After a few weeks of writing about shows me and three other people in the world like (Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Boy Meets World, et al.), we decided to dedicate a Sports On TV column to a show the entire UPROXX network loves -- 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia,' FX's delightfully cruel comedy that has its own page of recaps and commenter badges on the UPROXX mothership.
The show's use of Philadelphia is at least as comprehensive as 'The Wire's' use of Baltimore, and all of the important Philly area teams and icons have made an appearance on the show ... the Eagles, the Flyers, the Phillies, the Phillie Phanatic. 'It's Always Sunny' also launched the worldwide popularity of GREEN MAN, who you may know as "that a-hole in the morphsuit at any sporting event." It's an important thing they're doing, so we're here to talk about it.
Things we have to apologize for in advance: crude language, situations meant for mature audiences and getting the "Flipadelphia" song stuck in your head again.
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(Guest contributor Maske)
Episode: "The Gang Gets Invincible" (season 3, episode 2)
What Happens: The Gang discovers the Philadelphia Eagles -- inspired by that movie starring the dude from New Kids -- are holding open practices. Mac and Dennis jump at the opportunity to be inspired by Donovan McNabb and run routes on The Linc turf. Dee wants in but no girls allowed. Charlie and Frank decide to tailgate.
Since this is The Gang, tryouts are held on the field of a "sh*tty high school in Bucks County," the motivational speaker is a McDonald's-hocking McNabb imposter (portrayed by Elvin from The Cosby Show), Dee pretends to be a dude, Frank drops acid, a camper full of McPoyles shows up, and Charlie unleashes Green Man on society.
Key line: "Really should have popped that shirt off."
Hard to nail down, but as far as single scenes from this episode go, this one wins...
There's just so much Sunnygoodness to this episode: Frank's trashcan flashback, too many Sweet Dee burns to list, the first of multiple Elvin-as-an-impersonator cameos, Toilet Artemis, Faizon Love not taking sh*t, copious amounts of pre-tryout drinking, but the enduring legacy of "The Gang Gets Invincible" is Green Man.
Kind of difficult to think of a person in a full spandex body suit at a sporting event as original today, but also kind of amazing to think about what an homage to one of Rob's friends could inspire.
Also, Fred Savage directed this episode. TMYN.
Episode: "The World Series Defense" (season 5, episode 6)
What Happens: The gang goes to court to contest $1,000 in parking fines and share the story of how they WERE going to game 5 of the 2008 World Series but ended up passing out in a fumigation tent, getting hit by cars, fighting the Philadelphia Phillies mascot and getting locked in an ersatz Holiday Inn linen closet for six days trying to find a secret tunnel into the stadium.
Key line: "He's got a stranglehold on the Phillies mascot scene. It's not fair. I got a pretty good thing going on with Green Man. I don't understand why there can only be one mascot." "No, I feel like there's only room for one green idiot running around making an asshole of himself."
I could've done an entire Sports On TV for 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' using only this episode. Aside from its chillingly accurate portrayal of Philly sports fans (“We’re passionate fans. We’ve gotta hammer something”), impromptu push-up contests and Green Man's showdown with the "Philly Frenetic," you are owed the entirety of Mac's letter to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.
As read by Dee:
"Dear Chase," oh shit there's stickers, my God! "Dear Chase, I feel like I can call you Chase because you and me are so much alike." Really? "I would love to meet you some day, it would be great to have a catch. I know I can't throw as fast as you but I think you would be impressed with my speed. I love your hair. You run fast. Did you have a good relationship with your father? Me neither. These are all things we can talk about and more. I know you have not been getting my letters because I know you would write back if you did, and I hope you write back this time and we get to be good friends. I am sure our relationship would be a real 'home run.'"
Episode: "The Gang Reignites The Rivalry" (season 5, episode 12)
What Happens: An old flip cup rivalry with a bar down the street becomes a NEW flip cup rivalry with a local frat when a recruiting mission turns into Dennis and Frank getting attacked with a stun gun and a second, also unsuccessful recruiting mission turns into Mac and Charlie getting painted up and emasculated. Flip cup anchor Dee keeps choking under pressure, but the gang has a backup plan: DEADLY POISON.
