This review of Always Sunny contains spoilers.
Always Sunny Season 14 Episode 1
Finding love in real life these days is filtered through the prism of our phones and computers. You can create a profile to fit the type of lover you want to be, not the one you are, or use images to manipulate the online dating system. Anonymity behind a little black screen can allow you to create your own narrative, not unlike a rom-com screenplay. Rom-coms have almost become a form of escapism and fantasy as real-world interactions become, sadly, devalued and opportunities for a “meet-cute” may be few and far between.
In casting the leads of a rom-com or meeting with an online dating match, you can’t always account for chemistry until two potential love interests come face to face. And that’s where the Gang’s scheme in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s season 14 premiere begins to take a wild turn.
The real beauty of “The Gang Gets Romantic” is not love found or lost, but the simplicity in all of it. Mac and Dennis plan to list their apartment on Airbnb hoping they can manufacture a meet-cute. While it’s undoubtedly deceiving to the Airbnb user, Mac’s heart is in close enough to right place, he calls it “charming,” whereas Dennis refers to it as a “trap.” Dee is just happy to have a supporting role in their rom-com. Charlie and Frank ape the plan by creating a listing (a bus station flier) that they believe will entice young bohemians with no sexual boundaries to their apartment. It’s creepy at best and predatory at worst.
So the cold open sets the stage for two doors to open and for anyone to walk in. The key to the episode was avoiding all the worst instincts that could come with this setup. We routinely point to the show’s use of recurring characters as its strong suit, but placing visitors from outside of Philadelphia into these characters’ most intimate space was both ripe for jokes and a way to explore their current living situations. Charlie and Frank are a rock solid roommate unit, but what happens when you throw newbies, like the two old Scandanavian men who show up, into the mix? And with Mac coming out in grand fashion in the season 13 finale, one of the show’s very best episodes, what’s in a scheme like this for him?
Where comedies of a certain age (looking at you, long-running animated ones) routinely fail to recapture the magic of their early years, “The Gang Gets Romantic” is a prime example of how Always Sunny can still hit all the same notes as some of their greatest hits. There are some diminishing returns–the Charlie and Frank side of the proceedings land better than Mac, Dennis, and Dee’s plan–but overall the episode stays on message and actually has something heartfelt to say about love. Mac wanted to create a rom-com and he delivered with lust, big gestures, tragedy, and finally, love and hope. For once, new friends came to Philly, met (at least part of) the Gang, and left better off for it. I truly hope Charlie and Frank’s house guests, Nikki and Alexi, come back a year from now.
In recent seasons, a handful of strong episodes have been credited to other writers, but co-creators Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney are still the driving force behind nearly every aspect of the show. This episode was the directorial debut for Howerton on a script written by McElhenney and Day. Behind the camera, Howerton fully understands the strengths of his long-time collaborators and added some of his own directorial flourishes to round out a tight season premiere. The acting at this point is so effortless, and these actors feels so comfortable in the shoes of these characters, that they don’t need to overextended the performances or go deeper into the rabbit hole of weirdness. What could have spiraled into a messy, tech-driven Modern Love column was a simple yet sweet love story packed with the types of personality quirks, plot twists, and misdirection that made us fall for Always Sunny in the first place.
In a nice touch during the credits, Howerton’s camera lingers on Frank and Charlie. Their lives go on, but their bond, thanks to these visitors passing through (with just a smidge of ass play from the European girls), is stronger because of it. And it’s in these stories that give the rest of us hope that love will someday find us, too.
Frank’s Little Beauties:
– I can’t begin to process how “Warthog-Orgyfart.edu” became Frank’s email account. Sounds like a prestigious institution.
– See a seperate post later this week in which I consult with leading physicians to breakdown the merits of the toe knife vs. the toe spoon.
– Charlie is clearly going through something after his untimely breakup with The Waitress. If freaky, post-break up sex with a hot foreign girl can’t get him through a funk, perhaps a pen pal relationship with his buddy Nikki will? Charlie can’t exactly articulate rational thought through writing per se, but he’s an excellent artist.
– The toilet plunger meet-cute was the hardest I laughed during the episode and I hope that’s exactly how I meet my future wife.
– Also good: Meat Cubes.