Launching a new network would seem to be a daunting undertaking, but FX made it look fairly easy by smartly moving its biggest and best comedies to its newborn sister FXX, which was suddenly bestowed with a built-in audience that simply can't get enough of the delusional, depraved, narcissistic, but oddly affable characters of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Fortunately for that audience, the Paddy's Pub gang returned to TV last night in the show's season 9 premiere, "The Gang Broke Dee" and like any Sunny episode, the title serves as a literal description of what one can expect it to be about. However, this episode turns out to have some clever tricks up its sleeve that also manage to stay true to how despicable our main characters are.
For the first time since midway through season 7, the episode revolves around Dee (Kaitlin Olson), who we see is in a deep depression. Apparently, the gang's jokes about her likeness to a bird - as well as their countless other atrocities against her - have worn her down to the point that she simply doesn't care anymore. Consequently, the gang becomes frustrated that they can't get a rise out of her, so, as always, they attempt to come up with the perfect plan to get their verbal punching bag back in the game.
As with many Sunny episodes, the humor of "The Gang Broke Dee" lies within the length and the depth that the gang is willing to go to just to ruin somebody's day (or life in Dee's case). By now, the characters' sadistic motivations and intentions are quite clear, and in understanding the audience's expectations, Sunny's showrunners - who also wrote this premiere episode - feel free to play them by including a delightful twist that is oh-so befitting of what the gang is all about.
The payoff of the episode makes it a standout - even after eight seasons - but as always, the chemistry between the cast members and the characters' morally-hollow approach to every scenario makes the journey just as enjoyable.
Unfortunately, Mac, Charlie and Frank don't get much to do until the end of the episode - besides cheer from the sidelines - but with 12 episodes still to go in season 9, we're sure to see them get involved in plenty of shady plots and inappropriate shenanigans as the season rolls on.
Simply seeing the gang back at it again is sure to induce smiles and it's nice to see that the show hasn't lost its comedic touch, or its signature down-and-dirty approach to the American sitcom.
Season 9 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia continues next Wednesday on FXX with "Gun Fever Too: Still Hot."