Key line: "Flip, flip, Flipadelphia! Flip, flip, Flipadelphia!"
Good luck ever going near a solo cup or a beer pong table without hearing that song.
Frank opening the episode in skinny jeans almost takes it, but I think the best moment in "The Gang Reignites The Rivalry" is still Charlie thinking the plot of Good Will Hunting is the best idea ever and can win any argument against a smart person:
Episode: "Mac’s Big Break" (season 6, episode 4)
What Happens: Mac wins a radio trivia contest and a chance to take a shot from center ice at a Philadelphia Flyers game. If he makes it, he gets a weekend at the radio station's beach house. The only problem is that he can't shoot or skate and wants to swing the stick around like a sword. A training montage gets him up to speed, and when it's time to take the shot, Mac shows up looking like Neo in The Matrix and destroys it, winning the contest, having his name chanted by the crowd and becoming a Philly sports legend. The only problem with that is that he's dreaming, and actually just slipped on the ice as soon as he stepped onto it and knocked himself unconscious.
Key line: "Bro, when you tack on mass, you sacrifice flexibility. That's just a straight up fact." "That's insane. Touch your toes." "What am I, a gymnast?"
The key to the training montage (besides the obvious "drink a glass of eggs, vomit everywhere" gag) is that it uses the 'Grand Theft Auto' classic 'Push It To The Limit' --
I feel Mac's pain. As a longtime hockey fan who can't step onto a rink without his ankles breaking and his asshole bone splitting in two, I know what it's like to love something and look like a ripe goon doing it. One thing I like about 'It's Always Sunny' is when they present you with a premise that should obviously be an episode -- the gang going to a radio station's beach house, for example -- then wastes it away by having Mac and Charlie try on hockey mullet wigs. It's like the Flipadelphia episode, only the poison is Mac's inability to be a competent human being.
Episode: "The Gang Gets Stranded In The Woods" (season 6, episode 11)
What Happens: The gang crashes their car into a tree to Atlantic City for a charity benefit, and they split up to find help -- Mac, Dee, and Frank stay in the woods while Charlie and Dennis hitch a ride into the city. Instead of getting help, Charlie and Dennis just pretend to be Mac and Frank and end up flying on a private jet, drinking champagne, wasting 10 grand and meeting Philadelphia Phillies stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Back in the woods, the others try to catch a rabbit with a dead crow, get too connected to the rabbit, hold a funeral for the crow and watch the rabbit get killed by a bird.
Key line: "If animals have taught me anything, it's that you can easily die and very quickly under a bus and on the side of the road."
This is much better sitcom use of Ryan Howard than 'The Office,' where they made him the worst and least important person in the show for 8 years, but still put him ahead of everybody else in the opening credits.
"The Gang Gets Stranded In The Woods" puts the ultimate sorrowful exclamation point on Mac's love of Chase Utley by having him greet "Mac" as his biggest fan and taking a picture with him. Look at this thing. It's the most evil image ever texted by someone other than Elijah Dukes:
All the actual Mac got to experience was the soul and short, tragic life of Peter Peter Nickel-Eater.
Episode: "The Gang Wrestles for the Troops" (season 5, episode 7)
What Happens: To show their love for the U.S. military, the gang decides to do the most American thing they can: dress up as birds, dress up Cricket as a homeless, sand-throwing terrorist named "The Talibum" and put on a pro wrestling show. The result features a terrible entrance theme performance, Dee getting her nose broken by a steel chair and Cricket having his throat slashed with the edge of a trash can when Frank strips off his referee clothes, straps on an Andre The Giant-style one-shoulder singlet and becomes "The Trash Man."
Key line: "That is Hulk Hogan's signature look. Blond Chinese hair and skin of a hotdog. It's awesome!"
