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It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "The Gang Wrestles for the Troops"

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It feels like Sunny can cure even a half-decent episode just by ending on a bafflingly camp song by the guys and Dee getting whacked in the face with a steel chair, but “The Gang Wrestles for the Troops” really only worked joke-by-joke and had a pretty nothing central story. I laughed a lot, but I almost always laugh a lot at Sunny – probably more than any other show – and I should probably grade on a tougher curve than that.

The premise of the episode was that wrestling is funny, and that at an amateur level, it’s funny in how depressing it is. Definitely true, but everything felt too easy. The gang watches wrestling, realizes it’s awesome, so they decide to wrestle “for the troops,” so we can fit the lame Dee storyline in. They do wrestle, and Cricket’s involved, and then Frank hits him with a trashcan and wins. Even for the plot-lite Sunny it was inconsequential.

And the Dee plot sucked, for what feels like the first time this year. Aside from seeing Keith Dudemesiter from Scrubs for the second time in two weeks (well-cast both here and in Fringe; he’s got such a trusting baby face!) I didn’t care about Dee and Artemis half-heartedly fighting over the army guy who’s war wounded, but then he isn’t, at all. The gag wasn’t even remotely outrageous. It felt like something Jenna might do on 30 Rock; not to rag on 30 Rock, it gets ragged on enough these days, but I don’t need those wussy antics on Sunny.

Let’s get to the good stuff. The guy spoofing Mickey Rourke as the washed-up “Maniac” was hilarious. Even better: the gang’s truly pitying attitude towards him. When Charlie thinks you’re creepy and sad, then you are creepy, and you are sad. I don’t know the actor, but he had Rourke down perfectly – the stringy hair, the mumblings about his children, shouting “as for the $15 copayment, eat shit and die!” on the phone to his imaginary bureaucratic enemies. Every detail about the gag worked, and they didn’t wring it out for more than it was worth.

Cricket’s return was equally triumphant. He’s probably my favorite recurring character and as time has passed, he’s gotten even more wily and nervous and jumpy. And he really got into his Talibomb (that’s what they were calling him, right?) character, with the lightning-quick sand attack and his excessive hatred of America. Really, could have even used more Cricket. Bring him in earlier next time, guys. I re-watched the one where they hunt him recently – one of my all-time favorites.

And yeah, trussing the gang up in eagle suits and having them sing a ridiculous song about their lifestyles as bird-men couldn’t not be funny. The build-up was even better than the actual showpiece. First Mac and Charlie discuss their teenage tag-team the Pigeon Boys, before Mac decides that isn’t as cool anymore. “Pigeons are survivors though!” Charlie protests. Eventually they settle on being bird-men, and it’s a funny song with even funnier costumes and, funniest of all, dumbfounded gazes by the dregs of society attending the match. But I don’t think it’s going to enter the canon of classic Sunny set-pieces.

I preferred the good old-fashioned physical comedy. Dee gets whacked in face with a steel chair. Cricket takes a razor-sharp trash can to the neck. And Frank, who is doing his best to outdo his grossness week by week, wins the day as Trash Man, the 60-year-old who eats trash, then spews it all over the stage. Don’t let this be the end of Trash Man, people!

Stray Observations:

I liked the dissection of Hulk Hogan’s strange charm. His hair “silken like that of a Chinese man…with the skin of a hot dog.”

Frank placing the shorts on the soldier’s crotch then saluting to “Kiss From A Rose” was very sweet of him.

What was the better Maniac gag: calling Mac the N-word, that “he just DRIFTED away!” or his bucket of chestnuts? His mania is NOT confined to the ring.