After 9 seasons and more than 100 episodes, most shows - especially comedies - start to run out of fresh ideas (if they even survive that long). They begin to feel stale after a few years, and eventually lose that edge that once made them special. Fortunately, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is not most comedies.
Considering its humble, micro-budgeted beginnings, the fact that Sunny began season 10 on FXX tonight is no small feat. Unapologetic and uncompromising, its dark and twisted humor hasn't appealed to everyone, but it has carved out a solid niche audience and survived. How has it survived? Because instead of reinventing itself, it has continued to invent new ways to make us laugh with the same despicable characters we have grown to love since the first two seasons.
When stacked against the series' most creative and inventive entries, tonight's season 10 premiere, "The Gang Beats Boggs," may not be a hall-of-famer, but when it comes to laughs, it still swings for the fences and finds plenty of hits along the way - even as it covers some familiar comedic ground.
As usual, the opening scene and title card lets the audience know what it's in for - beating Boggs - while earning some laughs right off the bat as the Gang boards an East-to-West-Coast flight in pursuit of a legendary and seemingly untouchable Wade Boggs record. Oddly enough, it's not baseball glory that the Gang seeks (at first glance, at least), but rather Boggs' cross-country drinking record of 70 beers.
Like Sunny episodes such as season 7's "Thunder Gun Express," the set-up gives the characters a common goal that will drive the narrative toward a single destination (the record), while providing different paths to reach it. As we get a glimpse at each character's initial stage of inebriation, we learn Charlie's motivation is to simply have fun and honor Boggs' memory - who, as Mac points out several times, is not dead. Dennis and Frank seem more interested in having sex, and Dee is already about one beer from being permanently cut off. Meanwhile, Mac serves as the contest's self-assigned commissioner and, as he is often wont to do, takes his role in maintaining the integrity of the competition way too seriously.
Mac's role in the episode allows for some rather expected steroid jokes, as he becomes frustrated when the rest of the gang fails to follow his rules and rulings explicitly. Meanwhile, Dennis and Frank fall into a horndog mode we've seen them in plenty of times before, initiating a side bet as to who will join the mile high club first (a term Frank is somehow unaware of). Although this type of humor isn't exactly uncharted territory for Sunny, these threads stay true to who the characters are and give them enough funny things to do in the otherwise limiting space of an airplane cabin.
However, as limiting as that space and setting may be at times, the episode - and the show itself - is at its best when the Gang is all together, which allows the familiar natural and chaotic dynamics of the group to shine. Out of this, we get some of the episode's funniest moments, including Mac's annoyance that Charlie can't grasp the significance of the challenge; Dee making a fool of herself for the enjoyment of everyone else; and the outsiders' appalled reactions at the Gang's actions.
Like the group dynamics we've come to appreciate, other common Sunny elements - such as drinking and sexual humor - dominate much of the episode. This will likely serve as comfort food to Sunny fans, in that there are plenty of predictable, yet still satisfying jokes in nearly every scene. That said, the episode still manages to throw in a few fun
curveballs surprises, including a hilarious cameo from Mr. Boggs himself, beer scoreboard updates, and a classic sports movie moment to conclude the adventure.
All in all, "The Gang Beats Boggs" is yet another solid entry into Sunny's impressive comedy catalog and serves as a fine jumping-on point of what we can expect will be a great season. And as much as we love Paddy's, it also marks one of the rare times the Gang leaves Philly - surprisingly, Charlie's mortal fear of leaving home goes unmentioned - proving that the episode, for its familiar humor, is still willing to mix things up enough to keep fans wondering what future episodes hold in store for the Gang.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia season 10 continues with "The Gang Group Dates" next Wednesday, January 21st @10pm on FXX.