Heading into its 12th season “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia should be slowing down and becoming predictable like most other shows that age. Thankfully that is not the fate of this always odd but never boring show. Yes, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is an acquired taste but for those who’ve come to love the show over its 11 seasons, season 12 starts with yet another strange but wonderful bang.
It’s hard to fathom until you see it but “The Gang Turns Black” is a literal title. After spending an evening watching “The Wiz” with a homeless man they’ve decided to rescue the gang is struck by lightning and wake up black. Though we see the gang as they always are, in mirrors and to the outside world they are a family black people. This leads the gang to try and figure out the rules of this situation by referencing body switch movies and the 80’s TV series “Quantum Leap.”
Then things get weird. While assessing the situation, and trying to figure out which Hollywood based cliché will get them back to their own bodies, Charlie and then Dennis begin to sing. Yes, fans, it’s a musical episode on top of the high concept Hollywood satire. Soon the whole gang is singing, only pausing for the requisite exposition dialogue dumps that are a hallmark of many Hollywood musicals that need to explain parts of the plot that cannot be made to rhyme.
Two theories emerge as to what is happening. Mac believes the gang has been transported to some version of The Wiz and must learn a valuable lesson before getting to go home. Dee believes the gang is in a Quantum Leap scenario though she also believes a good deed is what will break them free. The theories split the gang with Charlie and Dennis going with Mac and Frank splitting off with Dee to seek out their own Ziggy, ala Quantum Leap.
Both subplots are equally hilarious with Charlie’s performance being the standout. A perpetual arrested development, it’s perfect that Charlie’s black identity is that of a child. Forced to explain his situation to police, the deft writing leads to a classic series of misunderstandings that are rooted in the “Sunny” canon. That said, there is a glorious cameo in Dee and Frank’s plot that nearly steals the show, including the last gag of the episode that is a true howler.
Admittedly, I have dipped in and out of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia over the years but episodes like this one make me glad the show has hung on as long as it has. The plot is bizarre yet classically “Sunny.” The humor is accessible to new viewers and yet rooted in the long running history of these characters. It’s deft and inventive and that is not something that is often said about show that has been around as long as “Sunny.”
Season 12 of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" airs at 9 Pm Central on FXX.