It’s flatly astonishing that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has kept up the quality it has this deep into its run, as it leaves the territory of “longest-running sitcom on TV” territory and enters “longest-running sitcom of all time” territory (now just one season behind Ozzie and Harriet and My Three Sons for the all-time record).
The show hits another highlight with “The Gang Gets New Wheels,” at once a classic Gang story and an exploration of the new possibilities created by this specific season. Of course, Dennis’ return after leaving leads into a cold open where he’s clearly fishing for everyone else to ask him about himself, and it starts to seem like the episode is heading in this direction, when it takes a left turn to be about something Dennis cares about possibly even more than his feelings: his Range Rover.
Of course, season 12 ended with the rest of the Gang shooting Dennis’ RPG into his Range Rover after he left, so his first task is to buy a new Range Rover. Frank won’t buy it for him, though; he decides (in a move that is typical of the Gang but understandable given the Gang) to just buy it for himself instead… until the dealer won’t sell to him because his license expired in 1984. And Dee gets to be Frank’s driver, which leads her to meet two women, Karen and Brenda, who also drive Rolls Royces and who induct her into that exclusive club of posh-living, spa-and-hotel-bars elegant Rolls Royce drivers.
Dennis is forced to buy a Prius, a move that reveals how much he derived his personality from his car. He befriends John, who gets in his back seat mistaking him for his Uber driver, and quickly turns into a standard-issue bro, joining John and their other bros (including one lady bro, Tara, who Dennis won’t even hit on because he thinks John kinda has a thing for her) for fantasy drafts and Coors.
This complicates Frank’s life in turn, because he’s attending Driver’s Ed to get his license. This mostly involves him giving terrible advice to the high school students he’s taking the class with about Asian drivers, but when he realizes he actually has to pass the test, he befriends another student, Aidan, with a deal to let him cheat off Aidan if he offers him “real porno.”
Aidan mistakes this for an offer to get laid (“Dude, I’ve got a phone, I’ve been looking at porno since I was like ten”) and thus is unimpressed with Frank’s plastic-wrapped-in-the-woods magazines, which harken back a generation (or maybe two generations). So Frank takes him to meet Dennis, who’s always got something going on, at the exact time he doesn’t have anything going on.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Mac take the’opportunity to reminisce about their old bikes when they were kids, and how they were stolen by Shawn Dumont, and how that set their lives on a totally different, terrible course, and they decide to get new ones. This leads a gang of kids to bully them, because of course it does, and the kids eventually steal Mac’s bike. When they try to confront the kids, it turns out is the father of the kids’ ringleader is Shawn Dumont himself. This gets Mac and Charlie to back down– cowed once again by the line “What are you gonna do about it?” as they were so many years before.
On the day of the test, Frank fails because Aidan doesn’t show up. Turns out his mom grounded him because of all his Instagram videos of him partying with Frank (and all the “real porno” in them). And Dee, having set herself on a course of revenge after Karen makes an offhanded comment about how she’s never been married, decides to sleep with Karen’s “boy toy”… only to sleep with her son. Who is Aidan.
And Mac and Charlie decide to take back what’s theirs and beat the hell out of those children.
And thanks to finding a classic Range Rover in John’s garage (in a nice return to a seemingly throwaway line earlier that John took Ubers because he just had a gas-guzzler at home) and then buying it from him, Dennis is back to his old self and rescues not only Mac and Charlie running from irate parents and cops, but Dee and Frank having wrecked their Range Rover while fleeing the scene after Karen called the cops.
And he drives away, pleased to be a five-star man once again, as “Never Gonna Give You Up” plays on the car stereo.
- Sorry I missed the last two weeks. The show’s not a priority for me since it’s not exactly underexposed. All the same, good to have a discussion spot for it.
- All three of the episodes were very good; “Time’s Up for the Gang” was great, and this one might already be my second-favorite of the season, though I may need time to determine that for sure.
- Some great gags of Mac and Charlie riding around, especially A)when Mac calls a guy walking a dork and B)when Mac has to ride on Charlie’s back after his bike is stolen.
- Well, if Frank wasn’t in on the underage drinking plan (as he reminded us in “The Gang Misses the Boat”), at least he got his own chance to hang out with high schoolers here.
- After Dennis gets a Range Rover back, he calls John a “soy boy beta cuck,” and I think that makes every single episode this year one where someone in the game has referenced Donald Trump or something that his supporters among the edgelord right say.
- Karen is played by Gillian Vigman, who’s had a lot of comedy roles in the last decade or so. I best know her from her recurring roles on New Girl and Suburgatory.
- Brenda was played by Tricia O’Kelley, which makes this a reunion of The Mick, as she played Mick’s on-the-run sister Poodle. (She also appeared in two episodes of A.P. Bio, so, double reunion!)
- Shawn Dumont is played by Tyler Labine, probably most prominently from Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. I did recently see him leading a rom-com called Someone Marry Barry that I very much enjoyed given the lack of fanfare around its 2014 release.
- “I’ll buy you a case of beer.” “Nah, I never get carded.” Cigs, weed, blow?” “I’m in high school, man! I can get all that shit.”
- “You guys look like you’re 40.” “Well, we are 40.”
- “We almost got T-boned by an Asian. It was totally my fault. She did everything by the book. Very surprising.”