This is the best television show wrestling episode not involving the Bushwhackers shooting on Carl Winslow if only for the opening scene, which is the gang watching a random Hulk Hogan versus Nikolai Volkoff match and explaining to each other how Hulk Hogan works. The description of Hogan "Hulking Up" is pitch-f**king-perfect: "He's going into a state of Hulkamania, when he's like that nothing can hurt him. It's like a seizure of strength."
The episode also features wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper as "Da Maniac," an hilariously named version of Randy "The Ram" from Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, flipping out at people over 15 dollar fees, carrying around a bucket of chestnuts in his car and getting carted away by police while yelling I LOVE YOU over and over.
(That's a pretty good draw for a start-up indie promotion.)
(Guest contributor Maske)
Episode: "The Gang Gives Back" (season 2, episode 6)
What Happens: Dennis, Dee, and Mac are sentenced to community service while Charlie is sentenced to AA after they committed arson the previous episode. Dennis is assigned one basketball team of inner-city youths while Mac and Dee are assigned another. Dennis's draft doesn't go as planned but it did make for one of the greatest episode previews ever...
Key line: "Good? Doesn't sound good. Are you drinking the Red Bull? Come on, chug 'em down!" + "That's the vitamins ripping out the inside of your stomach. That's a good thing, trust me." - Mac's pre-game speech/response to his team's Red Bull hydration concerns.
An iconic early episode known for racial profiling, the kid in flip flops, Mac going full Lambeer on Dee, steel-toed hi-tops, safety pin wristbands, and off-the-wagon Referee Charlie. Re-watching the biggest thing that jumps out to me is the brick-laying for so many later Waitress plotlines in the future and how surreal it is that Dennis and Dee regularly referred to Frank as "Dad" on the show. Also, this...
Episode: "Hundred Dollar Baby" (season 2, episode 5)
What Happens: This episode has two concurrent sports, three if you count doing steroids as "sports" -- Dee gets indignant about the gang's belief that women can't fight (and that they think Rocky IV is a better movie than Million Dollar Baby) and becomes a boxer while Mac and Dennis beat the shit out of Charlie to make him an underground fighting champion. Oh, four stories: Frank's old boxing rival Bobby 'Ragu From Laverne & Shirley' Thunderson is training his daughter, and the episode ends with Frank cheapshotting Bobby and causing said daughter to break her neck on a stool. Like Million Dollar Baby. Spoiler alert: Rocky IV is WAY better.
Key line: "You look like a Holocaust victim in pageant makeup." "I will eat your babies, bitch!"
Charlie on steroids is the best thing.
The only thing better is Frank causing the inevitable death of a woman by being an asshole, then fleeing while Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' plays. That is seriously how Million Dollar Baby should've ended. All the Oscars.
(Guest contributor Maske)
Episode: "America's Next Top Paddy's Billboard Model Contest" (season 4, episode 3)
What Happens: To promote Paddy's Frank buys a billboard. Dennis and Mac bully Charlie and Dee out of billboard creative so they instead decide to make viral videos with Dee's zany characters that are sure to make her an internet sensatoin. And maybe Charlie can work Green Man in.
Key line: "Why you look so stoopid?!"
Dee's Crazy Paddy character takes multiple volleyballs to the face, but I think we can all agree Martina Martinez wins this episode.
Episode: "Mac's Banging The Waitress" (season 4, episode 4)
What Happens: A pretty straight-forward (at least for 'Sunny') episode about friendship -- Charlie wants his best friend Mac to beat up the guy banging his dream girl, unaware that Mac IS that guy, and Dennis swooping in to try and wrangle away the title of "Best Friend" -- begins with PROJECT BADASS, which is ... well, this.
Key line: "I will now light the pyrotechnics which are attached at the arms and back, and all over my pants. Totally and completely bad-ass."
'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' is probably the best show ever at choosing appropriate background music for dumb moments ... see also Joe Esposito's 'You're The Best' in the boxing episode (in 2006, before YouTube made it completely tired) and Paul Engemann's 'Scarface (Push It to the Limit)' for hockey training.
