11 Points

11 Best Episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, In Order
written by Sam Greenspan

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is currently my favorite comedy on TV. I love how raw and underground it feels, how legitimately funny, and how edgy it gets without trying too hard. (A good contrast is "Drawn Together" which is trying so, so, so hard to say "Look at how edgy we are!" that it comes off as forced.)

And with the fourth season starting tomorrow night, I decided to put together a list of the 11 best episodes, in order, from the first three seasons of "Sunny". These are all written as if you know the show, so if you don't... well, this post may not be for you. How about checking out my 11 Favorite Rappers' Real Names post... I always felt like that one was funny and didn't get enough dap.

If you're not familiar with the show... and you don't get easily offended... I highly recommend checking it out. You can watch every single episode for free right now on Hulu.
  1. "Mac is a Serial Killer" - This is my favorite episode ever. I love what every single character does, as each storyline hits each character to perfection.

    Danny DeVito has his best episode as Frank, declaring that when he figures out Mac is the serial killer, he's going to "torture the shit out of him." I love Mac dating the pre-op transsexual (and referring to him-her as "dude"), and his brilliant "Ooh, not into the whole condom thing" line.

    Dennis and Dee have a good subplot, trying, and failing, to use their education to get into the mind of the serial killer (leading them to dress as a painter and psycho clown, respectively).

    But no one touches Charlie, who reveals his obsession with "Law & Order" and then spends the whole episode trying to help out Mac using whatever understanding of the legal system he has. His reaction to Mac's mom saying that Mac may be the serial killer is also priceless.

    And finally, the last beat of the episode, with the serial killer bumping into the crew and Frank starting to rev his chainsaw, is the funniest ending of any "It's Always Sunny".

  2. Day Man.
    "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person" - Nothing can compare to this episode, solely because of Charlie's unreal renditions of his original song "Night Man" and then, later, his and Dennis's "Day Man". Nothing.

  3. "The Gang Gets Invincible" - There's a lot of good to this episode -- Frank tripping on acid then thinking he got locked in a bathroom is funny... Mac, Dennis and Dee at the tryouts are really funny... but Charlie busting out Green Man at the tailgate pushes the episode into the top three.

    Those three plots are funny enough to overcome some characters that sometimes really drag down the show: The McPoyles. The McPoyles, who are set up throughout the series as a response to the question "Who's more depraved than the main characters?", can come off far too caricature-y to me, and, therefore, sometimes become not-even-that-funny comedic crutches. In this episode, they're used the proper amount and the right way.

  4. "Charlie Wants an Abortion" - This is one show's first episodes, and goes after the abortion issue so recklessly and brilliantly that it really sets the tone for the entire series.

    The jokes around Mac joining the pro-life crusaders are some of the roughest "Sunny" jokes ever... like his list of abortion doctors to kill with some names already crossed out and his sign for the rally that says "What if Jesus had been aborted?" But if you can handle those, you can handle "It's Always Sunny".

    I don't love the subplot of Charlie babysitting his alleged bastard son as much (the mall scenes drag a lot)... although I do love the moment where Charlie just explodes in a fit of rage and says he's going to crush the kid's face "into some kind of jelly."

  5. "Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass" - Lots of great stuff in this one. I like the Frank subplot with the gambling. I like the progression of watching Dennis and Mac celebrating the fact that they're giving everyone in their bar complete freedom... then slowly realizing that's just a terrible idea.

    But, of course, this episode is about Charlie, and his anti-smoking, pro-America mania. His "Rock, Flag and Eagle" song is classic. I only wish there'd been even more of that.

  6. Picking teams.
    "The Gang Gives Back" - This is a great episode for three main reasons. One: Charlie's entrance to AA, where he gets upset at one of the guys in there for ratting him out for drinking a beer. Two: The way the guys try to draft their teams by picking all of the black kids first.

    And three: The way the basketball game at the end unifies and pays off every single storyline in the show... while somehow not devolving into chaos. The talent in the writing, directing and editing to keep that basketball scene from becoming hard-to-watch, disjointed chaos is truly incredible.

  7. "The Gang Gets Racist" - This was the first episode that aired, and a good one. Charlie accidentally quoting Dee's black friend's use of the "n-word"... then spending the entire episode scrambling to try to prove to the Waitress he loves that he's not a racist... is great.

    I also love Mac's complete inability to talk to black people without putting his foot in his mouth.

    Dennis's subplot, with gay guys loving him, is the most predictable of the storylines, and one that I'm not sure the guys would go for now that they have several dozen more episodes under their belts.

  8. "Underage Drinking: A National Concern" - My favorite thing about this episode is watching the characters hang out with high school kids... and quickly fall right back into their high school.

    Mac is great when he quickly becomes a dislikable asshole, Dee is great when she needs to drink compulsively to handle a guy giving her attention... but, as usual, the best is Charlie, becoming an instant expert on the high school gossip.

  9. "Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare" - This episode follows the pattern where "Sunny" is at its best: The gang divides into teams based on separate, contrary, and equally stupid plans centered around the same topic.

    The best moments are when they all bump into each other at the welfare office (because it's great that both of their plans lead to them doing incredibly inappropriate things there)... and, of course, Dennis and Dee's subsequent crack addiction.

    It's another great taboo-breaking episode... any show that organically incorporates trying to get welfare "slaves" and hardcore crack addiction into one half-hour has to be doing something right.

  10. "Hundred Dollar Baby" - This is something of an anomoly in the "Sunny" universe -- the Dee storyline carries the episode, while the guys' storyline is clearly secondary. And the Dee-on-steroids storyline really does its job carrying the episode, along with a strong assist from Frank.

    I love Frank's advice to Dee when he's trying to get her to do squats: "Hold the weight on your neck. Then, you're gonna jam your legs down and hyperextend your ankles. And then shoot back up and lock your knees in place." And Dee's response: "Yeah, not one of those things sounds right."

  11. More Than Words.
    "The Gang Goes Jihad" - There are two things that make this episode stand out. One: The guys' ongoing debate about when it is and isn't OK to refer to a Jewish guy as a "Jew"... a debate they never seem to get right. And two: After they blow up the building next door, in the next scene, they're back in the bar, carefree, harmonizing to Extreme's "More Than Words".

    Both of those are absolutely classic examples of exactly who the characters are, and what makes them all so offensively funny.

This post was originally published on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 11:00:00 AM under the category TV.

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