Ah, the episode where our present-day characters dress up in costumes and portray a comic version of some historic event! It worked for Lucy and Desi; it worked for Bob Newhart and that woman who played his wife when he was the innkeeper; and against all odds, it pretty much works in Sunny. I've been criticizing the show for trying too hard this season, but maybe I've been all wet. In "Liberty Bell," it's the full-fledged commitment to the bit -- complete with new sets and an actual special effect of someone's head being blown off -- that makes it work.
In order to get Paddy's Pub named a historic landmark (therefore getting on the walking tour of Philadelphia and selling shots to the tourists), Mac, Charlie, and Dennis tell the historic association lady a tale about the pub's role in the cracking of the liberty bell. "The year was 1412," begins Charlie, before Dennis takes over in 1776 and describes how Patrick's Pub hosted meetings of the Sons of Liberty. But MacDonald and Dennis are worried that their revolutionary associations will get them in trouble after the inevitable British victory, so they draft a Declaration of Dependence and enlist Dennis's sister and slave, the witch Deandra, to lug some barrels of ale to the ranking British officer, Colonel Cricket. The colonel expresses a desire to court the slave-witch, despite being spat upon by Dee, and despite Mac and Dennis' perplexity at the whole idea of courting ("Bro, it's 1776, they don't have any rights, you can just take 'em and do whatever you want with 'em"). Their attempts at reasoning with the British having failed, Mac and Dennis try to infiltrate the loyalist forces disguised as fops, only to be tarred and feathered by colonials who assume they are sodomites.
Meanwhile hapless thieves Charles and Franklin are trying to trade furs for pumpkins, or perhaps just beat up the pumpkin wagoneer and steal the pumpkins ("I shall findeth a stick"). When Cricket arrives in search of Dee, they make him buy a load of cursed blunderbusses as payment for the slave-witch, who has suddenly become quite interested after hearing about Cricket's sprawling manor. Turns out the guns don't work -- that is, until Frank points one at Cricket's head and blasts it to smithereens. Charles gets an idea from the pumpkin he's just carved a face into, and thus the Headless Horseman rides out of Paddy's Pub and causes two guys passing with a big bell to drop it on the ground. "Shit, we just broke the Liberty Bell," one grumbles.
The real prize of "Liberty Bell" is the interplay between Dennis's belief that the answer to everything is a British nobleman's disguise, complete with curly wig, pancake white makeup, and a beauty spot, and Mac's refusal to stop wearing wooden teeth that whistle when he talks. "The wooden teeth were a smashing success," he mumbles after his offer to be secretary to the Sons of Liberty meeting backfires. When Dennis talks Mac into the fop strategy, Mac ends up with stubble showing through the makeup, still whistling his esses and insisting, "I think the wooden teeth is what's saving this thing."
It's certainly not a trick play you can pull off every week. But historic reenactors cursing a blue streak? Funny.
- Mac, Charlie and Dennis object to the womanishness of the picture of George Washington in the historical association's office and try to take it off the wall, only to find that it's been bolted on. "That proves our point -- we're not the first ones to try to take that thing down!" Mac observes. "But we're the first ones who are going to succeed," Dennis responds.
- I thought that Frank and Charlie pointing the cursed guns at each other and clicking the trigger was a great bit of random business. I never expected it to pay off with a rather startling gore effect later in the episode.
- As with all classic sitcom examples of this premise, nothing generates laughs like the characters breaking form and talking in their normal voices. Exhibit A: Charlie following Dee's lead and spitting at Cricket, leading the formal British officer to sputter, "That one got in my mouth, that was not cool."
- What's up with Dennis's hair in the wraparound story?
- Damn your necromancy, woman!