In 2010, Entertainment Weekly tasked Glenn Howerton—co-creator and co-star of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—with an unenviable challenge: to pick his 12 favorite episodes of the raucous comedy. He admitted that playing favorites “actually sucked,” noting that, “It's kind of like being asked to pick your favorite child. Now, it's not that you don't have a favorite child; you do. It's just that you don't want anyone to know that.”
Dedicated fans of the show—which makes its ninth season debut tonight at 10 p.m. on FXX—can understand Howerton’s trepidation. While we may not share in its royalties, viewers who discovered the show in its early days (even before Danny DeVito added a bit more legitimacy to the madness in season two) feel a deep affinity for Sunny and its characters and can more readily rattle off a list of favorite moments than entire episodes (Dee rocking out to Steve Winwood and learning some “amazing moves” from an inflatable man in “The Gang Buys a Boat” is a personal highlight, though the episode didn’t make the final cut here).
What makes the task even tougher is that Sunny doesn’t follow a typical sitcom structure, wherein plot and subplot work together to create one overarching storyline. Sure, there are episodes where the entire gang—a.k.a. Dennis, Mac, Charlie, Dee and Frank—all work together toward a single goal (and they’re some of the best). But more often, there are two distinct storylines that take the characters in different directions, with Paddy’s Pub being the single throughline that brings them back together.
The traditional rules don’t apply to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—which Jonathan Storm once called “Seinfeld on crack”—and that’s part of its genius. If the promo trailers for season nine are any indication, depravity will rule yet again. Also worth noting (and setting your DVRs for now) is “Flowers for Charlie,” the ninth episode in the upcoming season, which was penned by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Until then, here are our picks for The 25 Best “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Episodes (So Far).