Best Episode of the Season: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 10

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Charlie Work”
The health inspector is on her way, and with the help of a one-shot conceit, the Paddy’s crew passes with flying colors! Despite airing a few months after the release of Birdman, Sunny came to the no-cut gimmick independently. Sometimes, the same inspiration is percolating the creative atmosphere at large, and the result is multiple cases of exhilaration. Also, Charlie takes charge and manages a hard-fought, gratifying win.

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Best Episode of the Season: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 9

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Season Analysis: When you get used to the insanity of Always Sunny, it becomes increasingly difficult to note what is unique about any particular season’s stretch of insanity.  And I’m saying this as someone who hasn’t watched all nine seasons, but only the last three.

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“Flowers for Charlie”
The lack of hard science in the novel Flowers for Algernon makes it ripe for being picked apart.  That story of a man with a low IQ becoming super-intelligent, only to revert to his original state, does not need a detailed explanation, because that is not really the point, but a version of that story that focuses a great deal on the science would be problematic if it did not have an adequate explanation.  In It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s version, the scientist (Burn Gorman, who was one half of the best part of Pacific Rim – the other half, of course, being Charlie Day) and his assistant running the experiment to increase Charlie’s intelligence are given plenty to do, so it is only natural that their methods should be explained.  And it is perfectly Sunny to have that explanation be a ruse in which Charlie was merely led to believe that his intelligence was increased.  His fake Chinese and chess skills were wonderful displays of how confidence and thoroughly realized bullshit can be just as enthralling as actual talent.

Best Episode of the Season: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 8

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Season Analysis: I had heard that Season 8 of Sunny was heavy on callbacks to previous seasons, which I wouldn’t really know, because I didn’t watch the show back then.  And I’m not sure what the point of all that would have been anyway.  Anyway, I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to recommend this show at this point, but it’s definitely still enjoyable and may have even hit a series high point this year.

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“The Gang Gets Analyzed”
The Always Sunny gang is obviously the gift the keeps on giving for armchair psychologists, and “The Gang Gets Analyzed” is a pinnacle of the series for acknowledging as much.  Like my pick for the best of the previous season (“Chardee MacDennis”), Season 8’s tops is also a bottle episode.  It is fun to watch people from the outside world deal with the insanity from Paddy’s Pub, but when you stick them in a room just the five of them – or in this case, one other person – that is when the crazy sparks really start to fly.  Of course the reason for a grand psychoanalysis of the gang actually happening would not be because these people actually realize they need help and the real reason would be something trivial like forcing Dee’s therapist to decide whose job it is to do the dishes.  Each session serves as a showcase for each of the principal actors (helped along by the vastly underrated Kerri Kenney Silver as the therapist) – Rob McElhenney strikes at the bizarre with Mac’s truly unique body issues, Charlie Day displays legitimate psychological growth in a perfectly Charlie fashion, Glenn Howerton shows that he is the master at playing your friendly everyday psychopath, and Kaitlin Olson proudly presents her acting (that is, lying) skills.  But it is Danny DeVito who gives the most masterful performance, as Frank goes from spitting pistachios to show his disdain for therapy to then, essentially unprompted, spilling his guts about his first love – a girl “who thought she was a spaceman with a plastic bag for a helmet.”  This episode serves as the ultimate statement on the truly wild psyches of these individuals, not because it does anything to fix their issues, but because it clarifies how doing so would be essentially impossible given the fact that how they live their lives is so far beyond any normal human interaction.

The Best Sitcoms of the Past 30 Years

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The past few weeks, Vulture has been has been having a bracket-style “Sitcom Smackdown” to determine the best sitcom of the the past 30 years.  Yesterday, The Simpons was chosen as the winner.  Today, however, Arrested Development was crowned in the readers’ bracket.  Here’s how I how I would have ranked the shows that were in contention.  (I haven’t been a regular viewer of all of them, so for some, I had to guess based on reputation.  I’ve indicated how much I’ve seen of each show in parentheses.)

1. Arrested Development (seen every episode, most – possibly all – multiple times)
2. Seinfeld (seen most episodes, most of them multiple times)
3. Community (seen every episode at least twice)
4. The Simpsons (started watching regularly in season 11, seen a handful of episodes from before then)
5. Cheers (only seen clips)
6. The Larry Sanders Show (not sure I’ve even ever seen clips)
7. Louie (started watching regularly in Season 3)
8. 30 Rock (seen every episode)
9. The Office (seen every episode)
10. South Park (seen several episodes here and there)
11. The Cosby Show (only seen clips)
12. Roseanne (seen a few episodes)
13. Friends (seen a few episodes)
14. Malcolm in the Middle (watched it regularly until it moved to Fridays, then lost track of it)
15. Golden Girls (seen bits and pieces)
16. Sex and the City (walked through the room while my sister watched it a few times)

