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20 Best ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Episodes

We count down the funniest, most WTF misadventures of the Paddy’s Pub gang

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The cast of 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.'

Matthias Clamer/FXX

It started as a lo-fi farce thrown together by four young actors, all of whom had been stuck in bit parts; funny or not, you wouldn't have thought this comedy would have lasted a single season at first glance. Fast forward to almost a decade later, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has gone from cult favorite to one of the flagship shows on FX (and now FXX), displaying a sensibility unlike anything else on television — relying on lightning-speed banter, crazy schemes, and a "can you top this?" sense of shamelessness.

For 10 seasons, the series had mined comic gold from the execrable behavior of the owners of Paddy's Pub: burly, sweet, self-deluded Mac (Rob McElhenny); resourceful slob Charlie (Charlie Day); cynical lothario Dennis (Glenn Howerton); his sad-sack sister "Sweet" Dee (Kaitlin Olson); and libertine troll Frank (Danny DeVito, who joined in the second season). You may not particularly like these folks. They will, however, always make you laugh.

These 20 episodes represent "the gang" at their most appalling — which, not coincidentally, is also when they're at their most hilarious. Wild card, bitches!

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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20

‘The Gang Gets Whacked’ (Season 3, Episode 12/13)

When Frank decides to teach his younger cohorts a lesson in self-reliance by refusing to keep paying their bills, the gang scatters to find the only kinds of work they're qualified to do — then discovers that even those gigs are too demanding for them. Charlie and Dee become drug dealers, but can't stop getting high on their own supply. Mac volunteers to be a mob enforcer, but ends up cleaning the mafia's toilets. And Dennis agrees to let Frank pimp him out to the ladies at his country club, then finds himself agreeing to degradations he'd promised to avoid. ("No ass-play!" quickly becomes "Do you like ass-play? He'll do anything with the ass.") This is Sunny in a nutshell: a group of luckless, short-sighted slackers who get in over their heads, all because they can't scrounge up enough money between them to keep the lights on.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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19

‘Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare’ (Season 2, Episode 3)

The show's inaugural season is a yeoman DIY effort, but the characters, tone, and ambitions really snap into focus in Season Two. "Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare" exemplifies what the series would become, once the plotting got knottier and the social commentary sharpened. Dennis and Dee discover they can make more money from government benefits. Because they need drugs in their blood to maximize their pay-out, however, they smoke a little crack, and soon become addicted — effectively squandering all the cash they'd "earned." It's the kind of premise the show would return to again and again: the comedy of worst-case scenarios.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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18

‘The D.E.N.N.I.S. System’ (Season 5, Episode 10)

Because he likes to think of himself as a helpful sociopath, Dennis occasionally tries to explain how he's so successful with the ladies, guiding his friends through his foolproof six-part process: Demonstrate value, Engage physically, Nurture dependence, Neglect emotionally, Inspire hope, then Separate entirely. But because Charlie, Mac, and Frank are who they are, each wildly misinterprets and misapplies the advice; soon, the gang ventures out into the real world with reckless confidence and are undone by their own idiocy. Meanwhile, Frank advocates for his own method of seduction: carrying around $100 bills and Magnum condoms, so that women will know he has money and "a monster dong."

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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17

‘The Gang Gets a New Member’ (Season 6, Episode 8)

The show's sixth season was affected by Kaitlin Olson's pregnancy, which seemed to inspire the creative team to think about what would happen if all the characters — not just Dee — went through some radical changes. Hence, Charlie is exiled from the bar and gets a job as a high school janitor, while Mac and Dennis find their boyhood buddy Schmitty (played by Jason Sudeikis) and try to make him their new Charlie. Some of the best Sunnys contrast the gang's lifestyle with what normal people do, and that's what happens here, as Schmitty upends the whole Paddy's dynamic just by asking one very simple question: "Why?"

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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16

‘Mac Day’ (Season 9, Episode 5)

Rob McElhenny plays Mac as a guy with boyish enthusiasm and an easily bruised ego, which is a big part of what's kept that character (and his pals) from seeming irredeemably, unwatchably awful. "Mac Day" is both a celebration and explanation of Sunny's karate-loving, Christian fundamentalist, repressed homosexual man-child. When the Paddy's crew has to spend the whole day doing whatever their bartender wants, they're initially annoyed. Then Mac's badass country cousin (played by Seann William Scott) rides into town, and we get a demonstration of how martial arts and incessant drunkenness can be cool when practiced by someone who's not trying so hard.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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15

‘The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention’ (Season 5, Episode 4)

Danny DeVito joined the cast in the second season, and his Frank quickly evolved from a soft authority figure — father to Dennis, Dee, and possibly Charlie — into the new standard for just how disgusting a human being can be. Here, the kids decide that the old man's alcoholism just isn't "fun" anymore, and call on a therapist to help; they discover that the doctor is just as disturbed by how drunk and rude everyone at Paddy's is. Soon, the gang is springing "interventions" on each other for everything from Charlie's illiteracy to Mac's pathetic romantic life. The only one who remains un-chastened is Frank, who continues on with his plan: spending his remaining years on Earth by doing his best to "get really weird with it."

