Earlier this summer, we got some great news when it was revealed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia had started production on its 14th season.
If you’re keeping score, that’s a lot (especially for a sitcom) and it will soon tie The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as the longest-running live-action comedy in the history of television. Back when the show premiered all the way back in 2005, it would have been hard to imagine such a run was possible.
However, in all fairness, it would have been just as hard to imagine a priest becoming a homeless drug addict or the American mystery of who exactly cracked the Liberty Bell being solved.
It’s Always Sunny has become one of those rare television shows that brings with it a complete sense of mystery. Sure, as the years have gone on, patterns and tendencies have managed to emerge but the lack of any kind of season-long narrative—as well as a willingness by the show’s creators to take as many risks as possible—has created a culture where anything is possible.
The zigs often zag and the zags often zig (and that definitely wasn’t a laxative you just drank). When that’s coupled with the recent routine of producing ten-episode seasons that have helped the show keep on trucking as it enters it’s back nine, it shows no signs of slowing down.
With over one hundred episodes out there, it’s hard to pick favorites, but I did. On top of that, I put together a list of what are (in my humble opinion) the 20 best episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
20. “Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Episode MVP: Cigarette smoke
Freedom is a tricky little nugget. You want to give people the freedom to make their own decisions, but at the same time, if we don’t have some form of rules in society, everything can go to shit super quick.
That’s the problem facing the gang when Charlie gets pissed after Dennis blows smoke in his face and responds by trying to ban smoking in the bar. Dennis, Mac, and Frank say doing such a thing is un-American, further expanding the growing rift between the two sides.
After all, Frank didn’t go to Vietnam just to have pansies take away his freedom.
Sure, he there went to open a sweatshop, but still.
Charlie and Dee leave to explore street performance while Mac, Dennis, and Frank decide Paddy’s will have no rules and no restrictions. This leads to the bar having a Girls Gone Wild-meets-Vietnam gambling den vibe, which are two things that just don’t work well together.
Not like rock, flag, and eagle of course. Those go well together seamlessly.
19. “Mac & Charlie Die” (S4E5&6)
Episode MVP: Poppers
This is one of only a couple of two-part episodes the show has done, and as with the other one (“The Gang Gets Whacked”), the looming threat of death dictates the gang’s actions. This time it’s the belief that Mac’s imprisoned dad is going to murder Mac and Charlie, and because of that, they decide to fake their own death and live as hobos.
They don’t go far, though; they simply set up camp on the roof of Paddy’s.
Dennis takes the opportunity to find a new roommate and explore the anonymous sex adventures that the glory hole they found in the bar’s bathroom has inspired him to pursue. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment in the episode, but it’s ultimately a tie between Mac and Charlie’s “death” and their attempt to shock everyone with the revelation that they’re alive—something that doesn’t surprise Dennis at all.
18. “The Gang Dines Out” (S8E9)
Episode MVP: Gugino’s
This one is pretty straightforward.
Charlie and Frank go out for dinner. Dennis and Mac go out for dinner. Dee also goes out for dinner, albeit by herself. She had a Groupon that was about to expire. We’ve all been there.
Normally, if you were out to dinner and saw some friends of yours, you’d go over and say hello (or they would). Either way, pleasantries would be exchanged with minimal drama.
‘Twas not the case here and we’re better off for it.
17. “The Gang Misses the Boat” (S10E6)
Episode MVP: Dennis’ Land Rover
You can only bottom out so many times before you decide that a change has to be made, which is what happens here ss the gang literally misses the boat.
Oh. That and Dennis drives his Land Rover into the Delaware River.
It’s not his fault though. It’s “an amphibious exploring vehicle.” It can handle it.
Changing their ways proves difficult but it’s not for lack of effort. While Dennis tries in vain to sell his submerged vehicle, Mac explores life as a party boy, Charlie and Dee go down a path that leads to them hooking up, and Frank wants nothing to do with change and looks to recapture the gang’s lost magic by joining another crew, much to that crew’s dismay.
In the end, the gang realizes that changing things up is a waste of time and, frankly, not in any of their best interests. Dennis is going to rage, Mac’s party boy lifestyle was a sham, and Dee and Charlie are lost causes on their own. Frank also botched it with his new crew.
