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It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: "The Great Recession"

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Another pseudo-topical entrant from Sunny tonight: After introducing viewers to the cause of the economic downturn with the season five premiere, “The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis,” shit got even more real in episode three when the gang got their income cut off and had to stare poverty in the face. Except it wasn’t that business at Paddy’s declined because of the recession –instead Frank, the show’s equivalent of credit default swaps, or whatever, tried to hang himself.


This was an episode I really enjoyed, and it had a lot of good material – but Frank hanging himself took the cake. There was so much to love about the gag. Like the gang’s utter nonchalance at having Frank swing lifelessly in the middle of Paddy’s (if nothing else, it’s bad for business!), or their ultimate realization that his thick neck is what’s preventing his death, or just the fact that Danny DeVito looks more and more like a crazed hobo each week. Not just on the show, in real life too.

It was great that Frank’s loss of income, in a Ponzi scheme (wouldn’t DeVito be great in a Bernie Madoff biopic? He could play it like a sequel to Other People’s Money!) was what alerted the gang to the reality that Paddy’s generates absolutely no profit at all, despite, or perhaps because of, having a staff of four people who do no work. Except for Charlie, and the work he does is mostly detrimental, like burning trash to create a “smoky smell” in the bar and “recycle energy,” and turning on what he thought was a Coors sign but is actually a Closed sign.

I’m going to take an aside at this point to worry about the weird amount of product placement there was in this episode, even though I understand that’s the future of television in a DVR world or whatever. There were a bunch of Coors plugs and then that whole extended Dave and Buster’s bit that went on throughout the episode. Since the show was punctuated by ads for the sponsors it kinda put me off those jokes, which was too bad, because Mac’s bafflement at the concept of the Dave and Buster’s loyalty card and his insistence on trying said card out at that one holdout TGIF was pretty funny. Did anyone else care about this much?

Anyway, since Frank can’t bail out the bar anymore, the gang is left to fend for themselves, and Mac and Dennis make a co-executive decision to fire Dee, which is probably a smart idea since I’ve never seen her do any work, and Charlie, because he thinks that garbage fumes go into the sky to create stars. On that second point, Mac admits, “I don’t know enough about stars to dispute it.”

Mac and Dennis’ new plan for economic recovery is to create “a self-sustaining economy,” by distributing “Paddy’s dollars” to the drifter population of RVs assembling outside of the bar to encourage them to drink there. Sure, making the fake money costs all their real money, but the Paddy’s dollars are so colorful, they really pop!

This half of the episode was the typical Sunny approach to topical satire – they throw in some buzzwords relating to the matter at hand, have the gang make a half-hearted attempt to cynically exploit whatever it is they recently heard about, and then it usually all ends in violence and laughs. Except this time the Mac and Dennis plot really just got all its laughs by the two of them bouncing nonsense talk off of each other, and it worked pretty well. I liked that they finally, rather quietly confronted the fact that neither of them knew how to create a self-sustaining economy, which Mac represented by making a desperate circle with his finger over and over. “I don’t understand how the U.S. economy works,” Dennis said, actually admitting a shortcoming.

The other half, in which Frank and Dee start a new business to reclaim his millions, even going so far as to sublet their apartments and rent a Breaking Bad-esque RV, was more straight-up farce, and it worked well on its own. It was kind of a disappointment that Frank’s plan was just to sell steak knives and vacuum cleaners, but it also testified to his character’s weird rooting in some nostalgic 60s vision of America, like when he dressed up like a Beatle to be in the gang’s band.

Plus, when there’s a Sunny plot that revolves around knives, we know there’ll be a scene that revolves around blood and visceral horror, and true to form, while demonstrating his knife to a lovely rich vegan lady, Frank cuts his thumb down to the bone and decides to try hanging himself in the bathroom again, but this time his neck saves his life and tears out the ceiling. Plus, Dee gets to make another weird noise, this time when she sees Frank’s wound. It was sort of an “eeeeewgh” sound.

Probably my favorite thing about “The Great Recession” was Charlie – often my favorite thing about Sunny, especially when he gets a silly vignette plot like this week. After getting fired, he tried to move back in with his mom, who has just gotten creepier and creepier since being all nice the first time we met her. And we got to see Uncle Jack and his weird glued-on mustache, making overt references to the fact that he is almost certainly THE NIGHT MAN.

Even better was Charlie deciding to be a fisherman and setting up by the river for those yummy fresh Delaware runoff crabs. “Crabs are sewage-proof!” he assures everyone. “We’re crab people now! We’ll live and die by the crab, we’ll eat off the fat of the sea.” Too bad there couldn’t have been more of that, but it worked as a quick visual joke.

Like the season premiere, this one wrapped up pretty quickly and in a lazy way as Frank got a bailout from the government and all his money back. In one way it was another example of lazy plotting by the writers this season, who basically acknowledged in the premiere that they couldn’t make their plots dovetail and basically did the same here. In another way, isn’t it great that we live in a country that will bail these guys out? God Bless America!

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

  • Wavered on the grade here, but I laughed a lot. Uncle Jack wanting to share a room and get “nuts” with Charlie was great.
  • Frank’s assessment of veganism: “Whatever you people eat. Maybe it is a shoe!”
  • The gang (quite correctly) considers themselves “old poor” and looks down on the new recession-poor.
  • One good line out of the Dave and Buster’s sponsorship: “If you’re looking for a better steak in an arcade setting, you are shit out of luck.” Where else would waitress look vaguely impressed at two guys chugging Merlot?
  • The best background dialogue this week was Mac and Charlie debating which was better: wheat or chaff.
  • Does anyone else agree that that new FX show about a fantasy football league looks totally lame? It’s a high-concept show, but a really boring concept.
  • Dennis thinks Charlie asking to live with him after getting kicked out of his apartment is “a little gauche.”