It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 15 TV Review

Plot: In the seismic wake of Covid-19 and all things 2020, The Gang stands at a crossroads in this strange new world. The rules are changing quicker than anyone can keep up with, despite herculean efforts from the gang to continue business as usual. Now, they must face the music and decide who they’ll become in the cultural upheaval that is 2021. Across the span of eight episodes — and the Atlantic Ocean — we find them answer in a way only they could think to. 

Review: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has long been the live-action equivalent to South Park crossed with the inane humor of Seinfeld. With the fifteenth, record-breaking season premiering this week, the gang is back for a shortened season that tackles the pandemic head-on along with other pertinent social issues from the last year and a half. The result is as refreshingly crass as it has always been with some added relevance for the current world climate. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia remains one of the silliest shows on television but also one of the best. While this season does change the setting a bit as you can see from the trailers and posters, it is still the same show you have come to love for over a decade.

The last time we saw Dee, Dennis, Charlie, Mac, and Frank, was November 2019. The finale of the fourteenth season, titled “Waiting for Big Mo”, was a meta-look at the series as a whole and set entirely within a laser tag match. It was an ambitiously brilliant episode of the series and a nice parallel to the thirteenth season finale that found Mac (Rob McElhenney) coming out of the closet. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been off the air for two full years as the fifteenth season debuts which is significant both in breaking Ozzie and Harriet’s record as the longest-running prime time sitcom in American television history but also in following the January 6th Capitol riots and the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, the premiere episode of the season, titled “2020: A Year in Review”, looks at how the pandemic and political events were directly influenced by our main characters.

McElhenney, Day, and Howerton share writing credit on the season premiere which does not ignore COVID but rather incorporates it into the plot of the show. The signature schemes, profane nicknames, and bizarre comedy we have come to expect from this show are all here, but now there is, even more, to be shocked by. How COVID and the riots factor into the story are hilarious and the premiere sets the tone for what is the shortest season of It’s Always Sunny since the first. Having seen six of the eight-episode season, I am happy to report that the antics have not lost a step even if they feel a bit on the nose at times. Gags about masks, vaccines, and Donald Trump seem like easy targets but luckily the writers never push too hard and know when enough is just enough.

After the premiere, the series takes a decidedly nostalgic turn with an episode that dives into the origins of Paddy’s Pub as well as a return to the ongoing subplot of the gang’s homemade sequels to Lethal Weapon. These episodes do not even reference COVID and feel like they could have come in any season of the show. There is a joke involving inclusion and diversity in filmmaking that is clearly a response to social causes in recent years, but it works within the structure of the episode. After these first standalone episodes, the series takes on a multi-episode shift to Dublin, Ireland which is the first major setting change in the history of It’s Always Sunny. It does not impact the sense of humor nor does it feel like a stunt, but it did make me long for the characters to be back in Philadelphia.

The multi-episode arc takes up more than half of the season with the resolution to multiple story elements left dangling at the end of the sixth episode, which left me wondering if the final two episodes will take place in Ireland or just one and then shift back to Philly to conclude the season. There are interesting ways that fan-favorite supporting characters are incorporated into this season, but I was left missing a lot of characters we have expected over the years who don’t make appearances either due to pandemic limits or the shift to Ireland. What remains consistent here is how committed to these characters the cast is after a decade and a half in the role. Glenn Howerton left the series briefly a few seasons back as he filmed A.P. Bio, but with that series as well as McElhenney’s AppleTV+ show Mythic Quest and Charlie Day’s big-screen roles have not tempered the physical elements in this show nor the quality of the writing.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a welcome return to the airwaves in all of its profane glory. With FX now being controlled by Disney, it is weird seeing the family-friendly company’s logo on the credits for this vulgar and mature series, but that in no way limits how far these characters are able to go.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premieres its record-setting fifteenth season on December 1st on FXX and the next day on FX on Hulu.


About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.