Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: In honor of Love Week, we’re revisiting our favorite television episodes featuring a marriage proposal.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, “The Nightman Cometh” (season four, episode 13; originally aired 11/20/2008)
When it comes to wedding proposals, most television episodes rely on happy endings. Some thrive on ramping up the dramatics or creating juicy cliffhangers. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia took a different route and crafted an episode that rained down musical chaos and then casually hit the reset button.
“The Nightman Cometh” is the Charlie Day show. In most episodes, he’s the unpredictable “wild card”—the beginning of “The Nightman Cometh” is no exception. Who would’ve predicted illiterate Charlie would write a musical? But here, he is focused, he is determined, and he is the closest we get to the straight man. Charlie is the member of the gang who is being rational—no, siblings shouldn’t play lovers and yes, Dee has to sing the song in order for the play to work—and he’s the one who grows increasingly angry and frustrated as he watches his play crumble before his eyes due to the total incompetence of his friends (who think things are going pretty well). But, as is pointed out in the cold open, no one just writes a musical for no reason. What’s Charlie’s angle? The Waitress, of course.
Charlie’s obsession with The Waitress is often funny, occasionally uncomfortable, and sometimes even sweet in a queasy, twisted way. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has managed to keep up the laughs with this obsession, particularly in the first few seasons, by always acknowledging that Charlie is a creep who will never get The Waitress, but also by hinting at the fact that Charlie has some pretty dark demons in his past—demons that come out in some of the lyrics of this play. “The Nightman Cometh” works so well because it takes note of all the different ways you can view Charlie’s obsession: the play itself is laugh-out-loud funny (and went on to become an actual live musical), the scene of him following her down the street and insisting she come to the performance is uncomfortable, and the actual proposal—however misguided and just plain weird—actually is sweet in Charlie’s own little warped way.
The proposal comes out of nowhere and has absolutely no chance of working; it is basically the equivalent of someone proposing to a brick wall. At the end of a musical that is plagued by terrible acting, ill-fitting costumes, dueling egos, and what may or may not have been a molestation scene, Charlie floats down from the sky in a blinding yellow suit to sing his proposal: a mostly nonsensical song that culminates with him on one knee, asking for The Waitress’ hand in matrimony. The sheer absurdity of it all followed by the abrupt rejection is devastating; The Waitress doesn’t give Charlie the time of day, but simply rejects him and is done. Charlie’s “deal” that he’d leave her alone if she came to the play is quickly erased. A musical and a proposal, yet nothing has changed.
Availability: “The Nightman Cometh” is available on Netflix and DVD.