At a Hollywood screening of the season eight premiere of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Rob McElhenney reiterated the winning formula for the show’s seven year run.
“The end of each episode is a total reset button,” said McElhenney.
“So when we come back in to the next episode, it’s as if the whole previous episode or previous five seasons almost didn’t happen
Fittingly, McElhenney’s character “Mac” opened season eight by walking into Paddy’s Pub and announcing that his “sudden and extreme weight loss” would not affect his ability to be the protector of the bar. The intro is a diversion from the central storyline of season seven, where Mac’s newfound heftiness was a recurring joke.
When shows go on for as long as Sunny has, they tend to bring in big guest stars or take liberties with the plots that they might not have tried in their prime. Sunny flirted with this in Season Seven with the Mac storyline but now eight years into their improbable run, these Philly boys return to their roots and take a page from their past.
The first episode, “Pop-Pop: The Final Solution,” brings back a familiar enemy (the lawyer) who comes to Paddy’s seeking Dennis and Dee’s permission to pull the plug on their hospital-stricken grandfather (a former Nazi) who is on life support. While Dennis and Dee struggle to take their pop-pop’s life, Mac, Charlie and Frank search for his Nazi treasure. The plot is a treat for die-hard Sunny fans who might recall the sixth episode in Season One, where Charlie discovers that Dennis and Dee’s grandfather is a Nazi.
Episode One Spoiler Alert – Charlie took one of his most prized possessions, a painting of a German Shepherd, from Dennis and Dee’s grandfather. Frank’s disdain for the painting landed it in Cricket’s hands and eventually he sold it to a dentist. Mac, believing the painting could have been a Hitler creation persuades Charlie to steal it from the dentist’s office. In typical Sunny fashion the action ends at the bar where Charlie reveals he painted the German Shepherd over the original and the boys light the painting on fire. The flames melt off Charles’s version and show the original signature of Hitler. While it wasn’t Sunny’s best twist ending, the cast showed that they still have the sense of blind adventure that has captivated cable TV audiences. Which leads to Episode Two…
In the second episode “The Gang Recycles Their Trash,” a garbage strike creates a mess in Philadelphia and the gang concocts a plot to clean it up. The episode borrows the idea and eventually some of the same dynamics of “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” from Season Four. While Dennis, Charlie and Mac go the door-to-door garbage man route, Dee and Frank try to woo a Gay city official (another recurring character) into giving them the garbage contract. The show pokes fun at its struggle to fight its basic formula when the gang talks about its next big scheme: “We’ve done thing’s like this all the time” “How often does it work out?”
Spoiler Alert: the episode has its moments, and memorable quotes: “Politics is all one big ass blast.” They bring back one of the show’s most memorable moments, Charlie’s brake cutting “Wildcard” in “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” but this time Mac smartens up and fixes the car’s brakes, a rare learned lesson by the gang. In the end Sunny is right where it should be, the gang’s plan fails and they are on to the next one.
Sunny hasn’t jumped the shark yet by any means. With this cast and crew of writers you always get the feeling that there are some ideas left in the tank.
The start of Season Eight will keep the casual viewer entertained and the die-hard fan hooked, although there’s still more to be desired from this gang. For now, sticking to the tried and true winning formula feels like a sound game plan.