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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "Sweet Dee's Dating A Retarded Person"

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Image for article titled It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "Sweet Dee's Dating A Retarded Person"

In retrospect, it's hard to believe the gang hasn't formed a band before now. When you're talking style over substance, you're talking rock and roll. And isn't that the whole Sunny premise? Every episode could be called "The Gang Adopts The Shallow Veneer Of A Lifestyle."

Here it's Dee's rapper boyfriend Kevin — possibly retarded — who gives Mac the idea to start a band. "If he can do it, why can't we?" he reasons. "I can't argue that logic!" Charlie enthuses in response. Surprisingly enough, three out of the four potential rockers seem to have some musical ability: Dennis has the DeYoung vibrato, Charlie "gets" keyboards and fancies himself a Dylanesque poet, and Mac at least knows how to form a power chord. Only Frank on drums is hopeless, but that's true of 70% of drummers who actually have gigs, so you can't really fault him.

If it's not too much to claim — and heck, I claimed it about How I Met Your Mother this week, so I'm on a roll — I'll be so bold as to say there is a Theme hovering near "Sweet Dee's Dating A Retarded Person." That theme, my friends, is this: What Is Rock And Roll? Is it looking good with a guitar? Is it breaking shit? Is it breaking shit in a hotel room that — and this is the crucial point — somebody else is paying for? Is it space-fantasy concept album song cycles about night men who hold you down and come inside you, or day men who conquer the night men with their mastery of karate and friendship? Is it better encapsulated in the band name Electric Dream Machine or Chemical Toilet? Are those contorted hand gestures genial white hiphoppery or evidence of developmental delays? All these questions are raised by "Retarded Person," but the only one that is definitively answered is that the band name The Pecan Sandies is not rock and roll.

Befitting its near miss with thematic coherence, the episode ends with an Actual Climactic Scene: Kevin the Maybe Retarded Next Eminem gets up on stage and delivers a rap that, as I believe the kids say, "disses" Dee. The put-down resembles in form the kind of normal-person outrage that the gang often elicits, but because it's presented in a rhyming performance by someone with the power of local celebrity, it somehow comes across as utter devastation — less funny than savage. That said, Dennis's Ziggy Stardust-rouged recantation of the aspersions he cast on Kevin's mental ability does pull the ending back into Sunny territory.

A commenter pointed out last week that the cut between the opening scene and the title card is often the funniest moment of any episode. This week I knew when it was coming. Dee: "Kevin is not retarded!" Cue the music — hold on. No music? Reaction shot of the guys. Is their timing off? What's going o— Dee: "I am not dating a retarded person!" Title card. Yep, they made me wait. And you know what, it was better. I'll never doubt you again, Sunny.

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

- Charlie's desire to hide behind some kind of curtain while performing is strangely sweet, but I don't think his flight from the hostile crowd really works. His fear of rejection is better when it's purely theoretical.

- Huffing glue is rock and roll according to Frank. But then huffing spray paint is not rock and roll according to Dennis. And the age-old debate continues.

- Best tangential moment: Charlie's attempt to claim that his "good chair" is streaked with toothpaste, not birdshit. I'm telling you, were it not for his poorly staged exit from Electric Dream Machine's abortive set, this episode would have convinced me that Charlie is the most interesting character on the show.