The Open Man weekly* Q&A isn’t just a forum for your college football and basketball questions. In fact, some of the best reader-submitted material deviates, as this week’s question on the best Sunny episodes of all-time demonstrates.
For those who don’t know — and really, why would you? — It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia ranks among my favorite TV series ever. It’s never had a peak as strong as The Simpsons, which had a run from Seasons 3 through 8 that remain my A-1 among TV comedies. However, Sunny wins for longevity. Its most recent season was the show’s 12th, and No. 12 was just as good as some of the series’ peak years.
Ranking episodes is difficult — apparently as difficult as ranking college football teams, which this week’s Q&A also dives into. If you have questions for The Open Man Q&A, hit @the_open_man or @kensing45 on Twitter. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What episodes are on the Always Sunny Mount Rushmore?
— big fat dynamo walsh (@theryanwalsh) August 11, 2017
Picking the best Sunny episodes ever, and especially just four, is an exercise in futility.
• CharDee MacDennis: The Game of Games
I know people who would argue this one belongs among the very best Sunny episodes — and it’s a strong argument. The vulgar, nonsensical game played at Paddy’s Pub in Season 7 (one of my personal favorite seasons) is The Gang in a nutshell.
• The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis
Season 4 marked Sunny‘s breakout into the mainstream. Some of the show’s more quotable lines became as prevalent as Chappelle’s Show and “I’m Rick James, bitch!” To wit:
• The Gang Goes to The Jersey Shore
MTV’s The Jersey Shore grew into a pop culture phenomenon by the time Sunny Season 7 arrived. With its proximity to Philadelphia, it only made sense for an episode lampooning the region. And this is indeed one of the best Sunny episodes for its Castaway inspired storyline, wherein Fat Mac and Frank have a Wilson-like company in “Rum Ham.”
Charlie’s magical night with The Waitress ends in one of the best reveals in show history.
• Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare
Season 2 marked the arrival of Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds, dramatically changing the complexion of Sunny for the better. His influence on the show became most evident in this hilariously raunchy episode — an episode that later seasons make frequent call-backs to.
• The Gang Wrestles for The Troops
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give mention to Sunny‘s wrestling themed episode, which includes a tremendous cameo from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper; the introduction of The Gang as Birds of War; and a fitting end to a match in the city that popularized the hardcore style.
The Best Sunny Episodes…
The Gang Gets Invincible
“The Gang Gets Invincible” is responsible for introducing the most recognizable Sunny trope in pop culture, Charlie’s Green Man alter ego.
That’s perhaps the most remembered moment from this episode, but “The Gang Gets Invincible” features other classic moments and characters. Dee’s pursuit of a spot on the Eagles roster as a kicker is sabotaged by The Gang; Charlie and Frank take acid while tailgating at training camp; and the McPoyles make an always-welcome appearance.
The D.E.N.N.I.S. System
Season 5 goes neck-and-neck with Season 4 for my favorite in the show’s run, and “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System” stands out as the season’s crown jewel. Earlier seasons and episodes explored the darkness inside Dennis Reynolds, including the aforementioned “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare.” However, the full depravity of one Dennis Reynolds is never more on display than here, an episode that shows Dennis to be almost Patrick Bateman-like.
With Frank appearing as Dr. Mantis Toboggan and a reference to “I like turtles,” the final 5 minutes of this episode may be the best in the show’s run.
The Nightman Cometh
The Gang’s attempt to produce a community theater action-musical is perhaps the most famous episode in show history. I credit this Season 4 finale with really launching the show into the mainstream consciousness, and providing many of the most memorable moments in show history.
Mac & Charlie Die
So, this two-part episode from the epic fourth season is guaranteed to top most best Sunny episodes list, and with good reason. The lengths our heroes go to in order to avoid Mac’s father, Luther, upon his release from prison are absurd.
Equally absurd is the sub-plot involving Dennis and Frank and a certain…feature discovered in the restroom at Paddy’s. I leave it at that.
Is there a more disrespected team this preseason than Washington?