Some Good Shows That Could Have Made It:
-The Wonder Years – More of a dramedy, and thus it initially feels weird to include it a best sitcom discussion, but it was excellent.
-Parks and Recreation – If I were going to leave out one of the late 00’s/early 10’s NBC Thursday standbys, it wouldn’t be Parks and Recreation.  Actually I probably wouldn’t leave out any of them.
-Curb Your Enthusiasm – Maybe it loses influence points by virtue of its Seinfeld connection, but it is still curmudgeonly hilarity to the nth degree.
-It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – It’s strange that a show with a decidedly anti-mainstream sensibility has lasted 8 seasons.  It feels like it should have been a one- or two-season cult oddity.  That it’s not is surely some sort of accomplishment.
-NewsRadio – I’ve never seen it, but from what I’ve heard it was the little quirky comedy that could of the nineties.
-Archer – Comedy may be subjective, but Archer is the most purely funny sitcom on the air right now.
-King of the Hill/Beavis and Butt-Head – Mike Judge, never getting any respect.
-Frasier – The best spin-off of all time was different enough from its predecessor to earn recognition all its own.
-Futurama – The best sci-fi sitcom of all time.  Not that there have been that many of those, but this is still no faint praise.
-Family Guy – Before it became weighed down by a shock for shock’s sake sensibility in its current state, its mess of pop culture-saturated cutaways was innovative.
-American Dad! – What was once a Seth MacFarlane also-ran has now surpassed its predecessor.
-Murphy Brown – I’ve never watched, but I’ve heard that while it is a bit dated, it is worth remembering for how important it was at the time to the TV landscape.

Some Good Shows With Fewer Than Three Full Seasons (And Thus Not Meeting Vulture’s Criteria):
-Bob’s Burgers – Currently the best show on Fox’s Sunday animation block, and possibly the best show on TV right now.
-Stella – A one-season wonder that may have limited appeal, but if you are part of that appeal, then you are devoted to it.
-Flight of the Conchords – When I first read a review of FOTC, Gillian Flynn said that the show it most closely resembled was Stella.  So I was immediately on board.  But despite its uniqueness and surreality, FOTC is goofy and lighthearted enough to appeal to the masses.
-Happy Endings – I’ve never really watched Friends, but Happy Endings totally out-Friends Friends, doesn’t it?
-Girls – It provokes strong reactions from a great varitey of people – that is like the definition of great art.
-Enlightened – I haven’t started watching this, but I’ve been hearing several times this year that it’s the best show on TV right now.

Best Episode of the Season: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 7

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Season Analysis: This was the first season of Sunny that I watched, and I heard from some sources that it was not its best season, but I think that with a show as outrageous as this one, there are bound to be a few clunkers amidst the classics.

“Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games”

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia feels like it is more or less made up on the spot, by insane people.  I could possibly be off a bit in this assessment, as I have only recently become a regular viewer, and there could be foundational elements from earlier seasons that would make it clear that there is in fact some planning involved in this show.  But that improvised feel does work to the benefit of an episode like “Chardee MacDennis.”  On a slow day, the gang has nothing going on, so they decide to play a game, a game that they have not played in a while, a game that they invented.  So what we have here is something that was more or less made up on the spot, by a group of insane people.  Just because Chardee MacDennis is more or less unbridled insanity in game form does not mean it is not satisfying; Charlie, Dee, Mac, and Dennis were not just insane when they created this game, they were also insanely focused.  Thanks to that focus, this episode provides memorable gags such as Frank having to eat a cake (i.e., the ingredients of a cake), Mac drunkenly attempting to lift up a board that has been nailed down despite acknowledging ahead of time how fruitless such an effort would be, and Charlie failing to answer a question that he himself had written (“Dennis is asshole.  Why Charlie hate?”), and there is even a satisfying resolution to wrap up all the chaos, which, appropriately enough, was thought up by Frank while he was imprisoned in a dog crate.

Thursday is the Best Night of TV Ever!!!

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Year after year, Thursday continually proves itself to be the most loaded, most rewarding night of television, and I feel like singing that out in a blog post.  Here are all the shows that I have regularly watched on Thursdays this season (September 2011-now), ranked in ascending order of quality (of the current season).  And, for your entertainment, I have also included a memorable quote from several of these shows from their current seasons.

12. The Secret Circle
11. The Office (“I haven’t had this much fun since seeing Zoo E Desk Channel at the Cocarella Music Festival.”)
10. The Big Bang Theory
9. Up All Night
8. Awake
7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“Dennis is asshole. Why Charlie hate?”)
6. 30 Rock (“I finally understand the ending of The Sixth Sense. Those names are the people who worked on the movie!”)
5. Billy on the Street (“I LOVE MERYL STREEP!”)
4. Archer (“Thanks, Holly Hindsight.”)
3. Beavis and Butt-Head (“Masturbation frequency dialed in.”)
2. Parks and Recreation (“Anyone want to go to JJ’s for some after-dinner omelettes?”)
1. Community (“Boopy doopy doop boop sex!”)