When you make an out-of-context list of all of the terrible things the Gang has done on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia over the years, it sounds absolutely horrifying. That’s an undeniable takeaway from a recent BuzzFeed piece, which looks at why “cancel culture” hasn’t yet come for the show.
For one thing, by Season 14, any viewer with the potential to be offended by what Sunny has to offer likely fled the premises a long time ago. More generally, even when dealing with hugely controversial subjects, the show’s creators tend to do so in a way that’s in on the joke, with the majority of punchlines landing at the Gang’s expense.
Last week’s third episode brought somewhat of a switch for Sweet Dee, a character who is often the target of jokes and is almost always given short shrift.
The show begins with Dennis leading Charlie, Frank and Mac in stretching exercises — a preparation for an unspecified “most important 24 hours of our lives.” Dee then interrupts to remind them that from noon onward, according to some long-arranged agreement, “It’s Dee Day.”
They must listen to her, and not complain or insult her, or else she’ll blow an air horn as punishment, which will trigger a second Dee Day.
In classic cliche form, Dee starts her 24 hours in charge by telling the men to “just listen,” on several topics, including “my feelings.” Also according to stereotype, the men fail to pay attention as she talks. We hear their inner monologues: Dennis and Mac are fixated on their “plan,” Charlie is thinking about candy, and Frank about seafood.
Later, Mac and Frank show up at the bar dressed as Taiwan Tammy and Martina Martinez, characters Dee had created for her YouTube channel all the way back in Season 4.
“Oh my God this is so racist,” Charlie says.” “It’s insanely racist!,” Mac agrees, adding that they only dressed up to appeal to Dee’s sense of humor. Dennis then enters, dressed as Dee’s “Crazy Paddy” Irish stereotype character.
We then see Mac and Frank, still in costume, standing outside a valet station preparing for the next phase of the plan, which appears to entail distracting a woman member of City Council. The series references here a Council District 12, when there are only actually 10. That trick — which avoids getting mired in any actual local politics — was also employed by TV show This is Us last year.
Back at the bar, “Dee Day” has apparently morphed into an elaborate theatrical production with Dee directing — shades of Charlie’s “The Nightman Cometh” from all those years ago. She makes Charlie and Dennis kiss, with “the quivering lips of two souls desperate to taste the juices of passion.”
The male characters again bring up their mysterious “plan” but get sidetracked when Dee forces Dennis to remove his supposed makeup. Despite looking haggard, Dennis attempts a disastrous seduction of the City Councilmember referenced earlier.
The punchline? The Gang’s entire scheme was meant to influence an upcoming council vote on whether to legalize public urination — and Dee, in turns out, had a surprising interest in the vote.
This isn’t the strongest episode of the year, as it doesn’t deliver any big laughs, although the two plots converge reasonably well at the end, and Danny DeVito in drag is always a hilarious sight.
– “Dee Day” was written by Megan Ganz — a veteran of numerous sitcoms who has been an Always Sunny writer and executive producer in recent years — and directed by Pete Chatmon.
– Charlie’s reference to having worked as a janitor is a callback to Season 6 episode “The Gang Gets a New Member.”
– In terms of local color (or lack of it), one establishing shot of the Center City skyline from the Vine Expressway, with Hahnemann Hospital visible on the right. That scene then cuts to a restaurant with a large parking lot and a valet station — the sort of thing you’re much more likely to see in L.A. than in Philadelphia. Judging by the sign and that of the liquor store across the street, the restaurant appears to be All’Acqua, which is indeed located on Glendale Boulevard in Los Angeles. Another establishing shot, of Center City from the west, also leads to an unfamiliar, non-Paddy’s bar.
– Charlie’s t-shirt advertises a business described as “Asphalt Pavement Sealers,” with a phone number listed. But there’s no business in Philadelphia by that name, and the phone number listed being only seven digits indicates that it’s probably vintage.
Next week: “The Gang Chokes,” in which, per local listings, “Frank becomes annoyed that the gang failed to react as he nearly choked to death on an appetizer.”