episode 5.2: The Gang Hits the Road, episode 5.3: The Great Recession, & episode 5.5: The Waitress is Getting Married.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of the funniest sitcoms currently being made. It is also one of the most horrible. The characters are just the worst people imaginable - they make the characters on Seinfeld look like regular people. The entire show is a satire about how stupid, lazy, underinformed, mean and downright despicable modern society is. Not that it assumes that anyone was ever any better in the past - the character of Frank, played by Danny DeVito, proves that, in the world of Always Sunny, people have always been despicable monsters.
The reason I am talking about these three episodes in a clump is that I watched them all in a clump at my friend's house, and so couldn't review them one by one. Also, I don't have to write variations of the exact same introduction three times in a row.
The Gang Hits the Road: One of the running jokes of the show is that the male characters overtly treats the show's token female character like traditional sitcom writers have often treated their token female characters - with contempt. Sweet Dee is the token female in question, and although she is one of the funniest characters, all of the other characters treat her like she doesn't matter, because she is the "useless chick". This is a nice reversal on the traditional sitcom, where the female character would be there to just look pretty, but not actually be funny, or involved in any of the guy-oriented storylines (I'm thinking here of Diane from Cheers, that token woman from Taxi whose name I can't remember, the black woman on Newsradio, most of the female characters in That Seventies Show. I am not criticising the actresses who played these parts, often better than they were written, but the writers who didn't seem to know what to do with the female characters. I am also not criticising the odd show that actually did successfully use their female cast properly, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Burns and Allen). My point in all this rambling incohenerency is that this joke comes to a sort of climax in this episode, where the guys all plan to take a road trip to see the Grand Canyon, and they don't invite Dee. She finds out about the trip, and the guys all spend a good deal of the rest of the episode either trying to get rid of her, or constantly criticising her. Her reactions to all this horrible behaviour are hilarious, and are sort of what makes it okay for the men to all be so mean to her - she is just as bad a person as they are.
The Great Recession: This episode plays with another very funny aspect of Always Sunny. The fact that the characters are so egotistical and stupid that they have no idea how the world works. The Financial Crisis has meant that a shanty town has started right in front of the bar that everybody in the show owns or works at (boy I'm a bad reviewer. I didn't even mention where the fucking thing was taking place until the review of the second episode.) So Mac and Dennis decide to cook up one of their worst plans yet - Paddy's Dollars (the pub is called 'Paddy's Pub'). These were supposed to act as incentives to get people drinking at Paddy's, sort of like a loyalty card, except that they didn't actually make anyone buy anything in order to get the Paddy's Dollars, they just distributed them for free. So, at the end of the day, they had sold all their inventory for zero dollars. Or as Dennis puts it, "well, no actual dollars, but we made all our Paddy's Dollars back." The only problem with this episode is that the character of Charlie is used poorly. Charlie is some sort of unidiagnosed mentally-retarded person, who is often the funniest person on the show, but in this episode he is given very little to do. He has a not very funny run in the Mac and Dennis storyline where he tries to defend his job, and in the Dee and Frank storyline (where they try to start a business together, because Frank, who was a millionairre, was whiped out by the Financial Crisis, and Dee is a moron) he makes a brief and unfunny appearance as a "crab man," someone who is trying to get Dee and Frank to invest in his crabbing venture. Apart from the underutilisation of Charlie, however, it is a very good episode.
The Waitress is Getting Married: This, however, is an even better episode, precisely because of its use of Charlie. The Waitress is a woman who Charlie is stalking, and it turns out that she is getting married to a man Dee dated in High School. Dee wants everyone in the bar's help to stop this from happening because she is jealous of the waitress getting married before her, and the others decide that they need to get Charlie interested in other women, so that he won't be too devestated when Dee's plan inevitably fails. This is not out of concern for Charlie's happiness or well being, but simply a safety precaution. They worry that if Charlie were to find out that the love of his life was marrying someone else, he might come in to the bar and kill everyone. The date between Charlie and the woman he meets over the internet is one of the funniest things I have ever seen, as is Charlie's attempts to write a personal profile for match.com. This is a very good episode, and it ends on a surprisingly sweet note. Although it is telling that the surprisingly sweet note involves someone giving someone else a box of hornets as a 'present'. That is as sweet as Always Sunny ever gets.