This week on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the show tries one of its most ambitious episodes to date. With a few exceptions, the episodes is shot in a series of long takes disguised to look like one uninterrupted take, à la Birdman. And while it’s certainly a visually exciting episode, Charlie Work represents the first weak episode in this latest season.
As per usual, the gang is working on a questionable scheme. Using Frank’s (Danny DeVito) credit card, Dee (Kaitlin Olson) orders a large quantity of steaks to be delivered to their fictional steak house, Carmine’s. Then Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) would contaminate the steaks using chickens, thus providing them cause for a refund. The big payoff: thousands of frequent flier miles. Before this scheme can come to fruition, Charlie (Charlie Day) rushes into to Paddy’s Pub and tells everyone that the health inspector is coming. Met with indifference, Charlie then scrambles to maintain 2 illusions – 1) that Paddy’s is a steak house 2) it’s a clean establishment – that can’t at any point intersect.
As a whole, Charlie Work is mainly trying to coax laughs out of a kind of simple farce. Charlie running around to keep up appearances is pretty much the extent of the humor at play here. None of the situations – the messes Charlie must clean up, the group’s scheme – have the edge of depravity that is typical Sunny. Though the humor seems tame, at the very least, the episode should be praised for highlighting the extent with which the crew of Sunny is never complacent. When they’re not pushing the limits of likability, they’re pushing themselves into bolder creative territory. While I think Charlie Work is a lackluster episode, I respect the effort to try something different.
There isn’t much else to say about the episode. Outside of the technical bravado, there’s a tired sitcom familiarity to this week’s masquerade. I won’t lie, there are a handful of laughs in Charlie Work, just not as many that are expected from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. One minor episode in an otherwise solid season so far isn’t a big deal. They can’t all be hits.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX and is streaming through the FX Now app.