The gang needs each other because they’re all that they have. And that’s just how they (and we) like it.
16. “Reynolds vs. Reynolds: The Cereal Defense” (S8E10)
Episode MVP: Mac’s charts
As a fan of eating cereal, I can respect Dennis’ desire to bring his breakfast with him as he drives to work. But at the same time, it is a little reckless and unsafe.
However, it’s not as reckless and unsafe as driving a car without functioning eyesight and being guided by Charlie’s instructions delivered via tape.
Just like that, the episode’s premise is laid out, leading to a courtroom battle of sorts that pits Dennis against Frank. Dennis demands Frank cover the costs of cleaning his car, which Frank refuses to do. Charlie also gets to play lawyer, which is always a bonus, and he does a decent job despite the case not involving bird law.
The true high point of the episode, though, is Mac’s evisceration of science and evolution in an attempt to make himself seem like a credible witness.
At least he tried.
15. “The Gang Gets Analyzed” (S8E5)
Episode MVP: The therapist
A debate over who is going to do the dishes results in impromptu therapy sessions with Dee’s shrink for each member of the gang.
This leads to an analysis of Mac’s infatuation with putting things in his mouth and what that might mean on a higher level. We’re also met with the revelation that, despite what people think, Charlie is actually fairly normal (provided he’s comfortable in his own skin) which of course leads to Charlie assuming the key to normalcy is getting more skin. We also gain insight into Frank’s troubled, donkey-brained past.
The therapist, played by Kerri Kinney-Silver, an alum of The State and Reno: 911, is particularly concerned about Dennis and his role over the group, especially Mac.
You know, because Dennis is a psychopath.
14. “The Gang Runs for Office” (S2E8)
Episode MVP: Charlie
Dennis runs for comptroller despite not knowing what a comptroller does (join the club; no one does) and Charlie briefly serves as his campaign manager before getting fired.
Meanwhile, Frank uses Dee to try to solicit a bribe from the current comptroller and Mac tries to squeeze a local union for bribes because that’s apparently how these things work in politics. Both efforts prove massively unsuccessful.
Garbage Pail Kids cards are also involved, as are secret parking lot meetings a la All the President’s Men.
And in the end, no one still knows what the eff the comptroller does.
13. “Mac Day” (S9E5)
Episode MVP: Country Mac
For some reason that I can’t totally remember, the gang has decided that each member gets a day where the rest of the gang has to act and live like them. This is what gives us Mac Day, a day in celebration of Mac that includes “badass” stunts, warped Catholicism, beefcakes, and karate.
And, because it’s Mac Day, that means no sleeves.
It also means we get to meet Country Mac, Mac’s cousin, who is played by Seann William Scott.
Country Mac is everything City Mac wishes he was but definitely isn’t. City Mac makes it look like he jumped off a bridge for a Project: Badass video whereas Country Mac actually did jump off a bridge, all with a beer in his hand.
Country Mac is understanding, listens when others talk, and, unlike City Mac (at least to this point) completely comfortable with his sexual orientation.
Naturally, the gang tries to get City Mac to stay around but then he drops dead.
Thus starts Frank Day.
12. “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire” (S3E8)
Episode MVP: Charlie’s video camera
Mac, who is pissed that his self-described epic rant to a local TV news reporter was largely left out of the evening news, decides to make his own show with Charlie’s help. They apparently did it when they were younger, but according to Dennis, their “reporting” was just them “burning G.I. Joes and throwing rocks at cats.”
First, they hit up a nursing home in an attempt to find out what’s really going on there (spoiler: racism and food stealing) then they end up in Chinatown, where they don’t find the flying ninjas they were looking for but rather a Wii tennis tournament.
Looking to gain fame themselves, Dennis and Dee become club kids and the age-old question of what time it is finally has a suitable answer.
11. “The Gang Buys a Boat” (S6E3)
Episode MVP: The Implication
Thanks to the money that dicktowel.com brought in, the gang elects to buy a boat, but instead of a “P. Diddy style shrimping vessel”, they end up with a junker in need of some repair. It turns out $2,500 ain’t much in the boat game.
This episode is memorable for two main reasons.