Here we get Whitesnake's 'Here I Go Again,' a hair metal song so whitebread and self-important that it somehow made you think of Mac ramping a bike into a wall with firecrackers on his pants before it even happened. Nothing could fit it better. Between Project Badass and Dee getting hit in the face with a volleyball, these guys should've really cornered the market on viral videos by now. They should be whatever Ebaum's World is supposed to be.
(Guest contributor Burnsy)
Episode: “The Gang Gets Whacked Pt. 1” (Season 3, Episode 12)
What Happens: With the power out at the bar and Frank refusing to pay for an electrician, Dennis and the gang decide to sell a big bag of cocaine that they discovered inside of a speaker that fell off the back of a truck. Of course they eventually learn that the speakers and, more importantly, drugs belong to the mob, and they either need to make good with the drugs by Friday or pay the mob $25,000. If they don’t? They get “whacked off”. Naturally, they sold the cocaine to Frank’s guy “Bingo”, who totally ripped them off. So to make up for it, they buy a bag of Oxycontin from Bingo and try to sell the pills at Frank’s country club.
While Dennis is being pimped out by Frank and Mac is trying to join the mob, Charlie actually sells all of the pills to a stable of horse jockeys. Charlie is strangely fascinated by both horses and the tiny jockeys, so he accepts a job as a stable boy. That is, until the head jockey, Buster, takes things a little too far.
Key line: “So, come on, you old son of a gun, and ... and let Buster do a line off your boner.”
Charlie then steals the horse, renames him Peter Nincompoop, and… he eventually lets him go. Unfortunately, we never got to see an actual adventure between Charlie in his jockey outfit and Peter Nincompoop. That would have made for a hell of an episode.
Episode: "Mac and Dennis: Manhunters" (season 4, episode 1)
What Happens: In an episode that is mostly about Charlie and Dee becoming racist cannibals (and Frank getting his life mixed up with John Rambo's), Mac and Dennis announce that hunting a human is the only true test of a hunter and decide to hunt Cricket. Their definition of "hunt" is a little loose, though, because they pretty much just want to "borderline rape" him. But the camo! The camo is pretty sweet.
Key line: "Hunting is awesome, Dennis! We just to wear sweet clothes and get wasted!" "It's just like our normal lives, but at the end of it we get to put our nuts in some dude's mouth."
One of the questions I faced when putting together Sports On TV: Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 20 Greatest Sports Moments was, "is hunting people a sport?" I had SlayerFest '98 on the list until the last minute, but I thought unless I did a Sports On TV for The Pest it wouldn't come up again. Then, the VERY NEXT WEEK, I cover a show with an entire episode dedicated to hunting a dude. So ... hunting people is a sport.
Ultimately, Mac and Dennis achieve their hunting goal (accompanied by "a couple pairs of sour, sweaty balls") and Charlie and Dee discover that they aren't cannibals, they just ate a bunch of raccoon meat and got tapeworms. But they're still pretty racist.
The episode (like most others, if we're being honest) is a great example of how Rob McElhenney took 'Seinfeld's' premise of "watching awful people do nothing and be jerks to each other" and amped it up by making the awful people the worst you could ever imagine. Two protagonist characters on a popular TV show are trying to hunt somebody to put their balls in his mouth, and the other two are rubbing spices on the arms of homeless people and INTEND TO MURDER AND COOK AND EAT THEM simply because some meat they ate tasted good. That's all it takes.
(Guest contributor Burnsy)
Episode: “Sweet Dee Has A Heart Attack” (Season 4, Episode 10)
What Happens: After Dee suffers a heart attack, her and Dennis decide to be a little more proactive with their health, as the whole gang panics over the idea of not having health insurance. While Mac and Charlie take a job in a big company’s mail room to secure health insurance, Dee and Dennis, on the other hand, hit the gym, which is clearly a stupid decision for a young woman who just had a coronary scare.
But it’s totally cool, because they’re all hopped up on the supplements that are giving Dee serious diarrhea, which just means that they’re working. The brother and sister duo hits a snag, though, when they arrive at spin class and the coach is playing awful techno music. Oh, and then there’s that whole riding a bike in place thing. Whatever, the supplements are already doing enough.
