While it’s been woefully overlooked in terms of awards recognition, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is easily one of the flat out funniest shows in the history of television. Other series’ may be nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes, but for 11 years and counting, It’s Always Sunny has made us laugh to the point of tears perhaps more often than anything else on TV. And at the end of the day, that’s what you want in a comedy. They’re a group of lovably insane, perpetually drunk Philly- born degenerates who make the cast of Seinfeld look well adjusted. Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Frank and Dee are all, in their own way, batshit insane. Lets take a look back at the 10 greatest episodes in the history of It’s Always Sunny. They’re all great, honestly, they are, but these are the cream of the crop.
10. THE GANG GETS INVINCIBLE (Season 3, Episode 2)
There’s so much about this episode that makes it an instant Sunny classic. This is all about Dennis, Mac and Dee trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles. And while that, in and of itself, is a funny premise, there’s really so much more to this episode. In fact, two monumental Sunny milestones take place here. The first is that this is where the real Frank Reynolds begins to emerge. As it stands now, Frank is a pint-sized disaster human who loves prostitutes, sausage links and getting naked in the Philadelphia sewer system with Charlie, his possible son that he sleeps in the same bed with. He’s a bona fide maniac. Though in season 2, when the character was first introduced, Frank’s lunacy was a little more toned-down. But “The Gang Gets Invincible” is where Frank really starts letting his freak flag fly. While tailgating the tryout, Frank drops acid, shits in an outdoor garbage can and whips out his now ever-present gun. Now that’s the Frank we know and love! And the second milestone in this episode is that this is where Greenman – Charlie’s green bodysuit-clad self-invented mascot – was first introduced to the world. Greenman, though only making it into a handful of episodes over the show’s 11-year run, has now become part of the pop culture lexicon.
9. THE GANG REIGNITES THE RIVALRY (Season 5, Episode 12)
If you don’t know what Flipadelphia is – or better yet, know the song (“Flip! Flip! Flipadelphia!”) – you’re truly missing out. This episode is based on a citywide flip cup tournament that Paddy’s Pub had been banned from for a decade…for poisoning their competition, of course. But now, after 10 long years of banishment, the gang is looking to rise, like the perpetually hammered phoenix that they are, to vanquish their old drinking game enemies. But because the characters in Sunny have all the collective focus of an infant, they quickly abandon that idea and develop a new rivalry, this time with a group of college kids who are in Dennis’ old fraternity, a group of guys who Dennis learns have written “I chug dick” on his old picture in the frat house. This episode has everything you want, really. “Flipadelphia” is essential It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia viewing, if for nothing else than the sight of Danny DeVito in a pair of skinny jeans.
8. THE GANG GIVES FRANK AN INTERVENTION (Season 5, Episode 4)
Danny DeVito is a national treasure. In this episode Frank claims that he doesn’t know how long he has left, so he’s decided to “get really weird with it”. The degeneration of Frank Reynolds is an absolute joy to watch. He crashes a funeral, tries to have sex with his dead wife’s recently widowed sister and tries to put out a grease fire with a handgun. At one point Frank also gets a handjob from his non-blood relative niece, the girl Dennis and Dee call “the garbage pail cousin”, Gail the Snail. Watching Charlie “salt the snail” is reason enough to watch this episode multiple times.
7. THE GANG SOLVES THE GAS CRISIS (Season 4, Episode 2)
This episode is just rapid-fire hilarity from start to finish. Charlie, Mac and Dennis decide to sell gas door-to-door. Frank buys a spy van, which Dee refers to as “a rape van”. Charlie attempts to become a master of disguise. Frank water boards Dee. I can on and on with this one. Just watch it. Charlie Day yelling, “Wildcard, bitches!” before hurling his own body out of a moving car is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life.
6. THE GANG MAKES LETHAL WEAPON 6 (Season 9, Episode 6)
Every few seasons Charlie, Mac and Dennis do this amazing thing where, intellectual property be damned, they take it upon themselves to make wildly low-budget sequels to the Lethal Weapon franchise. Seriously. It’s genius. Midway through season 6 the gang showed a bunch of high school kids, including an overweight Insane Clown Posse fan, their incredible Lethal Weapon 5. And that was pure brilliance. It truly was. But Lethal Weapon 6 was even better, mainly because the faux-film portion lasted through the entire episode. The plot is nonsensical. The acting is pure dog shit. Half way through the film Mac and Dennis inexplicably change roles, but whereas Mac decided to play Danny Glover’s character in blackface, Dennis ops not to. It’s madness, honestly. Brilliant madness.
