Always Sunny’s 16th Season Proves Idiocy Doesn’t Age

Comedy Reviews It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Always Sunny’s 16th Season Proves Idiocy Doesn’t Age

The sun has shined bright for the Paddy’s Pub gang’s nearly 20-year run. The most lovable, despicable people to grace television, Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito) are back in Philly for a season that kicks the pandemic to the curb. Fresh off the heels from a pandemic-centric and story-driven 15th season—and coinciding launch of the ongoing The Always Sunny Podcast—It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s latest run takes off the post-COVID training wheels and rides back to its glorious, unhinged episodic state. Most of the gang may be well into their forties, but Season 16 proves that idiocy becomes riper with age, much like fine wine. To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey: “That’s what I love about the gang, man. I get older. They stay the same age.

The last viewers saw the gang, they caused a wee bit of mayhem in Dublin, Ireland, during peak COVID times. Now, back in the States as their unapologetically awful selves, they take aim at inflation, celebrities, and themselves. By taking the utmost advantage of modern American culture, the Always Sunny writers deliver another hysterically funny comedic round, exemplifying why these terrible people are the best at being the worst. 

The premiere episode, “The Gang Inflates,” tackles how the 2021 economic inflation surge affected the gang…that is, if Mac and Dennis knew what inflation meant in the first place. Frank schools the clueless Mac and Dennis on the definition of inflation, using a theoretical squirrel with fancy nuts as an example. With a newfound understanding of the current economic state, Mac and Dennis come up with an inflatable furniture scheme to get quick cash. Of course, it’s only a short matter of time before matters become obscenely insane. The following episode that aired alongside it, “Frank Shoots Every Member of the Gang,” once again has the gang ridiculing the—still too hot—subject of American gun control, or lack thereof.

Both episodes are as funny as they are ingenious, establishing the rhythm for the rest of the season. Throughout the six episodes sent for critics, Sunny 16 finds equilibrium in the plots wavering between classical absurdity or ribbing modern America, with a chaotic crux in tow. Sunny’s sharp-as-nails writing team, consisting of Day, Howerton, McElhenney, David Hornsby, and veteran writers Nina Pedrad, Megan Ganz, and Rob Rosell, combine silly concepts as the foreground for relevant or unspoken social commentary.  

The upcoming “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab” is a notable one that will delight Sunny fans who have been waiting a decade for Aaron Paul’s dream to star on the show to come true. The episode features Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as fictionalized versions of themselves to bring about a commentary on celebrities who cash in on their public image through branded alcohol, something Sunny’s creators are guilty of doing themselves. As expected, Paul and Cranston are in on the fun and provide delightful performances worthy of a “Best Guest Star in a Comedy Series” Emmy. Not to give too much of that episode away, but the starring duo cook up a fun fictional dynamic that fits the series’ demented nature. 

A personal favorite of mine is the sixth episode, titled “Risk E. Rat’s Pizza & Amusement Center.” Here, the gang confronts their contentious existence while on a trip to a Chuck E. Cheese-styled restaurant from their youth. On arrival, they’re furious to see that the traditionalist values and once stereotypical animatronic mascots have been updated to fit into the politically correct landscape. The episode, written by Rosell, skillfully has the gang break off into groups—Dee and Frank discussing outdated terms and sexist practices, Charlie and Dennis getting pervy over an animatronic character, and Mac quarreling with a child over unredeemed tickets—and forcing them to look themselves in the mirror. It’s as if the episode addresses the “You couldn’t make this show today,” comments many have said, and the Sunny team responds with, “You’re right, we can’t. But damn it, we’re going to stick around.” The gang’s havoc in the restaurant is a direct mirror of its product-of-its-time offensive humor during its early years—using ableist slurs, doing racist accents, etc.—and exploring how their values have changed. Or, at the very least, what these characters can comprehend. It’s typical Sunny-styled provocativeness that’s also extremely funny

The season offers plenty of fan-service callbacks and Easter eggs for longtime Sunny fans as well as new additions. They introduce new family members for new comical dynamics, like Mac’s Uncle Donald, the father figure Mac always wanted but could care less about. And Charlie’s younger, successful yet mean-spirited influencer twin sisters. At times, it references some of its most notable moments in passing—a bit from a later episode, “Frank Vs. Russia,” where Frank is called a gay ally because of Mac’s dance from the incredible Season 13 episode, “Mac Finds His Pride”—and then does a hilarious 180 on them (within 30 seconds of saying he “got the gay thing,” Frank retracts his statement due to Mac sharing a bizarre dating habit). On any other occasion, it’s frustrating to see characters regress. When the Sunny gang does it, it’s fitting. It’s like expecting The Three Stooges to not poke each other in the eyes. It’s simply not going to happen. If characters aren’t doing sudden reversals, they instead further develop several series-high moments, such as Dennis’ dating system making its long-awaited return or Mac’s obsession with (a very game) Chase Utley getting closure.  

Several notable recurring players absent from the fresh-pandemic season, including Mrs. McDonald (Sandy Martin), Bonnie Kelly (Lynne Marie Stewart), and Uncle Jack (Andrew Friedman), all make their grand returns. You can sense how everyone in the show heavily missed their presence, and they make up for it by giving them ample screen time in multiple episodes. Even Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby) gets some time in the sun in the episode “The Gang Gets Cursed,” which Hornsby penned.

16 seasons in, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia maintains its high dose of vitamin D. As outrageously funny as its prior seasons while also providing refreshing commentary and clever concepts, this series that easily “couldn’t have been made today” keeps finding new ways to stay youthful and spry.

Season 16 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesdays on FXX.

Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.

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