Key line: "Yeah, I'm gonna ride a bike hard, I'm gonna ride a bike fast, and oh, yeah, I'm not gonna go anywhere." "Yeah, and then when I walk out, I'm gonna put a bunch of metal onto a metal bar and lift that metal over and over like a metal jerk."
We could argue all day over what the best part of this episode was – Charlie’s Pepe Silvia rant or Frank being admitted to a mental hospital after a random pill addiction – but we all know it was this…
Episode: "Charlie Got Molested" (season 1, episode 7)
What Happens: The McPoyle Twins (and a drunk Charlie, a long time ago) devise a plot sue the schoolboard by accusing elementary school gym coach
Mr. Belding Coach Murray of molesting them. Charlie seems overly concerned and leaves the bar, which (as any small event does) sends everybody else on the show into a confusing spiral of narcissism and corruption. Mac gets his feelings hurt that the coach never molested HIM, and Dee and Dennis take turns trying to give Charlie "interventions," including one prodding question-and-answer session during a game of pool.
Key line: "First of all, there are people out there who actually have been molested and you guys are going to exploit that for your own personal gain? You assholes are securing your places in hell." "We've thought about it. We're willing to roll the dice. "
Oh hey look, season 1!
This episode marks the first appearances of the McPoyles, at least Ryan and Liam. Mac's initial description of them will always fit them best: "They were the type of kids that would blow snot bubbles and run 'em all over each other. They were gross. And they smelled like a couple of unwiped assholes."
And poor Dennis Haskins. If you read Sports On TV: Saved By The Bell's 20 Greatest Sports Moments (or watched TV at any point between 1990 and ... well, now) you'll know that Dennis was always looking out for the best interests of his students and ALWAYS getting manipulated and shit on by them. At least in the 'Sunny'-verse (where Game 5 of the 2008 World Series happened on one lovely afternoon) he was just dealing with kids that smelled like unwiped assholes and not a bunch of super kids who could stop time.
Episode: "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games" (season 7, episode 7)
What Happens: Not much else is going on, so the gang decides to play CHARDEE MACDENNIS: THE GAME OF GAMES, a homemade drinking/board game featuring three levels -- Level One (Mind): Trivia, Puzzles, and Artistry; Level Two (Body): Physical Challenge, Pain, and Endurance; and Level Three (Spirit): Emotional Battery and Public Humiliation. Level Two is where the sports moment comes in, as Dennis must hold his hand on the center of a dart board and not flinch while people throw darts at him. He succeeds, in a chilling moment of in-the-zone dedication.
Also kind of a sports moment: The Grape Gobble, a real-life attempt to recreate Hungry Hungry Hippos with grapes. Charlie's great at it (Hungry Hungry Hippos is his favorite game) but swallows what he picks up, so nobody can tell how many he got.
Key line: Question: "Denis is asshole. Y Charlee hat?" Answer: "Becauze Denis is a bastardt man."
This is one of my favorite episodes, based solely on the concept of how absurd sports and games would be if people like The Gang were put in charge of them. Instead of having fun with friends and family, you'd get a Go To Jail card and have to cram yourself into a dog kennel until you can eat the ingredients of a cake. It's hard to write something like you're an alcoholic weirdo AND a brain-damaged child, but they managed to do it.
It also features one of the most spectacularly dark conversations they've ever had:
“Save it, Frank. There's no way we can beat them, okay? They are tailor-made for Level Three. Last time we played, Dee got "Emotional Battery". We berated that bitch for, like, two straight hours!..”
“I mean, really personal stuff ...”
“Way over the line!”
“The kind of stuff that cuts you to the core, you know?”
“She held it together without a single tear.”
“Dude, when her two minutes were out, she cried for a month straight. Every day, crying all day long. It was ... depressing.”
“Yeah, it was really sad. She talked about taking too many pills...”
“I think she tried to kill herself.”
“She did, she did. I saw it, but I didn't tell you about it.”
If nothing else sums up sports in the 'It's Always Sunny' world, it's that.