By Adam Shater
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” aired the final episode of its ninth season last week, capping off one of the more outrageous and quirky seasons of the show’s seven-year run.
“It’s Always Sunny,” whose self-prescribed tagline is “Seinfeld on Crack,” kept up with the high quality of unique humor that has helped make it—-and keep it—-a favorite among viewers.
The show returned to the formula of older seasons early on with the second episode, “Gun Fever Too: Still Hot,” using the episode as a thinly veiled device to explore the Second Amendment debate that seems to flare up every election season.
However, the season’s bread was more fully buttered in the second half of the season, starting with “The Gang Saves the Day.” Following somewhat weak efforts during the two weeks prior, this episode was one of the best of the season—-each member of the gang, caught in the middle of a convenience store during an armed robbery, imagine themselves partaking in a ridiculous chain of events that shows them saving the day. Sort of.
Mac’s and Dennis’ fantasies were by far the funniest, but Dee’s, Charlie’s and Frank’s ideas also made for decent scenes.
The subsequent week’s episode, “The Gang Gets Quarantined,” was clearly the season’s best-written and overall funniest installment of the season. It follows the gang as they quarantine themselves inside of their bar the night before a Boyz II Men a cappella contest because of a flu that has broken out in Philadelphia, and features one of the better scenes of the season with Charlie and Mac shopping for food in Hazmat suits, as well as a twist(ed) ending.
The show’s ratings did show a significant dip this season, though. The latest season only averaged about 530,000 viewers per episode, which was way down from the eighth season’s average viewership of 1.06 million viewers per episode.
This was mainly because “It’s Always Sunny” was used as one of the flagship programs for FX’s new channel FXX, which is a new channel aimed at the older 18-34 demographic. FXX was only launched three days before the premiere episode, so smaller ratings were to be expected. It will be interesting to see if this sharp drop in viewership frustrates the cast of “It’s Always Sunny” and tempts them into exploring other channels.
Other than perhaps HBO and Showtime, it would be tough for any network to give the show the kind of free reign that FXX gives it with their material and sense of humor.
Another thing to look out for is Charlie Day’s rapidly rising fame as a legitimate Hollywood actor. In the last two years, he recently starred in the hit movies “Horrible Bosses” and “Pacific Rim,” both of which were huge box office hits.
Far too often have there been stars in shows with ensemble casts that seem to rise to a higher level of fame and want to pursue bigger projects—–such as Steve Carell from “The Office.”
It might be a slightly different situation since Day is best friends with Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney, who play Dennis and Mac on the show, respectively. But it’s still something to keep an eye on. “It’s Always Sunny” would really struggle to survive if it lost Day as a cast member, or any of the five main cast members for that matter.
It’s a testament to both the writing and actors that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has been able to stay fresh even after airing 104 episodes over nine seasons. Usually TV shows, especially sitcoms, peak around their fifth or sixth season, and from there freefall into terrible excuses for television that get syndicated on TV Land five years later.
“It’s Always Sunny” has avoided this decline in quality for the most part. This is likely because nothing is off-limits for a plot for an episode. Where many sitcoms usually have to stay within the boundaries of either the central focus of the show—–like FXX’s other flagship show “The League” or “How I Met Your Mother”—–or its family-friendly demographic—-like “The Big Bang Theory”—–“It’s Always Sunny” really doesn’t run into these problems.
The main focus of the show is five bumbling, self-obsessed idiots who try to make their increasingly ridiculous ideas become reality. Where can’t you go with that?
It sure seems like the cast and crew of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” are trying to find the answer to that question.
Let’s just hope they never do.