an idea of what it could be attributed to. “I think that first impression of a low-budget, we-don’t-need-to-pay-attention-to-this-small-cable-comedy thing kind of stuck” he says of the shows early days when the gang was barely on the media radar. “We’re still having fun, I can tell you that” Glenn offered. And the audience is, too, which are really the only two things that matter.
Always Sunny recently made a move to new FX branch-off FXX which came with a promise of at least one more season after the current 9th. When asked about the prospect of going past that Howerton said “it’s being tossed around the idea of doing more. It is a question mark, but we’ll see.” For now we have this weeks 100th episode to look forward to. “The Gang Saves The Day” finds the group getting caught in the middle of an armed robbery at a convenience store and tails off into each character's individual daydream of saving the day. Here’s what you can expect, without giving too much away: Dee almost always dies, Dennis’ mind really is a sexy 80's montage, Mac’s version of heaven backs up the gangs assumption about him last week, Charlie is reunited with the waitress in a cartoon wonderland and Frank really just wants some damn hot dogs. There's a few characters from the past and an awesome cameo by Josh Groban. It’s a fitting episode for a show that rewards longtime fans with several callbacks and in-jokes and just enough out-there Always Sunny ridiculousness to make it laugh-out-loud for any viewer. With at least one season to go while hitting a milestone and in the midst of a hot-streak of can’t-miss non-stop-funny episodes, there’s never been a better time to stop by Paddy's Pub. The 100th episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesday at 10 on FXX and you can catch the first 8 seasons streaming on Netflix.

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