On January 6, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang will wake up from their collective drunken stupor for the sitcom’s 11th season. Having run the gamut of shocking and deplorable behavior, they will return to a tried and true favorite for the season premiere: the gang’s demented bar game from Season 7, Chardee MacDennis.
A particularly memorable moment from the show’s latter half, Chardee MacDennis is the gang doing what they do best: making no sense, getting mad, and failing to see beyond their own constructed world (i.e., Paddy’s Pub). Revisiting Chardee — because a board game executive is interested in the idea — could very well mean that Season 11 will try to recapture the magic of the earlier and mid-seasons when these five were undoubtedly the most despicable characters imaginable.
That’s not to say, however, that their behavior has become any less antisocial. We’ve just become much more accustomed to their antics. For example, in Season 9, Mac and Dee don blackface for “The Gang Makes Lethal Weapon 6.” Nobody in their right mind should condone that. But the show, somehow, pulls it off because they make themselves into the world’s most egregious idiots. Since the beginning, Always Sunny has been as much about laughing at the gang, as it has been laughing with them.
So, with the new season looming, how can they surprise, excite, and stay funny? As with the Lethal Weapon homage, the gang shows off their love of cliches and dated tropes in the Season 11 teaser trailer. They hit the slopes in a classic ’80s montage, complete with a dickhead antagonist and horrible punchlines. Obviously, that does not mean each episode will be shot in lo-def and follow well-trodden story arcs — just as the thematic season posters/DVD covers rarely have anything to do with the season — but it may contribute into how the show plays out.
Because the show has lasted on the air for so long, there is not much that the characters have to do. Part of Always Sunny’s charm, of course, is that the core five are stuck in their ways, too. So expecting anything other than abhorrent behavior and alcoholism would really just be wishing for a different show altogether. Charlie still needs to be illiterate, Mac still needs to be in love with Dennis, and so on, for Always Sunny to remain worthwhile. Progress — or simply scenic changes, like Mac getting fat for a season or Dee being pregnant — is strange for the characters. It doesn’t come naturally. For Always Sunny to work, they simply need to be put in different settings. Overall, they’re still the same.
And so returning to Chardee MacDennis makes perfect sense. The game was an episode’s focus just once, but there were plenty of questions left unanswered. There is more material to mine from that hilarious idea. Throughout Season 11, it would certainly behoove the gang to continue rehashing, improving, and advancing old ideas. Maybe they actually do make a lame home movie out of their ski experiment — which will be on the episode “The Gang Hits the Slopes” — just because they love doing self-indulgent stuff like that (like making Lethal Weapon 6).
So as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia enters 2016, it should take the road less traveled. That is, do what it’s always done. These five still have some humor left in them. Without any barriers — because being allowed to do blackface on modern television seems to indicate a tremendous level of freedom — they should go as nuts as they’d like. It’d be best for everyone.