This It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia review contains spoilers.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 13 Epiosde 1
Thirteen seasons makes It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia the longest running live-action cable program of all-time. With a lifespan like that, it’s inevitable that the Sunny brain trust of Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, and Glenn Howerton would aim to shake-up the status quo to see if new dynamics could bear fresh comedic fruit. Last season ended with Mac fully acknowledging his sexuality, Charlie finally landing the Waitress, and Dennis seemingly departing for North Dakota and a new life as a father. Howerton’s real-life commitment to network comedy A.P. Bio made it appear that his departure or a part-time status would be permanent, but the joke’s on us.
Here’s the thing; shaking up the status quo runs directly counterintuitive to the Sunny ethos that was created by Seinfeld and then taken to insane levels of depravity: no hugging, no learning. For our Paddy’s gang to grow and change would contradict everything that we’ve learned about this group of psychos. So of course, by the end of “The Gang Makes Paddy’s Great Again,” Dennis is back, Charlie and the Waitress are kaput, and everything seems back to normal. It’s a predictable, but fitting end and a perfect way to reset the table for the season. I don’t need Sunny to tinker with its formula in its old age, a la South Park with its recent attempts at serialization, I just need it to supply laughs delivered by the biggest group of deplorables on television.
Unfortunately, “The Gang Makes Paddy’s Great Again” wasted its best gag in the promos for the new season. If you’ve seen anything leading up to this new episode, then you likely have already seen the Dennis sex doll that Mac bought to “fill the Dennis sized-hole” in his life. The shock of seeing the sex doll would have likely made me gut laugh, but fully expecting it, the gag doesn’t land half as hard. However, the joke is aided by the Gang pretending to hear the sex doll say things that Dennis would say, like calling Dee a bird or criticizing Mac for being fat.
The presence of the doll is a complete annoyance to the new member and de facto leader of the gang, Cindy, played by Mindy Kaling. As one of the most consistently hilarious and awful characters on The Office, Kaling fits like a glove in the Sunny ensemble and I’m sad that we likely won’t get to watch her occupy the Dennis space for a bit longer. Cindy is trying to pull a con on a neighboring bar using liberals and conservatives, giving the episode its played-out title, but luckily, the gang’s easily distracted nature and obsession with being lorded over by Dennis keep the politics at bay.
Naturally, Mac’s attention and self-esteem issues prove to be the most distracting. Mac is back in shape and looking super cut actually, adding another chapter to Rob McElhenney’s impressive commitment to body comedy. Mac keeps looking to incorporate shirtlessness (he even rocks the famous duster shirtless) into the plan that Cindy’s forming, and doesn’t understand why that isn’t helpful. It’s a good joke the first time, but gets progressively stale once repeated over and over again.
The funniest moment in the episode is probably the most predictable. Charlie is getting annoyed by the Waitress, so he decides to use the Dennis sex doll to keep the Waitress company and keep her from calling while he hangs at Paddy’s with the gang. Naturally, when he returns to the apartment, the Waitress has had sex with the Dennis doll, saying that he tricked her into it. Like I said, you know the moment is coming before Charlie opens the door, but it’s still hilarious. The Dennis doll serving as this evil, manipulative presence is something that easily could have sustained itself for another few episodes, though I’m not opposed to having the genuine article back at the end of the episode, as smug and cold as ever.
So, though none of the big changes stuck, “The Gang Makes Paddy’s Great Again” is a pleasant, if sort of safe reintroduction to our favorite cast of characters. Old jokes, like the duster, Mac’s famous Mac and Cheese, and our character’s established ticks and flaws are on display alongside some new, genuinely odd side-splitters, like Charlie playing the Dennis doll’s ass like a tuba and Cindy correctly detailing their sad, weird orgy the night before. All of the hoopla about Howerton’s exit and the show’s reinvention seems to be for naught. Sunny is back and as great as it has ever been.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.