WATCH: Always Sunny’s Five Best Political Satire Episodes
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia lampooned the gun debate last night—the latest issue that’s gotten the gang “hot” enough to want to do something about it. The gang being anarchy incarnate, however, a structured debate weighing pros and cons is never in the diplomatic cards. Which, of course, is why we love them.
Of course, the gang’s reign of terror in the Always Sunny universe is the core of our enjoyment, and that goes double for when they set their sights on the controversial issue of the day.
“Gun Fever Too: Still Hot” opens with Frank roping in a Philly news anchor on air with a story about defending himself against a group of muggers who may have “wanted money, or they wanted something more sexual.” Waving around a pistol and a revolver while eating a hoagie, Frank wraps up his diatribe with a recommendation that Philadelphians head down to Gunther’s Guns and strap up. Cut to an increasingly “hot” gang, each member explaining their stance on the gun issue to reveal a 50/50 split: Dee and Dennis vs. Mac and Charlie. The latter duo wants a gunslinging Philly, and hopes to get “more guns on the streets,” in Mac’s words. Dee and Dennis, on the other hand, want stricter regulations because in their view, anyone can buy a gun.
With matchups like this, Always Sunny cannot be topped, especially with the trio of Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney having written this episode. Their grasp of the characters shine in these kinds of episodes, with Mac and Charlie serving as one of the greatest comedy duos currently going—Dee and Dennis, meanwhile, are the perfect high-stress, low-values foils. Each team’s approach to proving their point reflects that.
Mac and Charlie, being “hit the streets” kind of guys, head down to the local middle school, headed up by Dave Foley reprising his role as school principal from season six. The pair’s “hotness” really comes out here, with Mac toting a “saber” (samurai sword) and Charlie dry-firing a revolver the whole time to show his well-known “hair trigger.” Foley, of course, kicks them out, leaving Mac and Charlie to defend the school on their own from the outside—which they do by harassing kids wearing black (“I’m just gonna profile this guy real quick”) and taking their cell phones before deciding to educate the kids in self-defense. That, however, devolves into an off-screen “Hunger Games scenario,” one of the episode’s few letdowns.
Dennis and Dee, meanwhile, head down to Gunther’s Guns to buy a “man destroyer,” in Dennis’ words, in the form of an AR-15 (the model the media has focused on most recently). They are denied due to a failed background check, Dennis for an “extensive history of felonious behavior,” and Dee for a short period of institutionalization (she burned her college roommate, who “deserved it,”). In a rage over their gun denial, the duo sets out to obtain a gun from a gun show, but that doesn’t work, so to the black market they go. Specifically, they head back to the season-two drug dealer who got them hooked on crack, who happily strolls off with Dennis’ $1,500, and his gun (“Go stop him? The man has an assault rifle, what am I supposed to do?”).
By the time the gang flip-flops on their views (“If only we could have met up two hours ago,” Mac mourns), that they won’t solve the gun debate is already a foregone conclusion. But the reveal that Frank has simply been playing the city for a profit—he bought a stake in Gunther’s Guns—is the kind of evil comedic genius that Always Sunny pulls off perfectly in its satire. Frank’s on to his next scam, water filters, and the gang is left to ponder why they were ever upset in the first place if nothing can be fixed (or, as Frank says, “I’m the duper, you guys are the dupees”). With that, we remember why the gang, the five worst people in Philadelphia (if not the world), are the least equipped to handle these kinds of issues.
The Always Sunny writing staff, though, are no strangers to satire, having cut their teeth on countless biting social and political events transformed into a mental playground for the gang to play on and eventually destroy or forget. It’s been a long running theme for the show to take on the problem du jour, and in many ways, that’s where it shines most. These are Always Sunny’s most blistering satire episodes:
“The Gang Gets Racist”
The show’s pilot, “The Gang Gets Racist,” set the satirical tone for the entire series. Worried with their lack of ethnic friends after Dee brings a black friend back to the bar—and after the Waitress overhears Charlie uttering the dreaded “n-word—the gang sets out to add some black friends to their group. It doesn’t work, of course, but the gang does reveal some startling truths about the American view on race along the way.
Not surprisingly, last night wasn’t the first time the gang took on America’s gun problem (and lost miserably, so at least it’s realistic). This season 1 episode revolves around Paddy’s Pub being robbed, leaving the gang to defend their turf after buying a gun at Mac’s recommendation. From the “power” Charlie feels in holding the gun, to the decision Mac and Dennis make to become “vigilantes,” this episode perfectly lampoons the “rugged individualism” approach to security, especially by the likes of the gang.
“The Great Recession”
Few shows mock the current economic climate as well as Always Sunny, perhaps because its protagonists are constantly out to make a buck or become famous by any means necessary. This season five episode is the economic satire standout, with the gang doing just that—Charlie becomes a crab person, Dee and Frank sell knives door-to-door, and Mac and Dennis come up with the economically flawed and ill-fated “Paddy’s dollars.” In their failure to grasp how the economy works, we see our own all too clearly. The episode’s inordinate product placement also serves as a great meta-gag that plays off the episode’s money-centric topic, giving the impression that selling out is the only way they could survive production.
“Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare”
Ah, the time where Dennis and Dee get hooked on crack. In season 2, the sibling duo decide they hate their jobs and leave Paddy’s Pub, drawing their funds, instead, from welfare after their unemployment checks run out—which, by their logic, they get because they’ve hooked themselves on crack. Frank, meanwhile, hires two “Work for Welfare” program applicants, who the gang eventually treats like slaves. Few episodes are as biting as this one, serving as a great skewer of our country’s inability to institute a working public welfare system.
“The Gang Runs for Office”
Of course the gang had to wait for Frank to show them the easy money potential of local politics (especially in Philly), which explains why this one didn’t come along until the second season. At the gang’s direction, Dennis decides on running for local comptroller, primarily so they can skim money from bribes—that premise alone is too real to not be funny—and live easy. From there, the political backstabbing begins, ending with cops demanding a bribe from Mac for bribing union officials because “that’s politics, bitch!” Only Always Sunny could put it quite that way.