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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14

‘Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass’ (Season 2, Episode 9)

This one belongs in the canon for its magnificent title alone, along with Charlie's improvised 15-second musical number "Rock, Flag & Eagle," which he sings about how he's "gonna climb a mountain, gonna sew a flag" to prove that he's the most patriotic of everyone. Even without the song, however this particular episode is a keeper. As Charlie and Dee stand up for their rights not be exposed to cigarette smoke — causing Mac, Dennis and Frank push back by making Paddy's an "anything goes" bar — the competing visions of what freedom means leads everyone to put their lives and jobs at risk just to prove a stupid point.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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13

‘Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person’ (Season 3, Episode 9)

The title refers to the B-plot, where Dee lets Dennis' insults get under her skin and starts scrutinizing her rapper boyfriend Lil' Kevin to figure out if he's mentally handicapped. (Arguments for: He lives with his mom, he drinks juice boxes, and he hugs really hard.) But the real action happens when the men of Paddy's decide to form a rock & roll band, and then splinter into factions over disagreements about everything from their name — Frank favors the Pecan Sandies, which he swears is a double-entendre — to whether they should rehearse. In the larger Sunny mythology, this episode is important for introducing the idea that the illiterate simpleton Charlie is secretly a musical prodigy, who writes a sexually charged prog-rock song that will figure prominently in the fan-favorite "The Nightman Cometh."

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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12

‘The World Series Defense’ (Season 5, Episode 6)

Two of Charlie's funkiest alter-egos pop up in this episode: his "Green Man" mascot, ready to show up the Phillie Phanatic (called the "Phrenetic" here to avoid a lawsuit from Major League Baseball); and his best impression of a country lawyer. It also benefits from a classic flashback device, with everyone in deep, deep trouble before the opening credits, already having to defend themselves before an actual authority figure. Their explanation for why they owe over $1000 in parking fines starts as a story about a trip to a ballgame, and ends with secret, corpse-strewn Scooby Doo tunnels under Philadelphia, because the gang assumes that the judge — and the television audience — is getting bored with what really happened.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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11

‘Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens’ (Season 5, Episode 8)

Most IASIP episodes split into smaller, short-lived alliances, but "Kitten Mittens" has them all working toward a single goal. With a merchandising convention in town, everyone starts brainstorming products that could both promote the bar and make them rich: mittens for noisy cats, a toy shotgun (or "shot-gun") that dispenses alcohol, a bath towel with a drawing of a butt on one side and an enormous cock on the other. They steal ideas, sandbag each other, and try to win over their reluctant attorney by offering him rolls in the hay with big-breasted prostitutes (each chestier than the last). As hapless as this group may be, never let it be said that they don't make an effort.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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10

‘The Gang Gets Analyzed’ (Season 8, Episode 5)

Frank, Charlie, Mac, and Dennis break in on Dee's therapy session in order to get her psychoanalyst to decide who should've done the dishes after the previous night's dinner. The doc (played by The State's Kerri Kinney-Silver) consults with each of them separately, and comes to some unexpected conclusions — including reassuring Charlie that he's "perfectly normal," so long as he's comfortable in his own skin. (His takeaway: figure out a way to get more skin.) The unusual structure sets this episode apart, as does the way it thoroughly picks apart who these people really are and how they've warped each other.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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9

‘Frank Reynolds’ Little Beauties’ (Season 7, Episode 3)

Frank's commitment to inappropriateness hits its limit when he becomes the new manager of children's beauty pageant, taking over for a convicted pedophile. He turns to his co-workers for help, and before long, the gang is designing unintentionally suggestive musical numbers for the kids. Meanwhile, Frank — in pasty make-up — is delivering stage banter along the lines of, "Which one of these talented entertainers who I am not attracted to at all will be the winner?" This episode satirizes the increasingly sexualized pageant scene, while also reminding the audience that it doesn't take much tweaking to make Danny DeVito's character look like an actual monster.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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8

‘The Gang Makes ‘Lethal Weapon 6” (Season 9, Episode 9)

Back in Season Six, the episode "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth" featured a long sequence where Dee shows the gang's sloppy, possibly racist home-movie version of Lethal Weapon 5 to high-schoolers. Three years later, IASIP devoted an entire episode to the sequel of the sequel, seen in snippets as Mac and Dennis screen footage for potential investors. There's a high level of conceptual difficulty going on here, with viewers asked to imagine what was happening behind the scenes that made the finished film so cruddy. Some of it can be blamed on its creators' usual hang-ups — like Mac's inability to grasp why putting on blackface to imitate Danny Glover might be, you know, incredibly offensive. But mostly, it's exactly the nonsensical action picture you'd expect from a couple of dudes raised on Hollywood blockbusters.