5. CHARDEE MACDENNIS: THE GAME OF GAMES (Season 7, Episode 7)
As Charlie quickly points out, CharDee MacDennis isn’t a drinking game, it’s a war. This episode focuses entirely on a preposterous drinking game invented by the gang many moons ago. On a particularly uneventful day at Paddy’s Pub, against Charlie and Mac’s better judgment, the gang decides to head into this metaphorical drunken battlefield yet again. If this episode doesn’t make you want to get together with your friends and drink far too many beers, you’re a better man than I. This is arguably the most fun – not funny, but fun – episode in the show’s history. Though it’s also wildly funny, too. Charlie’s illiteracy is exposed. Mac has a nervous breakdown. Frank gets ordered into a dog cage. This episode is just perfect. And luckily, Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney agree, because they’ve written “CharDee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo”, which kicks off season 11.
4. HOW MAC GOT FAT (Season 7, Episode 10)
This episode makes the list simply because of what Rob McElhenney did to his body in preparation for his show’s 7th season. He got fat. Literally. McElhenney thought it would be absolutely hilarious if his character, Mac, put on 50lbs. And in order to make that absurd vision a reality, he literally got fat. No fat suit. No TV magic. Rob McElhenney, the man, gained upwards of 50 lbs. That may genuinely be one of most unsung moves in the history of comedy. I write that in all sincerity. That’s going above and beyond for your fan’s enjoyment. Mac’s weight gain – or as he called it, the fact that he “tacked on mass” – made this entire season pure television gold. Mac became a puffy-faced, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, food-obsessed fatso who constantly had candy wrappers hanging out of his pockets and who at one point traveled with a garbage bag full of chimichangas. Shit, even writing that made me laugh. Love live fat Mac. Watch this entire season.
3. THE D.E.N.N.I.S SYSTEM (Season 5, Episode 10)
One of the greatest character arcs in the history of comedy is Dennis Reynolds gradually becoming a sociopath. In Sunny’s earlier seasons, Dennis was more or less the straight man. If there’s a hierarchy of mental stability within this cast of characters, Dennis is, or rather was, the sanest of the group. But somewhere during season 5, that sanity fell by the wayside. Dennis now drives around with zip-ties in a hidden compartment in his car, secretly videotapes every woman he sleeps with and has admitted to no longer “having feelings”. When you go and look back, Dennis was first outed as being a cold, calculated psychopath in this legendary episode. The D.E.N.N.I.S system is Dennis Reynolds’ surefire plan for seduction, a plan that at one point includes him pretending to be a murderer and threatening his object of affection, only so that he can then protect said woman from this mythical killer. Yes, Dennis Reynolds is a genuine sociopath. This episode is also where Frank Reynolds first starts going by his sometimes alias, Dr. Mantis Toboggan. If that makes no sense to you, just watch the episode. Now.
2. THE GANG BEATS BOGGS (Season 10, Episode 1)
This 22-minutes is the entire cast at their individual and collective best. This episode takes place almost entirely on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Why? Because the gang is trying to beat one of the most storied achievements in sports history: Wade Boggs’ record of drinking more than 70 beers on a single cross-country flight. Here Kaitlin Olson proves why she’s the most underrated female comedic actress on TV today. I defy you to watch this episode and refute this claim. Olson’s belligerently loaded Dee totally steals the show for the majority of this episode, but just slightly. Dennis has a fantastically creepy assessment of who he’s going to have sex with while on the fligh, Frank’s drunken meltdown as Dr. Mantis Toboggan is laugh-out-loud amazing, and Charlie’s eventual victory, with subtitles because he’s too wasted to be understood, is absolute comedic perfection.
1. THE NIGHTMAN COMETH (Season 4, Episode 13)
This episode is so legendary that for a short run in 2009 the cast actually went on tour and performed a live stage adaptation. This is Charlie Kelly’s grand creation, this illiterate rat killer’s masterpiece. The Nightman Cometh is a live musical that Charlie wrote, or better yet, nonsensically scribbled. His endgame here was at the end of it, live on stage, he’d propose to “the waiteress”, the yet-to-be-named woman who he’s been stalking for more than decade.
This episode is perfect in every conceivable sense. Frank plays “the troll”. Mac shows signs of his questionable sexuality when he gets a boner during a scene where he’s in bed with Dennis. At one point Dee hijacks the show with a hilarious impromptu number. The entire cast sings the far-too-catchy “Nightman” song near the end. If you’ve never seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and want to pick one episode, this is it.