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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!

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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

Matthias Clamer/FXX

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

Matthias Clamer/FXX

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

Matthias Clamer/FXX

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

Matthias Clamer/FXX

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

Matthias Clamer/FXX

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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