I thought it might be a good idea to do something a little different for the Depravity Rankings this week. Sure, each member of the Gang was terrible and depraved in his own unique way in Wednesday night’s episode, but it somehow feels different when they’re all united in hopes of achieving one common goal. This week, that goal was winning the “Philly’s Best Bar” award for Paddy’s Pub.
Of course, that’s not really what the episode is about. The episode is basically just one giant allegory for Always Sunny‘s inability to receive any sort of recognition for any television awards—particularly the Emmy’s. To call it a thinly veiled reference is an insult to thinly veiled references. But this being Always Sunny, the Gang and writer David Hornsby (“Rickety Cricket“) find a way to make their meta-commentary both spot-on and hilarious. Here’s a sampling from the opening moments:
Mac: “We never get nominated for awards, okay, and we don’t give a shit because they’re stupid.”
Dennis: “We don’t care about that kind of stuff. Am I curious as to why we never get nominated? Sure. Do I care? Not in the slightest.”
Charlie: “No, we don’t care about it. I mean, all right, it is a little odd that we’ve never been nominated.”
Dee: “I can’t imagine that other people are doing what we’re doing better.”
Frank: “You know what’s lame? Being around this long and never getting an award. Makes you look like a bunch of assholes.”
* * * * *
What makes the meta-commentary all-the-more obvious is the fact that Paddy’s is a terrible bar owned by horrible people, whereas Always Sunny is a brilliant comedy made by hilarious people. Paddy’s doesn’t deserve any sort of recognition, except as the worst bar in Philadelphia (a distinction that was actually bestowed upon it in a previous episode), but Always Sunny certainly does.
But Always Sunny is never going to change what it is (nor would we want it to), but Paddy’s can definitely try (and, in fairness, probably should). The gang attempts to scout out some of the competition, including the winner of the previous year’s award, “Sudz.” Sudz—yes, with a ‘z’—is exactly what you’d expect it to be: full of loud, fake colors and entirely lacking in subtlety, as Mac is quick to point out.
On the other hand, it’s clearly a whole hell of a lot more popular than Paddy’s, even if the patrons are so vapid that you’re left to wonder whether they even know where they are in the first place (they’re portrayed as little more than a laugh track). Though the Gang is predictably skeptical of the bar, even they’re swayed by its charms after swallowing down a super-sized serving of the bar’s signature drink.
By the time Dennis, Dee and Mac have left the bar, they’re convinced that they should make Paddy’s more like Sudz. Frank, on the other hand, thinks they should become more like the burlesque bar down the street that somehow has already won a series of awards despite not having too many customers (a thinly veiled reference to fellow critically acclaimed FX comedy Louie). Frank’s attempts to make Paddy’s “darker” ended as predictably as something can in the Always Sunny universe: with him wrapped around Artemis in the back office—both of them half-naked and neither one particularly classy.
Dennis, Dee and Mac don’t have much better luck with their plan. Their attempt at forced banter fails spectacularly thanks to Mac’s aggression issues and Dee’s epically poor comedic timing, both of which were hilarious, though neither made me laugh quite as hard as the sight gag of Dee wearing pounds of makeup and standing in front of a pair of search lights. And Charlie—who had gone back to the bar earlier in the episode to begin his Quixotic attempt to win “Best Song” for Paddy’s—wraps up the episode with one of his finer musical efforts, singing a song that seems to be mostly focused on spiders and rape.
The timing of the episode—which had literally dozens of other fantastic lines, gags and veiled references that I didn’t mention above—couldn’t have been a coincidence. It’s telling that an episode that could have come across as petulant and bitter turned out to be one of the finest that series has ever produced. The show is almost always at its best when pointing out the absurdities in our world (see last week’s gun-themed episode), and there’s no absurdity that the show is more familiar with than its own apparent inability to win any sort of recognition from the television awards community. With any luck, maybe a few more episodes like this one will change that.