‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Remains Gloriously Dysfunctional in Season 15
The saying about certain things, and people, growing better with age, like a fine wine, can be applied to some comedies as well. Here is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” returning after a two year hiatus for its fifteenth season, which is a record for a live-action comedy. Somehow it’s still really funny. Maybe the trick is in how the main characters are a family. Like many families, the Reynolds never change, even if the times do. Their antics just go with the flow. Indeed, the season premiere isn’t just a reunion. It’s loaded with riffs that might seem already out-of-date, if the cast didn’t have such perfect comedic timing.
The season premiere is titled “2020: A Year in Review,” which is a jab at all those specials that closed off what was a tumultuous year of pandemics, shutdowns, elections and stimulus checks. It turns out that Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson), received three separate PPP loans. When a government inspector (Brian Huskey) shows up to get some answers, the gang updates us on their adventures from 2020 and how they became literal participants in history. Since their pub Paddy’s was shut down (like everyone else) in the early stages of the pandemic, Dennis and Mac established Punch, Inc., which resulted in nothing more than the two forming a country-pop duo. Frank ran his own imports and exports business, which really meant he used Chinese motor oil to dye the hair of men desperate in times of closed salons. One of Frank’s clients turns out to have been Rudy Giuliani. So we have Frank to thank for those famous news conferences where Giuliani insisted the 2020 election was rigged against Trump, as trails of dye ran down his cheeks.
Eventually the government inspector loses his temper and slams the Reynolds as liars, since there’s no way they can be “Forrest Gump.” But this is how idiots stumble into history. Mac and Dennis eventually become “poll watchers,” quizzing Philadelphia voters to sniff out any imposters. The final moments of the season premiere are over-the-top in a hilariously bad way as we see Dennis and Mac somehow amongst the crowds assaulting the Capitol back in January. Like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” we can’t get enough of the Reynolds because they are stubbornly bad and politically incorrect in these very proper, politically correct times. Consider the second episode, “The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 7,” where they decide to make yet another sequel after their fifth and sixth entries were pulled from the local library due to “insensitivity.” These guys are aware of how their work might be perceived, especially since Mac did blackface in their last “Lethal Weapon” follow-up. Even for the new one, Frank demands to sleep with whatever actress they hire.
Pulling off the kind of comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” excels at is difficult because there’s a fine line between being shallowly offensive and genuinely funny. This show is expert at blunting its edge with good absurdity. Once filming begins of “Lethal Weapon 7,” Dee is the first to inhabit the Mel Gibson role, with a bad mullet wig and Australian accent. A pimp named Pepper Jack gets hired to play the Danny Glover role as well. The result is a production akin to “The Room,” with dolls standing in for kids and Frank getting a hand job on camera. Danny DeVito is having too much fun in these moments, referencing the butter scene from “Last Tango in Paris” and sporting a tacky mustache. Later on, in its own weird way, the show even manages to strike a blow in favor of inclusivity.
Many shows can’t keep their usual standard of quality going past three seasons. Now hitting the fifteenth mark, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” still has the potential to keep adding memorable gags on par with its classics like the “Dayman” musical number. Never has it needed to change its quick run time or format. In these woke times it jabs everywhere with wicked glee. There’s a montage where Dennis discovers both conservative and liberal women don’t like crude propositions from men, and Mac has to be told he doesn’t deserve praise just for claiming he isn’t racist. That’s also why we love the Reynolds. There’s something human about being a dysfunctional mess, that will never go out of style.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” season 15 premieres Dec. 1 and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FXX.