So far, this season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has exemplified much of what the series does best. It kicked off with a sequel to one of its most popular episodes, reminding fans of how creator Rob McElhenney and fellow writers/producers Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day often reward long-term viewers for their devotion. In the same vein, Season 11 also included a redo, of sorts, when Frank got hit on the head and started reliving the episode when he first joined the gang — a meta-callback to redundancies implemented a few times prior. Paddy’s gang also tried to scam some folks in last week’s episode, “Dee Made a Smut Film,” which is another popular trope of these hard-drinking dreamers.
But it’s the two other episodes of this young season that best epitomize what “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” does best. In “The Gang Hits the Slopes,” the gang spoofs ’80s “sport” movies by living out one of their own, and in the latest episode of the season, “Mac and Dennis Move to the Suburbs,” our two titular characters gave hilarious voice to the oft-overlooked pain of daily life. In short, the former is a parody and the latter a satire. “It’s Always Sunny” has provided dozens of great examples of each over its 10-plus years, and the beauty of the series is that we don’t have to choose which we prefer. We get both and can enjoy them equally.
But where’s the fun in that?
Taking a page from Dennis’ nonsensical yet ultra-competitive spirit in “The Gang Hits the Slopes,” let’s pit these two episodes against each other and see which one comes out on top. After reading the totally objective analysis provided below, please do vote for your favorite at the bottom of the article so a unanimous winner can be named. Thanks!
“The Gang Hits the Slopes”
The Jist: Like most episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the title tells the whole story…if you only want the very basics of what happens, and not the glorious details. Yes, the gang takes a trip to the Poconos (PA) to go skiing for a few days, but the real kicker is that the episode spoofs ’80s movies where “life is just different on the mountain.” From unbelievable ski skills to accepted sexism, everything that once was glorified returns to popularity on the mountain. So Dennis challenges a local (Dean Cameron, from the ’80s “classic” “Ski School”) to a ski-off for the mountain lodge, while Mac and Dee go to “rage” for their two days on “party mountain.”
Most of the best moments in “The Gang Hits the Slopes” are visual gags — like Charlie’s beer-holding ski crash or Olympic-level sexcapades — but Dee did get in a solid burn with the above.
Best Performance: There are few things better in this world than Dennis as a sexual deviant. Not only did “The Gang Hits the Slopes” feature an incredibly creepy speech from the man behind the D.E.N.N.I.S. System, but it utilized his athletic pursuits as an extension of his overt sexuality. Howerton managed the transition incredibly well, using the build-up to add an extra dose of anguish to his climactic ski accident.
Final Analysis: An unforgettable ode to a very specific aspect of the expansive (and terrifying) ’80s era, “The Gang Hits the Slopes” is a brilliant concept with a bit of whiplash in its execution. The high of that stylized intro is matched by Charlie’s insane sex scenes, but most of the stuff with Frank and Drisko doesn’t work as well — even if Dee and Mac’s confusion over pranks and nudity almost makes up for the rest. The episode has to be admired for its ambition, though, as well as the depth to which it goes in parodying something many of us had already forgotten.
“Mac & Dennis Move to the Suburbs”
The Jist: After struggling to find a place that fits their needs in the city, Mac and Dennis venture out to the suburbs of Philadelphia to live the good life. Yet what’s portrayed as quaint and easy by moms and dads slowly starts to drive the “city scum” insane. Mac and Dennis won’t leave, though, as they need to last a month in order to win a bet with Frank. Can they last 30 days in a massive, quiet and well-furnished house when they’re used to close quarters, consistent noise and a sparsely decorated apartment?
“No one. What’s that?”
Best .Gif: *Dennis silently chucking Mac’s Famous Mac and Cheese down the hallway* (more on that to come)
Best Performance: Again, I’ve got to give this to Howerton. As much as I want to spread the love to the rest of the deserving cast, Howerton’s portrayal of Dennis’ repressed and released rage is as fascinating as ever. And, I mean, that confrontation with Ultra Neighbor Wally Schmidt
Final Analysis: Yes, the idea of Mac and Dennis satirizing suburban married couples is fantastic by itself, but it’s really the demented extremes to which this story goes that makes “Mac & Dennis Move to the Suburbs” a maniacal delight. By streamlining the episode to just the A-story, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” amps up the intensity notch by notch until it explodes in a hysterical crescendo. Oh, and calling back to Mac’s racism with a final “old black man” is quite the cherry on top of this sundae.