It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia recap: The Gang Does A Clip Show

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA -- “The Gang Does A Clip Show” – Season 13, Episode 7 (Airs October 17, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Kaitlin Olson as Dee, Charlie Day as Charlie. CR: Byron Cohen/FXX
IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA -- “The Gang Does A Clip Show” – Season 13, Episode 7 (Airs October 17, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Kaitlin Olson as Dee, Charlie Day as Charlie. CR: Byron Cohen/FXX /

When is a clip show not actually a clip show? When the Always Sunny gang gets weird with it.

If you heard that the latest episode of Always Sunny is a clip show, you might be tempted to skip it. Don’t. That would be a big mistake.

Not so long ago,TV sitcoms used to run for a whopping 24 episodes each season. For popular series that had been on the air for years, this meant creating a LOT of filler. And, for decades, clip shows provided that filler. Just film characters rattling off some banal dialogue about their “favorite moments”, intersperse it with some of the best scenes from the show, and voila! One of the 24 episodes is done. It was a time and money saver. Clip shows were the great cheat of the modern sitcom, repackaging previously aired content by taking viewers on a trip down memory lane.

But as the era of Must See TV morphed into an era of streaming and DVR’s, clip shows became a huge snooze. Presenting a retread of old material when viewers expect a brand new story is frustrating at best when all the episodes of everything ever made are readily available at the click of a mouse. Also, modern orders for sitcoms have been whittled down to a tight 10 – 13 episodes, eliminating the need to kill time with filler. So, when the title card for this week’s Always Sunny episode flashed on screen, I groaned. No way. We get 10 episodes with these jabronis each season, and one of them is a clip show?! Bullsh*t.

More from FX

However, Always Sunny is keen enough to know that a straight up clip show would result in fans smashing stuff in frustration. And while the episode does start off in a traditional clip show format, the story quickly diverts from the expected.

The gateway to an epic flashback journey is set up pretty quickly as the gang all decide to update their phone software at the same time. Seeing as they can’t escape into their devices, they’re forced to interact with one another, eventually deciding to take a trip down memory lane.

At first, the episode retains a classic clip show feel, bringing us back to some of the most whackadoo moments in Sunny history. Remember when that couch gave birth to Frank? Now it’s burned in your brain again. Want to revisit some of Dee’s stellar physical comedy? Here are some shining examples! Charlie vs. Santa! Blood vomit! THE IMPLICATION! Once the gang built up some memory steam, I almost forgot how much I hated clip shows and started to get into the groove. Always Sunny has produced some of the weirdest, wildest, funniest stuff on television in the past thirteen years, and as the greatest hits flew by, there was a distinct joy bubbling from the screen.

That’s because the show was about to take an unexpected left turn into Inception territory. As the gang recalls the Season 12 finale, something odd happens. Instead of Dennis switching off the light – like we all know he did – Mac swoops in and does it for him, sh*t eating grin plastered on his face. It’s a fun twist that plays on the alcohol-addled brains of these five frequently brownout drunks. The gang has never been super reliable when it comes to memory – see: the epic Halloween episode “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” – so why would a clip show be any different?

Always Sunny recap
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA — “The Gang Does A Clip Show” – Season 13, Episode 7 (Airs October 17, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Rob McElhenney as Mac, Glenn Howerton as Dennis. CR: Byron Cohen/FXX /

The show proceeds to have some fun with the idea of altered memories by dubbing part of “The Nightman Cometh” in Japanese, but the real meat of the episode is delivered in a short but oh-so-sweet clip of the gang reenacting a classic episode of Seinfeld.

Given that Rolling Stone critic Alan Sepinwall recently noted that Always Sunny was the “true successor” to Seinfeld’s “no hugs, no learning” aesthetic, a nod to the NBC sitcom was the perfect fit for a false memory on Sunny. The show was certainly inspired by Seinfeld, so it feels natural to assume that the gang could slip right into a plot from that show without skipping a beat.

And they can. The transition is smoother than an oiled up Frank sliding out of a leather couch. The five members of the gang take on the roles of the core four Seinfeld characters – with Jerry getting dual representation from both Mac and Dennis – with ease and excitement. Dee is a natural Elaine, and Charlie seems tailor made to step into the shoes of flighty dreamer Kramer. It’s not exactly a crossover, but it’s not exactly a remake. For fans of both shows, it’s simply pure entertainment bliss.

After Dennis reminds the group that they never lived in NYC, and they’re just remembering an episode of Seinfeld, they recall the correct memory. They had their own contest to see who could masturbate the *most* in a 24 hour time period, leading to some horrifying genital self-manipulation. But it turns out that the memory of that contest was false too, and the group delves deeper and deeper into their misremembered pasts.

Since the gang has a symbiotic (yet highly dysfunctional) relationship, they can flit in and out of each other’s minds, and even quickly identify whose memories they’re living in. Charlie imagines a world in which he and the Waitress had a baby (dear god, someone call child services), and Frank is pretty easy to suss out as he’s suddenly got hair and a gangly pair of Stretch Armstrong legs. Then, things get tricky as they delve into Dennis’s head. The golden god of psychopaths. And they try to determine if they’ve come back down to reality by spinning an Inception top.

Is it a dream or reality? Does it even matter? Nope. Could these altered memories just be alcohol induced hallucinations? Probably. Do we want more of these crazy Sunny memories? Absolutely.

Next. Always Sunny Recap: The Gang Solves the Bathroom Problem. dark

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • I will shout this from the rooftops every chance I get, but Kaitlin Olson is a physical comedy goddess, and I’m so glad they allotted a segment of the clip show to celebrate that fact.
  • Old clip shows were generally used to offset costs from the remainder of the season, and I can’t help but think that this entire clip show conceit was deployed to offset the exorbitant costs of recreating the entire Seinfeld set for a one-minute gag. It totally paid off.
  • The stagnation of the character development on Always Sunny sometimes makes it feel like a cartoon, and the jump cut to the world of Seinfeld is a transition that would not be out of place in an animated series like Family Guy or The Simpsons. But, even though Sunny is live action, the transition is seamless.
  • Speaking of seamless, Dennis’s grin is a dead on perfect replica of Jerry’s during the original Seinfeld episode. He hasn’t even begun to peak.

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ airs Wednesday at 10/9c on FXX.