A brand new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Forgive me, but I’ve been counting down the days to this since season 11 wrapped up.
In 12 seasons, and 125 episodes of a ‘hangout sitcom’ where the characters don’t evolve one bit and after every episode the reset button is hit, this show really should have gotten stale by now. The outstanding writing an acting performances however have allowed the show to remain fresh.
Despite this reset button, we kick off The Gang Turns Black continuing on from last season. In the previous season, Dee (Kaitlin Olsson) lost a bet to Frank (Danny DeVito) which resulted in her sharing her bed with Old Black Guy... sorry, Old Guy. (Wil Garret)
The show starts with the gang in Dee’s apartment in the midst of a terrible storm, watching The Wiz while wrapped up in electric blankets.
Things turn problematic when malfunctioning electric blankets and a lightening storm result in the gang turning black, and Old Guy going missing.
Charlie (Charlie Day) morphs into a small child, of course, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) turns into a larger man, Frank turns into a young hunk while Dee and Mac (Rob McElhenney) appear as black versions of themselves.
While the gang argue over which film or TV show they’ve been subject to with these body switches, Dennis deems it necessary that the gang understand what’s going on, and promptly bursts into song while singing “What are the rules when you’ve just turned black and you can’t switch back?”
It’s a musical episode. Something the fans have been crying out for since The Nightman Cometh, and it’s another hilarious musical episode.
The rest of the show is spent deciphering the rules of the gang turning black, and trying to switch back. This results in Charlie, Mac and Dennis getting arrested for breaking into their own car, while Dee and Frank reuniting Old Man with his wife, and meeting Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap on their way.
How well did The Gang tackle racism?
These people have a very loose grasp on the world outside of themselves and their friends, and the majority of the episode is based on them flip-flopping between whether they are being subject to racial profiling or not.
It’s important to remember that this episode isn’t racist however. Sunny has tackled the issue before, and has actually used blackface in the past. Perhaps as well as you can use blackface in a modern day show. If you haven’t seen the show before, and this is your first episode, you might feel offended but you have to consider this episode within the context of the show.
Each subplot allows the characters to understand more about racism, and in a comedic manner. As previously mentioned, Charlie, Dennis and Mac were stopped by the police for breaking into Dennis’ car. Dennis claiming that “We get out of stuff like this all the time” only to be immediately arrested.
Upon Mac and Dennis’ release, for being “Church blacks” they ponder over whether they have been subject to racism, with Mac saying “If you’re an upstanding member of society then police will treat you with respect” before Dennis responds “But I still think we were arrested due to racial profiling.”
Frank and Dee’s Quantum Leap quest is funnier, and broader, as they attempt to send Old Man to an Old Age Home, where he is unexpectedly reunited with his wife. This is all in the midst of Frank discovering himself as a black man, and being able to say and do things he previously couldn’t. Including saying the N-word, he really wants to say the N-word.
The plot line also arrives at Scott Bakula working as a janitor at the Old Age Home, where he claims he is researching a role, quickly debunked by Dee and Frank. This results in Bakula carrying on the musical theme by singing about his old Camaro and hanging out with Nash Bridges and The Fall Guy, while asking Ziggy (Project Quantum Leap AI) to send him back to 1989. Sunny’s cameos have always been hilarious, but this really is one of its best.
While the gang are dancing down the side alley, Danny DeVito’s inability to follow the choreography is downright hilarious.
It’s surprising that Dennis didn’t really react to being the larger black man of the group, considering his extreme vanity and self-consciousness. However fans probably saw that joke coming a mile away, and leaving it unsaid was the funnier move.
Dennis stating that “We don’t care about people’s dreams” is a hilarious callback to Season 1 Episode One, where he tells Dee “It’s like flipping through a stack of photographs, if I’m not in them and nobody’s having sex I just don’t care.”