The first is Dennis’ explanation for bringing women out on the boat and the “implication” that comes with it and the second is the everlasting visual of Dee dancing with the inflatable mounted on the top of the boat.
Intermission: Season One Ranked
The show’s first season stands alone because it A) it doesn’t include Danny DeVito and B) is largely the show finding itself. It’s kind of like the first season of The Office.
It’s also short—only seven episodes—and seeing as how I felt bad not including any episodes from it here, I thought I would rank them separately.
7. ‘Charlie Wants an Abortion’
6. ‘Charlie Got Molested’
5. ‘Charlie Has Cancer’
4. ‘The Gang Finds a Dead Guy’
3. ‘Gun Fever’
2. ‘The Gang Gets Racist’
1. ‘Underage Drinking: A National Concern’
And now, back to the top 20.
10. “The Gang Gets Whacked” (S3E12/13)
Episode MVP: Charlie & Dee
The show’s other two-part episode features the following: a speaker full of cocaine, mafia dudes in tracksuits, male escorts, negotiable boundaries on ass play, a shady dude named Bingo, horny horse jockeys, and a horse named Peter Nincompoop.
I think that about covers it.
9. “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” (S5E10)
Episode MVP: Dennis
Dennis isn’t just a ladies man; he’s a good friend. And because he’s such a good friend, he volunteers to teach his method of seduction to the gang.
His method is as sick and sadistic as expected:
- Demonstrate value
- Engage physically
- Nurture dependence
- Neglect emotionally
- Inspire hope
- Separate entirely
We also learn about Mac’s strategy, which is to swoop in once Dennis is done with them. There’s also Frank’s strategy where he comes in with some Magnum condoms and a wad of hundreds after Mac is done. It is very much a fragile ecosystem.
Charlie attempts to use Dennis’ system on The Waitress but naturally butchers it while Dee becomes paranoid that her boyfriend, Ben the Soldier, is currently Dennising her.
In the end, Dee gets stabbed by a carney, a desperate Dennis is trotting out a fake grandmother to try and win back a girl, and a diagnosis from Dr. Mantis Toboggan reveals that Dennis has AIDS.
What a ride.
8. “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award” (S9E3)
Episode MVP: Playful banter
The show goes meta here as the bar wonders why they’ve never won an award despite being around for so long. The episode then becomes a commentary on sitcom tropes and stereotypes as Dennis tries to gussy up Paddy’s to look less like Paddy’s and more like the kind of bars that do win awards (less fringe, some “will they or won’t they” tension, and a token black friend.)
Charlie even shoots for the Best Song award with a Randy Newman-style tune that by the end of the episode (and some time spent huffing glue) has evolved into something that feels and sounds more appropriate.
7. “Mac’s Big Break” (S6E4)
Episode MVP: The duster and the mullet wig (tie)
Guys like Mac and Charlie don’t get many breaks in life. It’s not that they don’t deserve them; they just don’t get the chance. It really is heart-breaking.
That all changes when they get through to a local radio station and win the chance to take a shot from center ice at a Philadelphia Flyers game. If they make it, they get to go to the radio station’s summer beach house, which sounds like a pretty sweet gig.
While they’re training, Dennis and Dee take a crack at the podcasting game, with Frank serving as the show’s producer (provided he can keep the volume of his chewing down). Frank takes his job seriously and does a decent job booking guests, with The Waitress, Ben the Soldier, and Cricket all stopping by.
When it comes time for Mac to take his shot, Dennis and Dee try to get him to pass their tape to the radio station. Then they get famous and Mac gets famous. Everyone wins.
Just kidding. Everyone decidedly does not win.
6. “The World Series Defense” (S5E6)
Episode MVP: Mac’s letter to Chase Utley
Charlie is a man who has a couple of alter egos, and in “The World Series Defense,” we get two of them: Green Man and Charlie the Lawyer.
Charlie the Lawyer is taking a crack at defending the gang, who had recently racked up several parking tickets. Why, you ask? Well, it all goes back to the Phillies winning the World Series.
The gang all had plans to go to a game at Citizens Bank Park. Frank has tickets, Mac believes he has the upper body strength to climb the facade of the park (despite being all glamour muscles), and Charlie has the old trick of pretending to get hit by a car and blackmailing the driver into giving up their tickets.