— Cloaca Flocka Flame (@Moose_Bigelow) August 11, 2017
Short answer? Probably not.
Washington is the defending Pac-12 champion, reached the College Football Playoff — where it gave Alabama a helluva game through one half — and returns a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.
The Huskies ranked eighth in scoring defense and eighth in scoring offense a season ago, and could be — should be — even more proficient on offense. And while No. 7 in the Coaches Poll isn’t exactly a horrible ranking, I don’t know that it’s accurately reflective of how good this team will be.
Pundits tend to weigh their most recent memories of a team heavily into preseason projections. Alabama pulled away in the Peach Bowl to win decisively, most notably shutting down the Washington offense. Likewise, the Huskies struggled to move the ball in their mid-November home loss to USC.
USC’s win in Seattle, coupled with a thrilling Rose Bowl defeat of Penn State, launched the Trojans to the forefront of Pac-12 discussion this offseason. That relegated Washington to the background, somewhat wrongly.
Not taken into enough account is that quarterback Jake Browning, a Heisman frontrunner for much of the 2016 season, played with an injured shoulder. Back at 100 percent, the Huskies should be more effective in the passing game. He’s operating behind a stellar offensive line and has one of the best running-back tandems in the nation alongside him.
Though the NFL gutted the defense, Washington’s recruited so well on that side that there should be little drop-off. I’m expecting this to be a national championship contender once again in 2017.
Also: which team won't live up to the hype: USC or Penn State?
— Cloaca Flocka Flame (@Moose_Bigelow) August 11, 2017
Having covered USC the last couple seasons, I should know better than to deviate from the Trojans disappointing until proven otherwise. That said, I have to give the nod to Penn State.
It’s interesting how much these two teams followed similar trajectories into the Rose Bowl. Both looked thoroughly mediocre in September but rolled off nine-game winning streaks, beating Playoff teams along the way. Both return an impressive cachet of talent to their offenses and defenses.
The difference? USC plays in the Pac-12 South, a division in some turmoil heading into the season, while Penn State faces the Big Ten East gauntlet. A road game at Ohio State with a receipt waiting looms; Michigan destroyed the Nittany Lions a season ago; Michigan State should be much improved (and that game is in East Lansing).
Don’t sleep on the Sept. 23 date at Iowa, either. Huge upset potential looms, a la the 2008 contest in which the Hawkeyes denied Penn State’s BCS championship dreams.
Conversely, USC misses Washington and draws its two best conference opponents, Stanford and Utah, both at home.
Predict Deontay Burnett's numbers for '17
— Alex Kolodziej (@AKolodziejFRS) August 17, 2017
Speaking of USC, Deontay Burnett played hero in January’s Rose Bowl, snagging Sam Darnold’s game-tying touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
His is one of the more unique stories on the Trojans roster, as he worked his way from blueshirt to next in line among the program’s illustrious run of wide receivers.
The order of ascension has been fascinating: Robert Woods to Marqise Lee to Nelson Agholor to JuJu Smith-Schuster and now Deontay Burnett, all without missing a beat.
While I expect Burnett to put up monster numbers, building off his 56-catch, 622-yard and seven-touchdown 2016, I don’t anticipate him having a 2012 Marqise Lee kind of season, or even 2014 Nelson Agholor.
Lane Kiffin has a tendency for his offenses to focus too heavily on showcasing a single receiver, neglecting other playmakers in the passing game. It got somewhat better under Steve Sarkisian, but Cody Kessler had a tendency to use Agholor (and later Smith-Schuster) as security blankets.
Part of what makes Darnold great his is ability to distribute the ball as defenses allow. Combine that USC is loaded in the pass-catching front, adding Tyler Vaughns and Velus Jones to a group that also includes Jalen Green, Steven Mitchell and tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, and Burnett won’t have to carry too much of the load.
Nevertheless, he’s USC’s No. 1, and I anticipate him to break the 1,000-yard mark. Look for Burnett to put around 90 catches to the tune of 1,100 yards with 10 touchdowns.