Can we all agree that this has been possibly the most uneven season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on record? I'm not quite ready to start eulogizing yet, but even if the next two weeks' two-part finale turns out to be the best work the gang has ever done, season seven will still go down as a mess, if not a periodically brilliant one. I get a lot of grief from some of my other comedy-fan friends for consistently ranking Sunny above Community or Parks and Recreation, and while I enjoy those shows and totally recognize their merits, in my opinion they've never reached the same heights as Sunny has when it's at it's best. Consequently, then, when Sunny seems to throw in the towel, as it did tonight, it's perhaps more disappointing. Take away the sublimely unforgettable moments that made us all fans at one point or another and you're left with a bunch of foul-mouthed people telling middling at best dick jokes.
The gang is off to see Thunder Gun, an action blockbuster that is supposedly the “best movie of all time,” with 28 minutes on the clock. Lest you doubt each individual's dedication to the mission, we establish early on that everyone has a stake in Thunder Gun: Mac and Charlie want to see the biggest movie in America, and Dennis and Dee want to see the star “hang dong.” But there's a hitch: President Obama is in town, causing all traffic in Philly to come to a halt. This leads to the gang ditching each other one by one as they pursue different detours: Frank takes the helm of a riverboat filled with Chinese tourists, Mac tries to steal a motorcycle but just ends up with the helmet, Dee and Charlie take to the sewers, and Dennis stays in his Range Rover listening to audiocassettes of all the different chicks he's banged. Eventually, everyone makes it to the theater but Frank, who still manages to ruin it for the rest of the gang.
Yikes. Just typing all that out makes it all sound so forcibly wacky, which in my experience is a bad sign for comedy. By comparison, think of how you might have described “CharDee MacDennis,” (one of this season's best, in my opinion) to someone who hadn't seen it. “These four people play a drinking game, and it's really complicated, and people throw darts at each others' hands, and... aw fuck it, you just have to see it.” The funniest ideas often sound stupid and boring; it's all in the execution. Tonight, everything pretty much went down as the description above would have you believe: Dennis' tapes were gross and creepy, the Chinese tourists had goofy accents, gross shit happened in the sewers (literally).
There were also two moments that struck me as odd in a bad way, as opposed to just merely boring, both concerning Sweet Dee. First, I didn't believe that someone as vain as Dee would just waltz into a movie theatre with shit in her hair, and then proclaim proudly to the strangers in the next seat that she had shit in her hair. And secondly, as evocative as Dee's description of Mac's penis is (“a button in a fur coat”), that also didn't seem like something she would say so cavalierly. It sounded like a line for the other guys, sure, but not Dee, whom I've always thought of as being hyper-squeamish about the rest of the guys' sexuality. (I imagine there may be some differing opinions about this.) Dee was just a little too foul and manic tonight, and unless it was revealed later that she had actually been on crack the whole time or something, it was a little hard to buy.
This was also the first time where Dennis' rapey tendencies just came off as flat-out crass and stupid. Maybe it's because there was no real new weird information revealed; we kind of already knew that he was into younger girls and was in the habit of recording his dalliances. It almost felt as though the writers were going through a checklist of running gags they had to hit on: “Dennis the predator? Check.” I did like the idea that he has historically been interrupted by Mac mid-coitus (though apparently it doesn't always put a stop to the lovemaking), which reached its obvious conclusion when Mac jumped in the backseat just as Dennis was about to put the moves on the hot Latina he rear-ended (har har.) It further fleshed out (har har) the whole bunker banging/bunker banging spectator relationship set up back in “The Storm of the Century” and was the one bit of character humor I found to be organic, if not laugh-out-loud funny.
But the part that dismayed me the most was Frank's regaling the Chinese tourists with of all the gang's misadventures while driving the boat up the river. Like I said above, the funniest ideas often sound stupid and boring, and hearing Danny DeVito's lackadaisical retelling of the time he banged the waitress or the time Charlie wrote a musical was somehow even worse. There was no payoff, unless you count the tourists merely repeating back what Frank just said with disgust as a punchline. It was just one, big, pointless, lazy callback, and I found myself begging for it to stop. It's okay if the Sunny crew wants to phone one in every now and again, but I'd prefer it if they left the memory of their best work alone.
- Before it was clearly established that Obama was in town, I kind of liked the idea that Frank was just blaming the general chaos on the president for no clear reason.
- Charlie is horribly concerned that Dee will “stretch out his shoes,” which I'll admit, took a minute to process before getting a good laugh out of me.
- “They're all illegal immigrants. None of them have insurance, that's why they drive so slow.”
- It's been a year since The Social Network came out. Can we put a moratorium on jokes about inventing Facebook, please?
- Realistic touch of the episode: Thunder Gun is a Fox picture. Obviously this is because of FX's parent company, but it kind of reminded me of how all the news on Arrested Development was on Fox, another detail that was wildly appropriate for its show's world.