If provocative comedy was an Olympic sporting event, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia would get extra credit for degree of difficulty. The series gleefully, and with deceptive skill, cannonballs into the fetid community pool that is Paddy’s Pub, the decrepit and improbably still solvent Philly bar from which Dee (Kaitlin Olson), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney), and Frank (Danny DeVito) venture forth and inevitably return. And, sure, the Gang is heading for a COVID-fleeing jaunt to Ireland for much of season 15, but—as they’ve demonstrated so ably since debuting in 2005—you can take the Gang out of Paddy’s, but their collective stink never quite washes off.
And hallelujah for that. The genius of It’s Always Sunny is its steadfast focus on how its five main characters embody the worst of us (as a country, as a species), and how they will never, ever better themselves. What saves this marathon of willful and actual ignorance, thoughtlessness, and often predatory self-obsession from mere braying nihilism is how carefully each outrage perpetrated by the Gang is plucked from squalor with a shockingly nimble delicacy—then honed, shaped, and ultimately deployed to refract our collective failings into grotesque (and hilarious) shapes. The Gang is us, whether we want to acknowledge their disreputable kinship or not.
As with any ambitious balance beam routine, it doesn’t always stick the landing, but It’s Always Sunny almost never uses outrage or shock as ends in themselves. Each episode’s conflict, scheme, or straight-up felonious affront to Philly society is merely catalyst for the Gang’s ever-simmering pressure cooker to start whistling. You never want to find yourself in the Gang’s blast zone, but you can take some comfort in knowing that their crimes are going to take them down as well.
Choosing just 10 of the most outrageous moments in It’s Always Sunny history is something of a fool’s errand. But, as the Gang continues to show us, a dedicated fool (or five) can do a lot of damage.