Instead of the game, they end up locked in a cleaning closet at the nearby Holiday Inn because of course they do.
Along the way, we learn that Mac (like most anyone who watched the Phillies’ between 2005 and 2015) is a pretty serious fan of Chase Utley.
There’s also riot punch, the Phillie
Fanatic Phrenetic, and, in the end, a room full of dead bodies underneath the Holiday Inn next to the ballpark.
5. “The Gang Solves the Bathroom Problem” (S13E6)
Episode MVP: “The Piña Colada Song”
The show’s thirteenth season was good but felt a little forced at times. It should be noted, however, that even a forced episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is still funnier than most shows.
The high-water mark of the thirteenth season came right around the halfway point as the gang is pregaming a Jimmy Buffet show before they find themselves tackling human behavior, gender roles, and, most importantly, who can and can’t use which bathroom.
We learn that Paddy’s women’s bathroom, which we had never seen before, is shockingly clean, We also learn Charlie dresses in drag to go the bathroom (a result of childhood trauma) and, unsurprisingly, that Frank has never read the Constitution despite his insistence on citing it whenever he feels the need.
Part of what makes this episode so much fun is that even this late in the game, the show can still find gold when it just locks the doors of the bar with the show’s five main characters stuck inside and left to their own devices.
Bottle episodes don’t always work but this one certainly does.
4. “Mac & Dennis Move to the Suburbs” (S11E5)
Episode MVP: Mac’s Famous Mac & Cheese
Mac and Dennis had been living with Dee since their apartment burned down but the time had finally come for them to find a place of their own. Seems easy enough, right?
Well, it would be easy if not for the predictably ridiculous demands they both have for a new place. The result is that the two find themselves moving out to the suburbs and, you know, it’s not great.
Frank sees disaster coming and bets them a year’s worth of rent that they won’t last a month out there. If not, they have to sleep in a bed with an old man (the old man not being Frank. Totally different old man).
Things start off fine but go south quickly as Dennis learns about the torturous existence that is commuting to work and Mac struggles playing the role of the stay-at-home dude.
They get a dog. The dog dies. They eat Mac’s Famous Mac & Cheese but Mac’s Famous Mac & Cheese is just the store-brand stuff and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NOISE?
So yeah, they end up sharing a bed with a random old dude.
3. “The Nightman Cometh” (S4E13)
Episode MVP: Stage freeze
A little over a season later those songs had evolved into a full-blown musical in which a young boy is basically molested by mythical creatures, although the exact interpretation of the musical is a source of constant debate.
Soul or hole? Either way, you gotta pay the troll toll.
What’s not up for debate is Charlie’s motivation, which is to impress the Waitress, something he fails at doing.
2. “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” (S4E2)
Episode MVP: Frank’s surveillance van
The calling card for this episode is Charlie yelling “Wildcard bitches!” While that’s enough to get it this high, the entire episode is a great example of storytelling and the ways in which the show could actually be viewed as “Seinfeld on crack”—a scheme is devised, a scheme is attempted to be carried out, and a scheme blows up (literally) in everyone’s faces.
On a side note, it’s important to make sure you can see out of your homemade surveillance van. I can’t stress that enough.
1. “Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens” (S5E8)
Episode MVP: Charlie
As hard as it was to pick a number one, I give it to this classic and do so with little to no reservation.
This episode is somewhat of an anomaly, as it features everyone essentially rowing in the same direction, which is trying to cash in on the marketing of Paddy’s. Mac is pitching dick towels and teaming up with Dennis to lobby for shotguns full of booze, which are a step up from Frank’s handgun.
Frank also pitches an egg but there’s not a lot of meat on that bone there.
The winner ends up being Charlie, who has come up with mittens for noisy cats to wear. Dee and Charlie visit The Lawyer to get help with a patent for Kitten Mittens, as well as to get Dee’s contract (which Mac recently ate) legitimized so she can own the rights to all Paddys’ merchandise.
I don’t know if this is objectively the best episode but it’s easily my favorite if only for the sound of Charlie asking if your cat makes too much noise, which makes me smile every goddamn time. I’m also partial to anytime we get to see Charlie act like a lawyer because Charlie speaking like a lawyer is amazing.
Season 14 can’t come soon enough.