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7

‘The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award’ (Season 9, Episode 3)

A show like Sunny is too raw to be Emmy-bait, but that didn't stop its creators from trying to dissect their own place in the television hierarchy, asking openly why some "bars" are popular while Paddy's is considered more fringe. In one of the most meta episodes, the gang checks out the competition to figure out how they can impress the Restaurant Bar Association. The answers: they need better lighting, some "will they or won't they?" sexual tension, and a token black friend (but not too black, because those kinds of bars don't win awards). The result is a merciless critique of the bland, faux-edgy entertainment that appeals to the masses — and wins awards.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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6

‘How Mac Got Fat’ (Season 7, Episode 10)

Rob McElhenny has offered several explanations for why he decided to gain a bunch of weight before his show's seventh season, but the simplest reason is the one that makes the most sense: Fat Mac is hilarious. For the better part of 10 episodes, the character's added bulk is barely mentioned. Then, almost out of the blue, "How Mac Got Fat" presents an extended flashback — mostly salvaged from an unaired sixth season episode — that recalls a time when Paddy's became successful and the gang all picked up strange hobbies and appetites. Though not as overtly self-referential as some episodes, this overdue origin story examines how complacency sets in after the underdogs actually win.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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5

‘The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis’ (Season 4, Episode 2)

Some IASIP episodes unpack the very essence of the series, while others just set the wheels of the shenanigans in motion and watch them spin madly out of control. This one does both. Charlie, Mac, and Dennis try to become independent oil brokers by siphoning gas and selling it door-to-door. But the main reason this is one of the best-remembered Sunnys is because it defines the gang's archetypes whenever they embark on another A-Team/Ghostbusters/Ocean's 11-style mission. Mac is the brains (which is terrifying in and of itself); Frank is the muscle; Dennis is the good-looking one; Dee is "the useless chick." And Charlie? He's the wild card, bitches!

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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4

‘Charlie Work’ (Season 10, Episode 4)

Proving that serious cable dramas like True Detective don't have a monopoly on flashy camera tricks, this late-season episode contains a roughly 10-minute stretch made to look like one continuous shot, following Paddy's designated peon as he scrambles to get the bar ready for a surprise health inspection. (The sequence also recalls Oscar nominee Birdman, right down to the pounding drums on the soundtrack; the similarities are reportedly a coincidence.) On a technical level, it's a marvel, as well as a creative look at the genuine odd jobs that Charlie does behind the scenes to protect his friends' livelihoods — from helping out Frank after he flushes a shoe down the toilet to making sure there's enough carbon monoxide leakage in the basement to kill all the rats.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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3

‘Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games’ (Season 7, Episode 7)

Given that most of the series takes place inside of a bar, "Chardee MacDennis" may not qualify for "bottle episode" stauts. Yet along with "Charlie Work," this is the most constrained use of Paddy's in the entire run of the series, and adds an additional wrinkle by relying exclusively on the cast's core quintet. As the gang plays a game they made up years ago — one with insanely complicated rules, seemingly geared toward making sure that Dee and Dennis always win — the episode quickly devolves into bizarre stunts and spewing inexplicable blabber. It's the show in its purest, most anarchic form.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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2

‘The Nightman Cometh’ (Season 4, Episode 13)

If a minor character, joke, or bit of backstory works, IASIP's writers will bring it back and build it out; this is a show that wastes absolutely nothing. Charlie's tossed-off song about "the Nightman" and "the Dayman" from the "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person" episode is expanded into a full-on stage musical, with the gang helping to mount a twisted little fairy tale about a boy who keeps getting molested by supernatural creatures. The comedy is in the production's rehearsals, where folks keep missing their marks, botching their lines, and annoy their director by pointing out how much rape is in his play. It's both a crackerjack bit of backstage farce and a peek into the psyche of the show's saddest, loopiest character.

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Matthias Clamer/FXX

1

“Mac & Charlie Die” (Season 4, Episode 5/6)

Sunny's finest hour (literally… it's a two-parter): One storyline revolves around Mac and Charlie clumsily faking their own deaths to try and elude Mac's recently paroled father, whom they claim has threatened to "rape [them] so hard the room would stink." The other plot concerns the discovery of a glory hole in the pub men's room — which sets Dennis and Frank on a desperate quest to have anonymous sex with strangers. The supersized episode bounces from one well-executed set-piece to another: an Eyes Wide Shut-esque orgy, a pathetic fake funeral, and a climactic (so to speak) moment when Dennis tries to use the bathroom's new accoutrement. That single image of a penis-shadow thrusting toward Frank's face neatly summarizes this show: This is the tale of five people who take blind chances — and mostly end up screwing each other.

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