There’s an episode of South Park – another one of the greatest shows of all-time, but maybe, only in the cartoon category – in which Cartman tricks a kid into eating his own parents. (Spoiler Alert, I guess, the episode is more than 12 years old). Scott Tenorman Must Die is the title of that episode. It takes a simple prank pulled by Scott, Cartman eating Tenorman’s pubic hair, and takes the retaliation to it, to a next level.
Last nights premiere of the ninth season of It’s Always Sunny, took that same type of scheme, put it in their idea bank of awesome; and out came, easily, one of their finest episodes ever.
It’s Always Sunny has reached uncanny levels of success from it’s humble beginnings, sans Danny DeVito in 2005. To it’s introduction of DeVito as Frank Reynolds in its sophomore season, Sunny has shocked many, while staying fairly inventive for its nearly 10-year run. Does Sunny’s length of nine seasons put it at the same level as per say, another little “show about nothing”? Not based on the amount of seasons its had, no, but actually on its merits, yes. It’s Always Sunny, although at times is a little tired and cliche, like season six in which Sweet Dee Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson) gets pregnant, and there’s all those usual crazy pregnant hi-jinx that ensue, and the season before this, eight, hit a lull with the loss of fat Mac (Rob McElhenney) and the return to their classical, situational sociopath comedy.
The build up to this season of It’s Always Sunny, was obviously a poke at the new transition FX was in while they shipped the show to their new sister channel, FXX (real clever):
Looking at that, it’s a little obvious that Sunny, may be heading in a darker direction. Well, darker than “The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby” and “Dennis Looks Like A Registered Sex Offender”.
With “The Gang Breaks Dee”, last nights premiere, Sunny took the “Scott Tenorman” approach. Put a nice shiny thing in front of your audience, reel them in then, bam! Pull the rug out from under them revealing one of their darkest, most morbid and deranged episodes they’ve ever created. And this is a show, as mentioned previously, that had the gang discover a baby in a dumpster and then trying to turn said dumpster baby into a pageant baby.
Without spoiling anything, Dee has always had the dream of being a stand up comedian – as anyone who’s watched the show would know. The gang notice Dee not taking their insults as per the usual, and they decide to help her, as they do everyone. Dennis (Glen Howerton) thinks her self-esteem can be helped by finding her a man, but only a mediocre one. Someone that will make her feel above them. The other half of the gang, Charlie (Charlie Day), Frank and Mac, think getting her on the stage will defeat her over-encumbering depression.
Throughout the episode, they turn a mirror on what they’ve been doing for the last nine years. Taking the fun out of everything while continuing their abstract realistic fantasy. Dee is like that friend on the brink of suicide who throws every put down you throw at them right back in your face, before you even say it. Redundant remarks become a task. While you laughed, you actually felt bad for the character, something Sunny has never been too good at.
Just like Seinfeld. Jerry, Elaine, George, and now especially, Kramer, never deserved or even came close to garnering the viewers sympathies. Even as they sat in jail in the final episode (again, spoiler alert, but for real, its been 14 years. You should know how Seinfeld ended.) you never felt a shred of remorse. They got what they deserved. It was a cop-out, but it was their intrinsic karma.
With the gang in Sunny, they too, have never deserved the viewers remorse. They’re awful people who allow us an outlet to laugh at the awful things we’ve thought about, or maybe actually done. Like idiotic drinking games that destroy the human psyche:
Like, CharDee MacDennis: The Game of Games. Where things like this occur (and we’ve all been here):
Aside from CharDee MacDennis, the series has always been about the exploits of awful, stupid people, doing awful, stupid things. It was the same whimsical music for cuts, the same characters, with the same actors, but something was a shade darker. The collapse and rise of Sweet Dee Reynolds, the usually scheming that Charlie, Mac, Dennis, and Frank do, all of it is routine. Somehow though, in their ninth season, they were able to take their usual schtick of megalomania, narcissism and adolescent hubris; and kick that shit to 11. They’re like Roger Clemens after 20 years of pitching, going to Houston and never pitching above a 3.00 ERA, including a 1.87 in 2005. Or the Cy Young he won in 2004. They’ve hit a prime that no one ever saw coming – and without PEDs either. (Roger, we’re all looking at you here.)
Seinfeld, Friends, Married With Children, 30 Rock, Cheers, Mad About You, Wings, Home Improvement; really any of the classic television comedies have all hit a certain lull in their waning days, and even seemed to be in a race to the finish line of horrid cliches. Although, Sunny is not perfect, it has stayed ahead of its own curve, that it more than definitely created, much like Seinfeld before. It sets a standard. Few can live up to it, but most continue imitating it.