Season eight of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been a fascinating experiment for Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney. The creative trio largely responsible for the show’s path has tooled around with the normal It’s Always Sunny formula and have turned in some of the most self-referential and self-aware episodes of television. It’s the stuff that makes the show more along the lines of Community and Arrested Development than Seinfeld, which it has been compared to for eight seasons. This eighth season has gone into the depths of the show, making callbacks to as far back as the first season. It’s an experiment that so far has worked pretty well, and even when it doesn’t, it’s compelling to watch.
The latest installment in this bizarro world version of It’s Always Sunny is “Charlie’s Mom Has Cancer,” which references back to the season one episode “Charlie Has Cancer,” where Charlie pretended to have cancer in order to win over The Waitress. This time around, Charlie’s mom has lung cancer due to secondhand smoke from her roommate, Mac’s chain smoking mother. Their dynamic is such a weird one, it’s great to see Charlie and Mac’s mothers back together again.
Charlie’s mom needs money for treatment from Dr. Jinx, a man who lives in a garage filled with houseplants and likes to play New Kids on the Block songs on his bass guitar. Oh, and he’s played by P. Diddy. I’ll admit, I think that Sean Combs acting career is greatly underappreciated. Besides a chilling performance in Monster’s Ball, he still one of the greatest parts of Get Him to the Greek. The man has comedic timing and ranks up there with Sinbad and Rob Thomas as one of the best cameos on the show.
“Charlie’s Mom Has Cancer” is all about scams, from a terrible psychic that Dee visits to the fact that Charlie’s mom is faking cancer, much like she learned from her son. Frank also believes his ex-wife is scamming him and that she is still alive, burying money in graves all around Philly. Or maybe this is just another side effect of Dee believing that Frank is losing it and his brain is turning to mush. Dennis is also getting terrifyingly cold, since he no longer feels any emotions. He decides to use the model of the church to use people to get money through a beef and beer benefit at Paddy’s, since he also believes churches are scams.
This is a great episode for both Dennis and Frank as they are both in their best element. Dennis is quickly becoming the monster the show has been building up to for seasons and it’s a joy to watch him pretend to care about religion and then immediately shut off all fake emotion. This is also the second week in a row for a great Frank storyline, as he’s in that perfect medium of being completely senile or a horrible genius.
So far, this season of It’s Always Sunny has been a surprise each week, challenging what we know about the style of the show, breathing fresh air and smart ideas into the show almost a decade into its run that rewards fans of the series. It’s gone from a show where each week, the formula is almost exactly the same to a refreshing shock with every new installment. ‘Charlie’s Mom Has Cancer” is another great piece in this exciting experiment that allows the show to try as many different, and completely off-the-wall ideas as they can and see what they can get away with, much like The Gang themselves have done for years.