‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Season 16: As Insane as Ever

Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, Danny DeVito and Kaitlin Olson (from left) in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” FX

A general rule of fiction writing is that a character has to change over the course of the story to be interesting. If the events they experience don’t change their perspective or their behavior, then why did we watch or read it? Try not to tell that to the creators and writers of It’s always sunny in Philadelphia, who have created an extremely successful TV series based on the premise that no character ever improves, evolves or gains self-awareness. And that, along with the ridiculous antics, is what makes it so funny.

In the 16e season, the gang is as self-centered and wonderfully insane as ever. In the opening episode, “The Gang Inflates”, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) take the economic crisis literally and try to make some money selling inflatable furniture. They get Frank (Danny DeVito) to fund the idea, much to the chagrin of Charlie (Charlie Day), who has his own thoughts on how to fight inflation. Furious at being evicted from her apartment by a greedy landlord, Dee (Kaitlin Olson) begins protesting by gluing her hands to several walls. It’s a classic Sunny episode and a perfect way to start a season, reminding viewers how smart the series can be when it comes to contemporary issues.

Subsequent episodes, including “Frank Shoots Every Member of the Gang,” which also premieres June 7, are a little more hit and miss. There’s a reliance, 16 seasons in, on mining the characters’ extensive histories and making jokes from past Easter egg moments. For example, we meet Mac’s Uncle Donald, who turns out to be the father Mac never had – only for Mac to reject the nurturing he always wanted. Charlie, it turns out, has sisters. Chase Utley returns, as do characters like Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby) and Charlie’s creepy Uncle Jack (Andrew Friedman). There are other notable cameos, including Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, appearing in “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab,” which riffs on actors selling their own alcohol brands (which the cast of Sunny do).

The inside jokes and throwbacks, loved by many Sunny fans are plentiful, but so far it sometimes makes the episodes hard to follow. There are many moments of “Wait, who’s that?” or “Wait, when did that happen?” Historically one of the best Sunny episodes are the episodes that stand alone and can be watched by anyone at any time without understanding what happened in previous episodes or seasons. Like with The office or Friends, history helps, but it’s not necessary for a few laughs. This season, however Sunny is less funny if you don’t understand the winks and nods (it’s still very funny).

Since its premiere in 2005, It’s always sunny in Philadelphia has become more than a series; now it’s a brand. Fans own themed merchandise and dress up as Green Man. They’re packing global venues like Royal Albert Hall to watch live performances from the creators’ podcast. The references are endless in pop culture, again like The office or Friends. Everyone keeps coming back to Paddy’s Pub because it’s irreverent and funny and it’s still able to come up with bigger ideas like inflation or gun control. And maybe we will also return because the characters are not ambitious. They behave badly and don’t care if they change. Sometimes we need that. It’s exhausting to constantly feel like you need to improve yourself and Paddy’s Pub is a respite from that feeling. Why improve when you can plan, fail and plan again?

'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' Season 16 Review: As Wonderfully Insane As Ever

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