Longevity in TV comedy isn’t always an indicator of quality. Most of the longer-running sitcoms, whether animated like The Simpsons or Family Guy, or live-action like The Big Bang Theory,have become tent pole shows for their networks. They peaked years ago (if at all). Homer and Bart might still engage in an inspired exchange, but any Simpsons historian will point to much earlier episodes as the show’s creative high-water mark.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, whose 13th season premieres September 5th, has always been a bit of an outlier, and that includes what period of the show’s life cycle we can identify as “best.” Unlike most long-running shows, Always Sunny gets better with age.
The show began as a Seinfeld homage before (d)evolving into something weirder, more obscene, and funnier. It began to suss out an identity as Danny DeVito joined the cast in season two, mutating with every new batch of episodes, and growing less and less tethered to anything resembling reality. Weirder is not always better, but in the case of Always Sunny, the rule definitely holds, and the Sunny writing room has found a way to fold early series gags and characters into absurdist world-building.
And that’s where the series really shines. It’s hard to point to a specific moment in Sunny lore when there was enough old material to remix into something newer and weirder, but anything from season eight and onward makes sense.
It could have been season eight’s “The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre,” which deftly combined the Ponderosa and McPoyle families and added liberal amounts of bath salt. The two families have provided some of the series’ best moments to date, and getting them under one roof resulted in 20 minutes of comedy gold.
It could have been season 10’s “Psycho Pete Returns,” which features a trip to a mental institution that DeVito’s Frank Reynolds claims to have attended as a kid in a season 8 episode, complete with a grotesque reimagining of “The Frog Kid,” an amphibian/human hybrid that Frank said he shared rooms with. The idea of a “Frog Kid” is funny and absurd enough, especially with DeVito’s delivery. That the show revisited the character years later not only worked on a comedic level, but it also added another layer of mythology to Frank’s increasingly depressing backstory.
Or it could have been season 11’s “Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo,” a sequel to one of the series’ most iconic episodes. You didn’t have to watch season 7’s “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games” to find the sequel funny, but prior knowledge definitely enhanced it.
The list goes on. Most long-running half-hour comedy shows are interested in telling one-off stories, and while growth isn’t unheard of, it’s rarely the emphasis. Always Sunny has routinely bucked that trend. FXX has committed to at least a season 14, and star Charlie Day has publicly stated that he wants to bring that number to 15. If any comedy in television history deserves that level of longevity, it is Always Sunny, which defies trends and gets better with age.
Agree or disagree, let us know which era of Always Sunny is your favorite in the comments section below!